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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, July 18, 2018
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Nothing unusual, everything wrong

Rock & Refuge

There’s nothing unusual, so government officials said, about the fact that a Chinese “research vessel” docked in Davao City last Monday and will leave Thursday yet.

The docking of Yuan Wang 3 had a diplomatic clearance from higher authorities, said Philippine Navy spokesperson Cdr. Jonathan Zata. There nothing unusual about it, he said. A routine visit, he added, just like any foreign vessel docking in our port he said.

Zata also said the ship docked for “replenishment,” and here the problematic questions surface. What did it replenish in Davao? The Inquirer said Yuan Wang 3 had just come from Jiangyin, China, as shown in a live view from marinetraffic.com. Does this mean that the ship left China and headed for Davao to replenish some all-important stocks? What is that? What is that stock that will take three days to load in the research vessel? And why did it have to replenish in Davao and not in a nearer city or country?

The case becomes “curiouser and curiouser” with the revelation that the Chinese ambassador coordinated this replenishment operation with Secretary Allan Peter Cayetano of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Isn’t this very, very interesting? A Chinese vessel leaves China and heads straight to Davao for a simple replenishment and their government had to coordinate with our authorities to get the necessary diplomatic clearance? Nobody has said this was an emergency, and from the reports it is obviously a well-planned operation, involving government-to-government coordination. It is too well-planned for a simple replenishment. Just what things did it replenish in Davao that are not available in China? Was is just replenishment that they did in Davao? Perhaps they also wanted to see the birthplace of the President?

With two recent cases of Chinese military aircraft landing also in Davao, some people are alarmed and justifiably so. Why does it seem so easy for China to come and go to and from the Philippines? You can say China is an ally, but even allies follow protocol and do not just send military transport and ships to each other just like that. Sure, we should be open to our allies, especially in emergencies, but why has Davao suddenly became a favorite replenishment place for Chinese military transport? Three instances of replenishment in about two months is not normal and Filipinos have the right to demand that the government squares with them and tell them the real score. This isn’t funny anymore.

What makes things frightening is how China all of sudden developed the islands in the West Philippine Sea despite The Hague ruling that they are ours. Suddenly, China has dug in and even publicly flaunts that these islands are theirs and they will not tolerate any country to take them. It no longer cares about international reaction against the way it is ignoring The Hague decision. It even appears to be ready for war over these islands. They have forgotten that they once had to sign a joint agreement with the Philippines, back in the days of former President Gloria M. Arroyo, another China lover. Back then. China was diplomatic in dealing with the Philippines even under Arroyo who had proven she can dance to China’s music anytime. These days, China is aggressive and does not seem interested in diplomatic niceties.

What is irritating are the reports that the sand used by China to develop the islands also came from us, sold to them by unscrupulous Pinoys themselves. If this is true, how come the government has never once complained how our mountains have been flattened. This is literally rape of our natural resources, and foreign invasion. And yet our President remains enamoured with China and even wants to get a loan from them at an interest much higher than those from other countries. With people like these sand sellers, and a government that more than loves China, those streamers proclaiming the Philippines a province of China are no longer funny; they are frightening. What curse have befallen us and why are we so uncharacteristically silent about this?

There are also reports that some 4,000 Chinese nationals have entered the country. Take all these together and we have another urgent question, one raised by former Senator Emmanuel Pelaez in the early 80s: What is happening to our country, General?

Pelaez uttered those words as he was rushed to the hospital, bloodied from an ambush. Today we ask the same question, figuratively bloodied from the never-ending ambush of everything that we hold dear: our democratic institutions, our values as Filipinos, our faith, our sovereignty.

We can only pray that like Pelaez, we will survive these ambuscades and live to see the new day that, as of now, seems too far away yet. The night is darkest when dawn is about to break, goes the famous line. Just how darker can the dark we are in now get?*

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