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Saturday, March 2, 2024

A war zone in disguise?

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"We have seen the enemy, and it is us."



A non-government organization in the US described the Philippines as “a war zone in disguise.”

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Whether a valid description or not, the NGO claim somehow has a ring of truth in it, some local observers say. The short news runner below the main CNN Philippines coverage did not give enough details on the claim of the NGO—nor its identity.

Watching the daily news on TV and the major Manila dailies is enough to make us cringe and wish we can be evacuated to a safer place. The bloody war on drugs, the series of political killings and terrorist bombings taking the lives of innocent civilians are just some of the grisly headlines that seem to have become the new normal.

These are occurrences not only in the present administration of President Rodrigo Duterte but go all the way back to the previous administrations. It would be a tribute to any president if he or she can stem this tide of lawlessness so the international community can see us as a stable country and not one where anarchy rules.

We can expect political violence to rise in the run-up to the May 13 national and local elections. The Commission on Elections has listed several provinces as election hot spots even as Mindanao is under martial law which was extended for the third time.

We cannot really blame the US-based NGO for getting the impression we are in a state of war, although internally.

Who was it who said: “We have seen the enemy, and it is us.”

But then I would suggest to that US-based NGO to look at America itself. While there are no political killings in the US, President Donald Trump has sown a deep political divide between Democrats and Republicans. Because he wanted to build a border wall between the US and Mexico, he has created an impasse in the passage of national appropriations. The Democrats do not want to allocate $5 billion for a wall that could be better spent for health and social services. Besides, Mexico is a friendly southern neighbor which has no intent to take over the United States. Trump, according to his critics, is fanning the flame of fear that illegal Mexicans are entering the US and taking over jobs meant for Americans.

Because of the deadlock on the budget, the US itself has been on a shutdown for nearly a month now. Many federal employees are not being paid. To get over the hump and the partial government gridlock, Americans are paying for essential needs with their credit cards. But what will happen when their card credit runs out, and how will they pay for the interests on their charges? As anyone who uses his credit card knows, the interest charges can be overwhelming. They build up when not paid on time.

Going back to the local scene, the stoppage of the South Korean shipbuilding firm Hanjin’s operation is a cause of concern. While the local banks do not seem worried about the loss of funds loaned to Hanjin, there are certain quarters which are worried that Hanjin might sell out to China its interests including its equipment and lease on Subic.

Will the US allow its South Korean ally to give China a foothold on Subic? Recall that Subic, with its natural cove, was once the naval base of the American Seventh Fleet that made China think twice before it launched its aggressive expansionist move in the South China Sea. Moving into Subic and replacing the US brings Beijing a step closer to annexing the Philippines as a province of China. The jingoists in our midst would probably go saber-rattling and vow that they will fight to the end. But calmer heads say we can’t fight China with its more modern military weapons and a million-member People Liberation Army. The alternative is to negotiate for peace and bilateral talks for a mutually beneficial joint exploration of the vast resources under the South China Sea. Both the Philippines and China, after all, need the potential oil, gas and mineral resources under the sea. The rich fishing ground of the South China Sea can be shared by Chinese and Filipino fishermen and there’s no need for any one party to claim it as its own.

The West Philippine Sea was declared by The Hague international tribunal as legally within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. Now, pray tell, who will enforce this international ruling? China knows that the US nor the United Nations cannot enforce The Hague ruling which Beijing considers as just a scrap of paper.

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