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There Are No White Beaches and Green Meadows in Scarborough, Sire/Ma’am

About the Title

Philippine media seems overwhelmed by patriotism, or maybe it was just coincidental. Every time I saw Philippine-China stand-off in the Scarborough, I noticed articles always carried picture of beautiful isle or islet that I think belonged in the Spratlys.

If it is about drumming up public support for the Philippine cause, will it make less if Scarborough is actually only shallow sea and a few jotting rocks?

The Best of Scarborough Shoal. Picture was lifted from Google search: Scarborough shoal.

Ships do not sail through the place. World maritime has established the place as Scarborough Shoal since a sea mishap involving one ship named Scarborough there in the 18th century. The Chinese believe it is the Huangyan Island noted in some old geography by Chinese scholars.  Filipinos call the place Panatag Shoal.

Panatag [pa na tag] adj  Tagalog, Pilipino:  serene, peaceful, calm, steady.

From old Philippine Malay: Panay + Patag – literal, all the same + plain, level land

The best of Scarborough shoal at low tide. Apparently taken later, same rock pictured above, actually having a twin near it. Lifted from Google search: Scarborough shoal

Scarborough is defined as a shoal and not an island nor a group of islands.

shoal [shōl] noun (plural shoals)
1. shallow water: an area of shallow water in a larger body of water
2. underwater sandbank: an underwater sandbank or sandbar that is visible at low water
Microsoft® Encarta® 2007. © 1993-2006 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

No island mass. Just shoal and reef systems reflecting different colors of sea.  It gets too shallow in parts so that white ripples resulting as waves roll over the shallows show. Lifted from Google search: Scarborough shoal.

During the time when fishermen did not normally go out more than 5 miles to sea, the place used to be no-man’s land, a hazardous place for ships, some few useless pieces of rocks that jot out of the water especially at low tide –  absolutely unlivable to be of interest.  If there was something interesting of the place, it must be the danger it has posed to maritime. It would have been no good map if it did not show dangerous places like useless Scarborough shoal.

But that was yesterday. And the world has grown since then. Commercial fishing has become a way of life. The place is irresistibly very rich in marine life. And added to that, there are other prospects the old world had never known before.

Shallow sea is rich in algae and corals as the sea-bed is blessed with, or penetrated by much sunlight. Reef systems are formed. The shoal formation hosts a wide variety and complete chains of marine biology. The place has become an important fishing ground, and later disputed.

Modern day Balangay that fishes in deeper seas, at rest in port with frolickers aboard. Lifted from Google search: Navotas fishport

Scarborough is about two weeks round-trip fishing run from Batangas and Navotas – Metro Manila’s fish-ports. That depends on provisions like food, drinks, ice, and how soon the holds are filled with catch. In deeper seas around the shoal are the big species, omnivores and carnivores, like Yellow Fins.

No, they are not the tuna capital of the Philippines. The tuna capital of the Philippines is Gensan or General Santos that fishes in the Celebes Sea…Celebes Sea! Hey, why don’t some bright guy rename that sea to South Philippine Sea!  And while at it, expand the country’s territorial and economic zones farther out south, as well. How?  Since Philippine government has claimed Benham Plateau in the east, why cannot it claim a sort of Benham Valley or Benham Hills that lies under what we would then call South Philippine Sea – from what to be formerly Celebes Sea! Nothing tribal, nothing economic, nothing political [ugh, Lol]. No, it is not some Filipinos going crazy, it must be the whole world moving backward. What do you think, folks? 🙂

Meantime, the Scarborough shoal has been claimed by the Republic of the Philippines [Ph], by Republic of China [Taiwan], and by the People’s Republic of China [PRC]. It all started when Filipinos planted the country’s flag in there in the time of President Marcos in the 60s, claiming the place for the Philippines, which drew protests and counter claims.

So, we see all the territorial claims are not new. All them asserted only in the late 20th century are decades old,  Scarborough shoal used to be a common fishing ground while disputed.  But not anymore.

Scarborough shoal is located in the South China Sea, slightly northeast of the Spratlys. The shoal is only around 130 nautical miles off  Zambales, Philippines.

Lifted from Google satellite Maps: Philippines and Scarborough Shoal

Under the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [UNCLOS] it falls within the 200 miles Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ] of the Philippines. The Philippines is supposed to hold fishing rights in there, or in its parts that are within the EEZ.

[My rough estimate of Scarborough shoal, that one estimate has put at 130 square kilometers in area, is 125 nautical miles on center [OC] to baseline Zambales.  Nautical mile x 1.852 = km]

With ownership there comes right[s]. Rights can come with or without ownership. The rights of the Philippines over the shoal under the EEZ has been complicated by issue of ownership. Issues of territorial ownership and sovereign rights have now apparently put them into limbo. And the situation can hang in there indefinitely.

Obviously, the shoal has to be cleared of any claim of ownership, for EEZ to become the guiding authority. I think the Philippines and PRC are locked in an impasse over the  Scarborough.

For the Filipinos, territorial sovereignty over the Scarborough shoal will mean expanding more into the South China Sea that they have already renamed “West Philippine Sea.”  I guess the Chinese simply cannot allow that.  I don’t think others in the region welcome Philippine position, either. Not with the loss, more than they should, of common fishing ground it means for them. There are oil deposits in the region. Most of all, in the region are very critical international sea lanes.

The Chinese have re-asserted their claim of ownership of the shoal. Whereas before, their fishermen were arrested by Philippine authorities for fishing there, lately they have positioned naval forces that prevented that from happening. This time they seem to be more meaningful, more resolute, of where  their mouth is, or maybe one of these days they might.

And why did not the world put the EEZ at 300 or 350 nautical miles from baseline. That might have contained people who see 200 miles as not enough, thus minimizing the possibility of wars.  Haaaah…  😦

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Freak Calamities, the Boring Sides of Them

Passenger ships that have sunk caught by storm, or during normal weather. They have happened many and more often times in the Philippines. We have Maritime vessels [MV} Don Juan, Doña Paz, Princess of the Stars, Marilyn, Cebu City, and most recently, Super Ferry 9 – just to mention the sensational ones. They’re for the facts.

Economics is involved. Like, ship captain for whatever reason simply wants to do his job done and/or, shipping line think they can make it despite problem. Normal nature of business. In the world of business, more particularly in the world of transport, every second of delay or freeze translates to big loss of income [profit]. The accidents that we saw were only by those that gambled and lost and they do not include those that gambled and got away with it.

Some practices are not only self-destructive since they concern the safety of others. That’s one reason why there are supposed to be stringent regulations and/or implementations of them by the State. Politics is involved.

Anyway, as usual, we have public out roar every time calamity happened but, there, it happens again exactly as before. [If you have overthrow of State as your end, then sell it with them there if you think people will buy] They are all within opinions and beliefs.

Flash floods that killed tens, hundreds and thousands – they have become not unusual. The biggest of them caused around eight thousand people killed or missed in Ormoc city some years back. There is no end to them in sight because, as soon as things normalize, people will be creeping back into the gutters, river banks and spillways. The country has a high rate of poverty. Meaning, we have a mass that has no place to go. It’s them who are in the hills slashing and burning our forests. It’s also them providing cheap labor for illegal loggers. They are also in urban centers; many of them have ended up living in streets and gutters. The problem is not simple as telling everyone to get out of the gutters. Forcibly driving them away did not work.  It only shifted the dispossessed somewhere else like place.

Relocation did not work and will not work under the situation. Poverty dictates. People sold their ‘rights’ in relocation sites and returned to the streets and gutters. Illegalizing such transfer of rights did not work.  Soon administrators were facing, are or will be facing square one, exactly as before.

Titling of lands used to spare ten meters along both sides of rivers and  major creeks free from titled properties. Land owners usually usurp control of such spaces. But more often, those spaces are settled by deprived people searching for a place of their own. They became public domains squatted. In fact, in Metro Manila there are creeks that can no longer be located. Some of them were discovered to have been titled. Squatting is not a monopoly of the poor.

Meantime disasters like those caused by Typhoon Ondoy, and Typhoon Pepeng coming close at its heel, strike.

Donations that pour appear awesome but the way the situations look they are far from adequate to fill the needs, for all the victims. There will always be not enough of aids, especially foods, out there. How long do you think one regular shopping bag of noodles, rice and a few canned goods will last one family? There are 4 million Filipinos devastated by Ondoy by flood – two and three storey-high in parts of Metro Manila [and not by the typhoon itself]. Well, there are legitimate organizations out there, folks, for those who would like to donate.

Pepeng that struck a little farther north, where it almost stayed stationary for three days, has yet to make a report. Initially, Pangasinan and the Cagayan valley are total wrecks. And the regions happen to comprise one major bread basket of the country which is already a traditional importer of grains, if that is not bad news enough.

No, there is no dearth of volunteers out there to ease the pains, all as usual. In fact there are more volunteers than needed in there. That’s the great Filipino spirit of heroism – the bayanihan culture, at work.

But is not everything ironic? Where were we when people were talking about averting disasters?

By the way, I’m reminded. This is appreciative of Ms Gina Lopez and company for all the efforts of cleaning Pasig River and Manila bay of floated and sunken garbage. The problem there starts with this person who wants his/her place clean. [It is universal of people to be clean.] She sweeps scattered litters, such as what children throw in streets, into a narrow gutter when nobody is looking or cared. Lucky for everybody, there is garbage collection once a week in the locality, so sacks full of them await city collection. But collections seem not adequate because the gutters are, actually, most of the time filled with garbage! Thanks goodness, rain has come. It flushed everything down into the creek. ! [I can only imagine her counterparts living beside the esteros.]

Creeks connect to Marikina River… that connects to Pasig River… and then into the Laguna de Bay [diversion spillway] or to Manila Bay, thus, welcome to the world.

Have you been dragged in court because of garbage? I was once. It started because of my contention that people have no right to pile garbage out in the street, [much more since they were visible from where I sat in my dining table]. It was a she, and her contention was that I had no right to object since her garbage was not placed inside my premises. Oh yeah? I shoveled them all back into her premise and that was it! We ended up in the Regional Trial Courts of Quezon City, no, not about garbage but for allegedly me calling her a thief and her daughter a slut! I wondered where she had got the ideas that seemed to be appropriate.

Ok, let’s talk about disastrous Flash floods. We Filipinos have a saying “What good is hay when the horse is dead?”  It stemmed from the Filipino culture of caring none or less for the sick or the needy, but everybody is suddenly there to aid when that person is dead! Should not we be talking more about averting freak calamities? Or, maybe we should be doing that in the lull or in between calamities.   A typhoon might be erratic but disasters by flash floods or by landslides due to it are no freak. They have become predictable  with the state of our watersheds and because of  the state of the nation – the state of the Filipino people.  😦

First thing in solving a problem is recognizing the problem and recognizing the root causes of it. Let’s talk about ending poverty – one of the root causes of them all. Let’s forget dole outs because they are palliatives [that don’t end poverty.] People need jobs. They need decent wages. Everything takes off from there. Nobody really wants to live in the gutters!

Let’s talk about repairing our forests. In fact forests are capable of taking care of themselves when and if humans are not in there. Forests can do things for themselves, in fact better, without the humans. In advanced and industrialized nations people are not in the forests burning and slashing. Because of opportunities in their cities they won’t even stay in farms if it is not for the huge subsidies of their governments…. Hey, people, I’m still talking…where’s everyone?

More Troubles for Mother Earth Ahead?

Non-ownership of land by non-nationals is indeed quite becoming obsolete. Filipinos can buy land, real estate or farm, in the U.S., in Australia, or anywhere half in the world today. But wait a minute. Let’s scrutinize them because we have indications of twists to them as proposed here in the Philippines.

We Filipinos cannot buy forestland in Australia, or in the U.S, or anywhere else, or people there must be insane. An Asian or an African Pedru buying private land owned by an American Pedru, or the other way around, that’s how it is but not land owned by everybody – or public domain.

Correct me if I’m mistaken, I might not be updated, but last time I knew, before any portion of public land can be utilized, especially by the private sector for agriculture it has to be declared Alienable and disposable by Congress.

Concession in that regard, also granted by congress, as in Forestry [logging] concession, has already existed. Concession, same as lease, is not ownership. They are not covered by land retention limit and land reform.  Concession is economic exploitation of public land allowed for a specific period of time. The old form of exploitation of public land, more particularly forestland, is farther advanced or furtherance by the Billion Trees Act authored by Congressman Genaro Alvarez Jr and Congressman  Jose de Venecia II of the lower house of Congress.

As we have seen, this bill went through smooth passage in congress with some radical left supporting it actually. Squatters, soldiers and policemen, church people, everybody may now exploit our forest lands. That’s how the authors explained it. But that one day Filipinos will wake up to find one giant private entity operating thousands or even millions of hectares of forestland for agriculture, well, that’s reality made possible by this Billion trees Act.

Congress, in passing the Billion Trees Act of 2007, is passing direct control of Public lands to the Executive Branch of government —  to Malacanang Palace through its arm the Department of Energy and Natural Resources [DENR]. Whoever is interested in Philippine public land should go to them instead of Congress, that’s what the law says now.

Let’s go straight to the heart of the matter – Biofuels as one solution to save mother Earth. I believe we have a very, very legitimate issue there. Biofuels is a renewable source of energy, one solution to fossil fuels crisis. It will also bring about a cleaner environment. Now comes Jatropha Curcas for bio-diesel. Jatropha is projected at 5 metric tons of harvest, per hectare-per year at best. As we can see, same with Cassava, Jatropha cannot compete with crops like rice, corn and sugarcane in term of income for farmers. In short, people are not throwing away what they have at present just for Jatropha Curcas. Moreover, for investor to buy or to lease land just for Jatropha or Cassava is not economically feasible. Promoters of Jatropha have their eyes focused at they see are cheaper – public lands. They cannot do it in their own backyard. They cannot do it in advanced and developed countries; perhaps they can do it in third world countries.  With the Billion trees Act investors need not buy land. Vast territories can now be possibly exploited  for agriculture, for 50 years, for almost a token.

[Jatropha is good only where no other agriculture is economically socially feasible as in arid regions.]

Why cannot [Philippine] State do it for itself thus for its people, IF it must do it? The answer is obvious. Bureaucrat won’t make money for his /her personal keep, or make money that maybe he/she can stash secretly in an account somewhere else. That would be easy money acting like Real-estate broker for moneyed people incidentally, or most likely, foreigners… or, perhaps, be in secret partnership with them laway lang ang puhunan.  This one does not leave money trail, just some big questions where had one got money to buy so much shares of stock!  Are not they familiar old stories for Filipinos? [If you’ve been to rallies of activists and you don’t get what they mean by phrases like down with Bureaucrat capitalism, well, now you know the meaning of one. Simply stated it means one is in government to become rich by using government position to push for personal or selfish interests. But they are all about politics and economics.

Let’s talk about environment. War against Global warming and dirty air…is not that becoming just a horse for some greed here? I can’t see trees and Reforestation in Jatropha Curcas and Cassava. Maybe its me my eyes are twisted or crossed.

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