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Monday, June 24, 2024

Ex-USAF colonel runs Philippines SCS show

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Teodoro led another spin-off, the troop increase for Batanes talking tough to provoke China on Taiwan on which the Philippines has no concern at all

An ex-US Air Force colonel is now running the show in Philippine foreign relations.

He is seen splashed on the front pages of almost all major Philippine mainstream newspapers and guesting solo on top network TV public affairs show telling one and all how his “assertive transparency” strategy on the South China Sea has been an outstanding success, how it complicates matters for and shames China.

This ex-USAF colonel is the author of the “transparency strategy,” which we are now hearing from the mouths of Filipino maritime police and national security officials as “Philippine policy,” because we can trace its conception and evolution to the bowels of the U.S. Naval Research Institute’s Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation based in Stanford University, U.S.A., and US naval intel team leader proudly dubbed “Myoushu Project.”

The ex-USAF colonel, Raymond “Ray” Powell, is also a director of Sealight, the Gordian Knot Center group “tracking and reporting on ‘gray-zone activities like ‘harassment of legal activities such as responsible fishing, security operations or hydrocarbon exploration within a nation’s own exclusive economic zone, illegal incursions into other countries’ waters, intimidation measures such as vessel swarming, outpost and artificial island building’.”

Sealight hides its main objective which is to apply the “missing context fallacy” to create an anti-China narrative out of the South China Sea territorial claims disputes amongst the five littoral states surrounding the strategically critical body of water.

The missing context is before the Philippines was drafted into this U.S. project, China and all claimant countries had for decades already methodically engaged in dialogue and negotiations to achieve consensus and resolution cooperatively.

Since 2002, China and the ASEAN had the Declaration of Conduct followed by the now near-to-conclusion talks of a Code of Conduct as basis for a peaceful and durable solution to the SCS territorial and maritime disputes.

The 1999 amicable agreement between the Philippines and China to allow BRP Sierra Madre to stay at Second Thomas Shoal and be resupplied only with humanitarian supplies preserved peace there for 25 years until the Philippines joined Project Myoushu in February 2023.

President Bongbong Marcos since the 2014 debates in the Philippine Senate and 2016 elections campaign questioned the US EDCA military bases pact but turned around in February 2023 to expand its presence, and signed on to Project Myoushu and Sealight’s “assertive transparency” using the Philippine Coast Guard to violate the standard “prior information” and “no construction materials to BRP Sierra Madre” agreement, and brought media to broadcast the consequent cat-chase-mouse encounters.

Powell’s “transparency strategy” failed after 11 months of proof-of-concept application by the PCG led by Commodore Tarriela, the National Security Council’s deputy Jonathan Malaya and others.

Defense secretary Gibo Teodoro led another spin-off, the troop increase for Batanes talking tough to provoke China on Taiwan on which the Philippines has no concern at all as Sen. Imee Marcos pointed out.

Powell’s failure is highlighted by his December 2023 comment to the USNI News, “The Philippines and the U.S. are going to have… conversations about what constitutes an ‘armed attack’ ” on a public vessel” as China successfully used non-lethal force consistent with international humanitarian law in exercising its sovereign control.

Tarriela followed in February 2024 to local media the “transparency effort” was not enough to make China budge – the little toy soldier hinting at war? We can only laugh!

In the first two weeks of February 2024, Powell went on a scorching TV, social media and mainstream newspaper frontpage blitz to promote the “transparency strategy” again to counter the drift of the DFA back into dialogue and cooperation with China as per call of President BBM for a paradigm shift to return to peaceful resolution.

Powell argued on air that transparency complicated things for China, shamed and stymied China. None of that, everyone sees, is true.

The Philippines is the only one facing complications from the transparency strategy: DFA Sec. Manalo fears trade sanctions over SCS tensions, seeks US Trade Secretary Gina Raimondo meet this March but what can the latter offer to a half a world away with a faltering economy?

The EU or Japan are alternatives but both are in recession expected to last for years. Philippine foreign-assisted infra projects are zero in 2024 mainly due to loss of Chinese Belt and Road Initiative projects.

(rpkapunan@gmail.com)

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