July 18, 2016

South China Sea 101: How Trillanes, DFA, MVP destroyed PH-CN ties

In ThinkingPinoy’s “PH-China on West Philippine Sea: The issue of trust, or the lack of it”, I explained how the Philippines flip-flopped on its stance towards the South China dispute. One day we tell China we wanna talk, then we piss them off a day later. This happened on at least four different occasions through the second and third quarters of 2011.

Common sense dictates that the Philippines may not be as truthful as we would have hoped. Kapag nakaharap kasi tayo sa China, gusto nating makipagbati. Pero oras na pagtalikod natin, kabaligtaran ang ating ginagawa. Ang gulo-gulo talaga natin noong 2011, ang hirap ispelingin. In diplomatic terms, it appears na kinakabog natin ang North Korea sa level ng unpredictability.

Engaging in talks means openness to compromise. If we had zero intentions to compromise, why did we even bother to talk with China to begin with? We should have already gone to war and have the matter settled already. But we didn’t.

And, despite the failed talks with China, the Aquino administration even had the balls to provoke the Chinese in July 2011 when various Philippine government agencies started addressing the area as the “West Philippine Sea.” [AsiaOne]

Wait lang, let's recap

Pasimplehin ko lang saglit ha…

As a sovereign entity, the Philippines has the freedom to choose between a military and a diplomatic solution to address the South China Sea dispute. Now, a diplomatic solution requires the willingness of both parties to compromise, something that’s hard to detect on the Philippines' part given our actions throughout 2011 [TP: Trust].

 Our uncompromising stance made diplomacy ineffective, so why didn’t we declare war against China right away? We still want the South China Sea dispute resolved, after all. So why don't we just resolve the issue through "Trial by Combat"?

Because everyone knows we will lose, as was already explained before [TP: Yasay's Face]

And in the middle of it all, we decided to unnecessarily provoke China even further when we unilaterally renamed the South China Sea into West Philippine Sea [Inq]!

"South China" to "West Philippine"?

So parang gusto nating makipag-diplomasya, pero tuwing babanggitin natin ang dagat, sinasampal natin sa kanila na “West Philippine” ito at hindi “South China”. Wala naman akong paki, kaya lang, pano magbubunga ang usapan kung harapan mong binabastos ang kausap mo?

Labo, ateh. Labo.

PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty

We won’t lose because the US will help us via mutual defense, right?

Well, if the United States was really serious about helping us in a prospective war, it would have already issued stronger statements in as early as March 2011, but it did not. As a matter of fact, when the UNCLOS decision came out last week, the US used “quiet diplomacy” to persuade us to calm down [Reuters].

Pasimplehin ko lang ulit saglit ha:

Kunwari, jowa mo si Amerika. Kaibigan ni jowa si China.

Isang araw, napansin mong sinisiraan ka ni China. Sa sarili mo lang, gusto mo na talaga siyang umbagin, pero 5’1” ka lang at 6’10” si China. Wala ka talagang laban e. Nagsumbong ka kay jowa tapos sabi ni jowa, tutulungan ka, pero hindi niya sinabi kung paano.

Ikaw naman si tanga, asa kang tutulungan ka, kaya tinext mo si China, “Hoy China letse ka tatadyakan kita!” Tapos biglang litaw si China sa kalsada sa harap ng bahay mo, may hawak daw na kutsilyo.

Nabalitaan ito ni jowa, tapos ang sabi sa yo ni Amerika, “Huwag ka na lang lumabas ng bahay. Intindihin mo na lang si China.”

Tanginang ‘yan, #Paasa. Niloloko na tayo ng harapan ng Amerika, para parin tayong tangang umaasa. Pero sige, dahil umaasa pa rin tayo na baka sakaling tulungan tayo ng Amerika, tuloy pa rin tayo sa pagputak.

Hay, hindi na natuto. Talagang tayong lahat ay baliw sa pag-ibig, no?

Q1 2012: Tensions escalate to alarming levels

The Department of Foreign Affairs, headed by Sec. del Rosario, clearly had – and still has – an uncompromising stance. To make matters worse, subsequent events show that prodding from the United States only served to embolden the Aquino administration.

In November 2011, US President Barack Obama told Asia that US was 'here to stay' as a Pacific power [Guardian]. Shortly thereafter, China warned "external forces" not to get involved in its maritime disputes with neighboring countries over the South China Sea [BBC].

Obama ignored China’s warning.

A month later, through his ten-day Asian tour, Obama reportedly managed to convey successfully his administration’s determination to “rebalance” American attention, influence, and investment toward Asia, and away from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Douglas Paal of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace writes, “If you were viewing all this activity purely through the filter of the media, however, you might also conclude that Obama had successfully tightened the noose of containment around China [Carnegie].”
Itong si Obama, di naman tutulong sa laban, nanggagatong pa. SARAP KUTUSAN.

A few days after Obama’s Asian tour, Chinese President Hu Jintao told Chinese military personnel they should "make extended preparations for warfare" [BBC].

Days later, a Chinese naval vessel was seen near the Sabina shoal on 11 and 12 December, according to del Rosario. The vessel, however, "did not drop anchor or unload construction materials and appeared to be just passing through [BBC]."

Just when we thought del Rosario can’t get any more hardline, he announced in January 2012 that the Philippines is prepared to validate its claim under the UNCLOS. He even taunted China by inviting it to do the same with its own claims [Inq].

Yes, things are escalating very, very quickly, and it reached almost reached breaking point in April 2012.

Q2 2012: The Scarborough Standoff

In April 2012, a Philippine naval ship, two Chinese vessels and at least eight fishing boats got into a standoff in Scarborough Shoal [VoA].

In response, China gradually increased its naval presence in the area. By late May 2012, ninety-two (92) Chinese ships have already occupied Panatag Shoal [Inq].


I guess we would have wanted to increase our naval presence too, pero BRP Gregorio del Pilar lang ang meron tayo e. 

In short, both Chinese and Philippine Navies were continuously occupying the area and were within shooting distance of each other.

If one side shoots the other – even accidentally – it will mean war.

Yes. War. Bloody, f*cking war.

We had to de-escalate as soon as possible, and de-escalation is what the Aquino administration tried to do. Note, however, that the operative word here is “tried”, because “try” and “accomplish” are two very different words.

Both navies agreed on a troop pullout at around 15 June 2012. The problem, however, is that China didn’t pull out its vessels at the same time the Philippines did [Inq].

That is, the Chinese navy appeared to have stayed in the area even after Philippine troops have gone home. Because of this, the Philippines considered sending troops back [Inq].

In an official statement, the DFA accused China of duplicity and intimidation [GMA].

“It appears that there is an element that is lacking in our negotiations. I seek a deeper element of trust from our Chinese friends,” Del Rosario said [Inq].

China claimed miscommunication. The Philippines understood the agreement as a simultaneous pullout but China said it thought she made it clear that while the Philippines will immediately pull out, the Chinese navy will “pull out gradually” to avoid public anger and disappointment in the Chinese Mainland [Rap].

This kind of compromise is not new.
The US requested the same thing from the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis of the 1960s. 
The US and USSR agreed that the Soviets will immediately pull out their missiles and warships near the Cuban coast. Meanwhile, the US agreed to dismantle her Jupiter missiles in Turkey, but only after several months. US requested this because she doesn’t want to appear weak in the eyes of the public [Bernstein 1980].
The problem however, is that the DFA issued press releases even before it asked China why. In short, DFA and del Rosario failed.

Wala tayong binatbat kung gyera pag-uusapan, pero bakit mas matapang pa tayo sa China? Tanginathis.

The Aquino administration said it wants to try to engage in peaceful and fruitful negotiations with China, but it continues to provoke the Chinese government by sending conflicting messages.

The failure of PH-China diplomacy in mid-2012 can be attributed to Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario’s preference for an uncompromising stance over the issue, along with the fact that he talks too much. Del Rosario loved issuing press releases about everything that happens in the South China Sea, further antagonizing the Chinese. According to former Ambassador Sonia Brady’s notes as relayed by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile “US has already let (del Rosario) go, binitawan na siya.” [ABS]

But can things get shittier than this? Yes.

Del Rosario’s formal diplomatic channel (front door) failed, so the Aquino administration had to rely on informal (backdoor) channels.

And that's where it got messier.

Manny V Pangilinan

While PNoy, DFA, and del Rosario were bickering with China over the Scarborough Shoal issue, MVP was actually in China, trying to strike a business deal with the Chinese.

Remember that this mess started with MVP’s Forum Energy – Philex joint venture, when its ship sailed to Reed (Recto) Bank, trying to to look for hydrocarbons. MVP seems to have changed his mind: he now wanted Chinese participation, something that Filipino major shareholders were not very happy about [Inq].

On 24 June 2012, MVP announced he plans to “internationalize” and “depoliticize” Reed Bank by including China into the venture, through state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) [Inq].

Later on, it was discovered that MVP was del Rosario’s own backdoor negotiator. PNoy even asked del Rosario who authorized MVP to strike a deal with CNOOC [GMA].

It’s messy. It’s really, really, really messy. And just like a broken record, I will again say, ”It still gets worse.”

The MVP-DelRosario-Carpio-Roxas Connection

Let’s pause for a moment because something’s fishy.

At this point, two things are clear:
  1. DFA Sec. del Rosario consistently took a hardline stance.
  2. MVP and Del Rosario have a very close relationship.
According to del Rosario’s profile on the DFA website [DFA], “The Secretary’s experience in the private sector included positions as …director of…Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC), Philex Mining Corporation, Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation (MPTC), Metro Pacific Tollways Development Corporation (MPTDC), Manila North Tollways Corporation (MNTC), ABC Development Corporation (ABC 5)”

The 2011 Reed Bank Incident, which started this whole brouhaha, involved a Philex venture. Philex, MPIC, MPTC, MPTDC, MNTC, and ABC5, where del Rosario used to work, are all currently controlled by Manny Pangilinan.

Basically, Del Rosario and Manny Pangilinan are business partners.

It’s also interesting to note that Mar Roxas also owns Philex shares [GMA], so the three of them have a strong, common, business interest. No wonder why they didn’t wanna share Reed Bank in 2011, as that would mean profit sharing.

Liliit ang hatian, eh.

And since we’re already here, let’s also mention Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, one of the most vocal personalities in the UNCLOS case.

Carpio is affiliated with the Villaraza and Angangco law firm [TV5], more common known as “The Firm”. “The Firm” is heavily identified with the mining sector [TheFirm], with some of its members giving lectures sponsored by the Chamber of Mines [CoM]. More specifically, one of “The Firm’s” biggest clients is Philex Mining [Inq].

Yes, Philex.

Additionally, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III noted that the senior magistrate shared an “umbilical cord” with Avelino Cruz Jr., a legal counsel of Roxas, at the Firm [Inq]. Yes, even Roxas and Carpio share a strong connection.

Manny Pangilinan, Albert del Rosario, Mar Roxas, and Antonio Carpio share one common interest: PHILEX.

Now, recall that MVP started negotiating with China in early 2012, that is, Philex is now willing to share profits with China, a 180-degree turn from the company’s original stance. Maybe they’ve realized that China is too much to handle.

It’s also worthy to note that with Philex’ 180-degree turn came another interesting personality: Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who went on a whirlwind tour of Southeast Asia In July 2012 to help de-escalate tensions [JakartaPost]. At first glance, this appears to be a welcome development, especially since PNoy, del Rosario, and MVP are doing a terrible job at it.

However, of all the 11 ASEAN foreign ministers, why Indonesia’s?

You see, the MVP group of companies is, in reality, owned by the rich and powerful Salim Group [MT], Indonesia’s version of our own San Miguel Corporation.

Convenient, isn’t it? Kuncha-kunchabahan na lang.Tanginathis.

But we still have one last thing to talk about: the disgraced Senator Antonio Trillanes.

3Q 2012: Trillanes “volunteers”

Sen. Antonio Trillanes, PNoy’s ally and friend, volunteered to be a backdoor negotiator. Aquino accepted the offer, despite Trillanes’ lack of a background on foreign affairs and diplomacy [Rap]. According to Trillanes, however, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa asked him whether he “would like to help” as tensions between Manila and Beijing worsened in May 2012 [GMA].

Whatever the case, one things is clear: PNoy authorized Trillanes to engage in backdoor diplomacy, despite Trillanes having no foreign relations experience.

And just like any James Bond wannabe, Trillanes went to China six times with “no paper trail, no immigration stamps” to meet with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (CN MFA). Even the Senate has no record that Trillanes sought permission for any of his trips. Every senator leaving the country, whether government-funded or privately-funded, should have the permission of the Senate President [TV5].

One of the clandestine meetings, held 17 August 2012, was recorded by Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Brady. According to Brady’s noted as leaked by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile during a September Senate Session [Rap]:
  1. Trillanes met with a senior Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs official the night before [his meeting with Brady]
  2. Trillanes called Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario a traitor and said he committed treason
  3. Trillanes secretly met with Chinese officials about Scarborough Shoal and the West Philippine Sea.
  4. Trillanes said in the Philippines, "No one cares about Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal"
  5. Trillanes said China never intended to put up a station in the Scarborough Shoal.
  6. Trillanes told Chinese officials the Philippines cannot enforce its coastal protection
  7. Trillanes said the Philippines should have lobbied with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as China did
  8. Trillanes insisted on bilateral talks with China when the Cabinet wanted a multilateral approach.
To cut the long story short, Trillanes wanted bilateral talks, which goes totally contrary to what PNoy’s cabinet wanted. PNoy did not even know the specific arrangements Trillanes made with the Chinese!

Trillanes slandered del Rosario, MVP, and the Philippine Armed Forces, when he told the Chinese, straight to their Chinese faces, that del Rosario and MVP wanted a “war scenario” [ABS] so Philex can access Reed Bank.

The meeting with Ambassador Brady was on 17 August 2012, remember?

On 20 July 2012, Trillanes called del Rosario a "War Freak". Trillanes added, “[The] fear that China will build an outpost there in Scarborough was never true all along. It’s better that we just course this through peaceful means”.[Inq]

A week later, Brady suffered a debilitating stroke [TV5].

Hindi yata kinaya ni Ate Sonia ang kagagahan ni Antonio.

Now, remember that these are Brady’s notes as relayed by Enrile, so Enrile may be lying. However, Trillanes’ and del Rosario’s statements only served to confirm Enrile’s claims.

After Enriles’ September 2012 expose, del Rosario said PH backdoor channeling efforts are backfiring.

Del Rosario added, “I think that while backchanneling has its purpose, in our case it’s doing more harm than good. It is important that we speak with one voice on this matter [Inq].”

Trillanes fired back, "If Secretary Del Rosario was only close to being effective as a foreign secretary, then there wouldn’t be any need for a back channel in the first place [Inq].”

It's also worthy to note that all diplomatic correspondence is coursed through the DFA Secretary, so that the leak to Enrile can only be blamed upon del Rosario.

So gumanti rin pala yata si del Rosario kay Trillanes?

Putang ina, ginawang personalan ang dapat ay interes ng bansa.

Ang gulo naman! (This is confusing!)

Yes it is. I was initially confused and you are probably still confused right now.

Actually, even China was confused, and that's the last thing we wanted to happen.

The del Rosario-MVP camp didn’t want to share the South China Sea, then it tried to share it, but it refused bilateral talks. Meanwhile, PNoy-appointed Trillanes who wanted bilateral talks, but doesn’t wanna share the South China Sea.

And in the middle of it all, siniraan pa ni Trillanes si del Rosario sa harap mismo ng mga Intsik!

If I were China, I would say, “Putang ina, ano ba talaga? Ang gugulo niyo ah!”

Formal channels have failed, and this time, backdoor channels failed too. Diplomatic channels have been exhausted. The Philippines is now in trouble and it has nowhere else to go.

Because the Aquino administration bungled every diplomatic opportunity that came along the way, the Philippines had nothing else to do but to initiate UNCLOS arbitral proceedings on 22 January 2013 [PCA].

And here we are, in 2016, desperately trying to figure out how to fix the mess that these idiots created. 

Tapos, ang marami sa inyo, naniniwala na lang nang basta sa basta sa dyaryo, samantalang mga kaalyado ng mga mokong na ito ang may-ari ng mga media outlets na binabasa ninyo.

Baka kailangan ko nang magtago pagkatapos nito.


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