By Fidel V. Ramos
Former Philippine President
(First of Two Parts)
“Donald Trump sacked his top diplomat Rex Tillerson and named current CIA chief Mike Pompeo to succeed him, ending a rocky tenure by the Texas oilman who had frequently been at odds with the mercurial U.S. President…..”
— Manila Bulletin, 15 March 2018
SOME ANALYSTS SAY PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP’S DECISION TO ACCEPT KIM YONG UN’S INVITATION TO A SUMMIT COULD BE LINKED PARTLY TO HIS DESIRE FOR A SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT IN HIS DIFFICULT FOREIGN POLICY CHALLENGES BEFORE THE U.S. MIDTERM ELECTIONS NEXT NOVEMBER. ON OTHER HAND, KIM SEEMS DESPERATE TO SAVE HIS SANCTIONS-BATTERED NORTH KOREAN ECONOMY.
Both leaders have interests in achieving a big deal. Should this materialize, the summit between them should come shortly after a planned meeting between Kim and SoKor President Moon Jae-in in April. It’s likely that North Korea will also push for summits with China, Russia and Japan later to further break out of isolation.
TRUMP MAY ALSO TRY TO ATTAIN SOMETHING DRAMATIC IN MEETING KIM, INCLUDING THE EXCHANGE OF COMMITMENTS ON THE DENUCLEARIZATION OF NORTH KOREA AND A PEACE TREATY BETWEEN THE TWO COUNTRIES.
UNSTABLE PHILIPPINE SITUATION
MS. MAYVELIN CARABALLO’S “PH SECURITY SITUATION STILL ‘PRECARIOUS’” (MANILA TIMES, 18 MARCH) REVEALS: “THE PHILIPPINES’ SECURITY RISK SCORE REMAINS LOWER THAN THE REGIONAL AVERAGE, A FITCH GROUP UNIT SAID, CITING FRESH ENCOUNTERS BETWEEN THE MILITARY AND ISLAMIC MILITANTS.
“‘The latest clash in March between the AFP and Islamic militants in the southern Maguindanao province accentuates the view that the security situation in the Philippines remains precarious’…..”
I.S. fighters from Syria and Iraq were reportedly being harbored by separatists in the Philippines to help the latter regroup following heavy losses during the five-month Marawi City siege. Also, the Philippines’ archipelagic geography has rendered Manila’s centralized authority ineffective, over Mindanao especially, enabling jihadists to establish enclaves in weakly governed and remote territories.
MILF Chief Ebrahim Murad said that I.S. fighters from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Middle East had entered the Philippines and were planning to launch attacks against new targets in Mindanao.
The peace formula between the Philippine Government and the MILF via the approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law is crucial, as this would lead to the creation of a more autonomous region in Mindanao, despite possible legal challenges at the level of the Supreme Court.
LAST 06 MARCH 2018, CNN PHILIPPINES REPORTED THAT TWO ALLEGED HIGH-PROFILE ISIS-AFFILIATED PERSONALITIES WERE ARRESTED IN METRO MANILA – TUNISIAN FEHMI LASSOUED AND MAUTE GROUP SUB-LEADER NASSER LOMONDOT. WITH THEIR ARREST, AUTHORITIES ARE NOT DISCOUNTING THE POSSIBILITY THAT TERROR GROUPS ARE PLANNING ATTACKS ALSO ON METRO MANILA. FROM HINDSIGHT, THIS APPEARS TO BE THEIR S.O.P.
JASMINDER SINGH OF THE RAJARATNAM SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES IN THE NANYANG TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITY IN SINGAPORE SAID MILLIONS OF DOLLARS LOOTED IN MARAWI CITY ARE “BEING USED FOR RECRUITMENT,” ADDING THAT THESE ISIS-INSPIRED GROUPS ARE ALREADY PLANNING THEIR NEXT MOVE, WITH NEW CELLS EMERGING IN OTHER PARTS OF MINDANAO LIKE JOLO, COTABATO, AND BASILAN.
The presence of remnants of terror groups in Lanao del Sur threatens efforts to stabilize the peace and order situation, and rehabilitation efforts in Marawi.
“With this, we are continuously working with the security sector to flush-out terror groups in our area. The idea really is, number one: identify hideouts where these terrorist organizations are possibly hiding; number two, remove possible mass base support; and number three, entice all mayors, LGUs in the province to work closely with the security sector,” Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong said in a recent statement.
THE MILITARY, HOWEVER, ASSURED THAT THEY ARE ON TOP OF THE SITUATION AS THEY MONITOR THE MOVEMENTS OF THESE SUSPECT GROUPS. AUTHORITIES ALSO HAVE ASKED FOR THE PUBLIC’S VIGILANCE TO QUELL THREATS POSED BY TERROR GROUPS ANYWHERE IN THE PHILIPPINES.
WITHIN OUR ASIA-PACIFIC REGION, MANY EXPRESSED SERIOUS APPREHENSIONS OVER THE REPORTED SUDDEN CHANGES IN PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP’S CABINET. REPORTED THE MANILA BULLETIN (SOURCED FROM AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE AND REUTERS, 15 MARCH): “A SENIOR WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL SAID TRUMP WANTED TO RESHUFFLE HIS TEAM WITH A VIEW TO LAUNCHING TALKS WITH NORTH KOREA, FOLLOWING LAST WEEK’S SPECTACULAR ANNOUNCEMENT THAT HE PLANS TO MEET KIM JONG UN BY END-MAY. WHILE TRUMP THANKED SECRETARY OF STATE REX TILLERSON ‘FOR HIS SERVICE,’ HE WAS VERY SPARING IN HIS PRAISE OF THE 65-YEAR-OLD FORMER EXXON CHIEF, LONG RUMORED TO BE ON THE WAY OUT…..”
President Trump spoke openly of his differences with Secretary Tillerson – singling out the Iran nuclear deal – as he explained the rationale for this latest departure from his chaotic White House. “We got along actually quite well, but also disagreed on certain things,’ Trump told reporters. ‘When you look at the Iran deal, I thought it was terrible, he thought it was okay. However, I wish Rex a lot of good things,” President Trump added.
The outgoing Secretary of State, who had just returned overnight from a trip to Africa, did not address reports that he only learned of his sacking when Trump tweeted the decision, saying only he had since spoken to the President. In his farewell remarks, he said Washington must do more to respond to Russia’s ‘troubling behavior’ – one day after slamming Moscow for its alleged involvement in an attempted assassination using a nerve gas in the U.K.
In announcing the reshuffle, Trump lavished praise on Pompeo, a former U.S. Army officer and Congressman who led the CIA for nearly 14 months, calling him “the right person for the job at this critical juncture.” “He will continue our program of restoring America’s standing in the world, strengthening our alliances, confronting our adversaries, and seeking the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Trump added.
But Democrats quickly pounced on the news. “There’s a pattern and practice to dismiss anyone with whom this President has a policy difference, and that appears to be the case with Secretary Tillerson,” Senator Dianne Feinstein said.
“To succeed Pompeo at the Central Intelligence Agency, Trump nominated Gina Haspel, a controversial career intelligence officer who is the first woman tapped for the post. Haspel has been reported to have overseen a CIA ‘black site’ in Thailand where Al-Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded after the 9/11 attacks. Both Pompeo and Haspel require Senate confirmation to assume their new posts. A hearing for Pompeo is expected in April.
But in his farewell comments, Tillerson talked up his achievements– suggesting the prospect of talks with Kim was made possible by the hard work of his State Department. The pressure campaign on Pyongyang “exceeded the expectations of almost everyone,” Tillerson said, noting it was he who had declared on his first trip to Asia as State Secretary that the “era of strategic patience is over.”
HOORAY, HOORAY!!!, SAY THE FILIPINO VETERANS OF THE 1950-‘53 KOREAN WAR, PARTICULARLY FVR, IN ANTICIPATION OF A FAVORABLE U.S.-NOKOR SUMMIT OUTCOME. OBVIOUSLY, TRUMP AND KIM, IN SPITE OF THEIR BOASTFUL BRAVADO, HAD NEVER SERVED AS FOOT SOLDIERS IN THEIR RESPECTIVE COUNTRIES.
UNEXPECTED CLIMATE CHANGE AND DISASTERS
AS FOR NATURAL CALAMITIES AND DISASTERS, EXPERTS IN CAPACITY BUILDING HAVE SAID THAT “DISASTERS HAPPEN WHEN EXISTING RISKS OR HAZARDS BECOME UNMANAGEABLE BEYOND THE CAPACITY OF THE LOCAL COMMUNITY…..”
For instance, Leyte has always been at risk of typhoons. But prior to the massive devastations and high death toll caused by Typhoon “Yolanda” (“Haiyan”), typhoons happened but they never always resulted to disaster, because Leyte province was able to handle the risks.
So should one compare the Philippines with our neighbor Japan, and take the above description of a “calamity or disaster” into consideration? The number of typhoons, floods or earthquakes happening in the Philippines and Japan is inconsequential to answer the question: which has more disasters?
One only has to look out which country had the most number of events that resulted to human and material casualties due to the inability of its local communities to cope with or react adequately to these events.
EVEN IF BOTH OUR COUNTRIES EXPERIENCE THE SAME NUMBER OR INTENSITY OF TYPHOONS, FLOODS AND EARTHQUAKES, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE FAR MORE HUMAN CASUALTIES AND DEVASTATIONS IN THE PHILIPPINES DUE TO OUR SHORTCOMINGS IN INFRASTRUCTURE AND EQUIPMENT COMPARED TO JAPAN.
ADD TO NATURAL CALAMITIES ARE PREVENTABLE TRAGEDIES BROUGHT ABOUT BY MAN-MADE DISASTERS CAUSED BY GREED THROUGH ILLEGAL LOGGING AND CARELESS MINING; INEFFICIENT, CORRUPT REGULATORY AGENCIES THAT ALLOW IRRESPONSIBLE PERSONS TO GET FRANCHISES AND LICENSES TO OPERATE PUBLIC TRANSPORTS; PLUS LOOSE IMPLEMENTATION OF SAFETY REGULATIONS RESULTING TO FIRES IN FACTORIES, CASINOS, MOVIE THEATERS, CALL CENTERS, SPORTS STADIUMS, AND MALL COMPLEXES, AMONG OTHERS.
Abangan – Part II next Sunday.
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