By FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOSE C. DE VENECIA JR.
The Philippines and the United States should now go beyond discussions and finalize an agreement for the purchase by the Philippines — not a gift — of 74,000 brand-new M16 rifles with three clips each from the US, a long-time plan of our Armed Forces.
It was fine discussing robust defense cooperation, improvement of defense infrastructure, updating logistic procedures, and increasing mutual communication in the course of the recent two-day 8th Philippines-US Bilateral Strategic Dialogue (BSD) in Manila. Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Enrique Manalo and Defense Undersecretary Cesar Yano led the Philippine delegation while the US was represented by Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver.
The BSD is the principal forum for discussing the full range of political, security, and economic cooperation between the Philippines and the US.
Relative to the South China Sea, the Philippines and the US reaffirmed their commitment to uphold freedom of navigation, overflight, and other lawful uses of the sea, and the importance of peacefully resolving disputes in accordance with international law, as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention.
Of relevance, both sides stressed the need to conclude an effective Code of Conduct that would not prejudice the rights under international law of both claimant states and non-claimant states in the South China Sea.
In our column last Sunday, we also wrote that the time has come for the Philippines and China to jointly drill for oil and/or natural gas in the South China Sea as perhaps a permanent, logical solution to the continuing crises in the area.
And we also said that it was our belief that a relatively large-scale discovery of hydro-carbons was likely in the Reed Bank not too far away from the Palawan offshore where we helped initiate the first, historic commercial oil discoveries in the Philippines in the 1970s, through our own Filipino oil exploration companies Basic Petroleum, Landoil, Oriental Petroleum, Philodrill and US companies Westrans, Sunoco, Philips Petroleum, and others. In a sense, it was the golden age of Philippine oil exploration in the sea at the time.
We also said that if the drilling is much further in the sea in Chinese or Vietnamese territory, the corresponding large share of the oil or gas will go either to China or Vietnam, with additional share fees for whoever is designated operator for say, a three-nation consortium of the Philippines, China and Vietnam.
In the Reed Bank, within our Execlusive Economic Zone or West Philippine Sea, we said in our last week’s column that in the event of discovery, the Philippines would own 60% of the oil/gas, with 40% going to the Chinese state oil company.
We in the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), representing some 350 ruling, opposition, and independent political parties in 52 countries in Asia, and the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP) join the family and the people of Bangladesh in mourning the passing last week of one of the great leaders of Bangladesh and South Asia, our friend, the soldier-statesman former President Hussain Muhammad Ershad. He was 89 years old.
President Ershad was as an Army chief, parliamentary and party leader, and had contributed in advancing the causes of peace, security, human development, economic modernization, and environmental protection in Bangladesh and the south Asian region. He was conferred honors by the United Nations – the UN Population Award in 1987 and the UN Environment Award in 1988.
President Ershad also played an important role in the founding of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), composed of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. SAARC conducted its first summit in Dhaka in 1985, when he was President of Bangladesh.
He served in the Standing Committee of ICAPP, representing the Jatiya Party of Bangladesh, of which he was founder and chairman. He pushed dialogue and cooperation among peoples in the region through the channel of political parties.
Unknown to many, the military-political leader Ershad was a poet and had published several books.
At the regular meeting of the Rotary Club of Manila (RCM) last Thursday, our guest speaker was the newly elected Mayor of Manila Isko Moreno, who unveiled plans to “bring back Manila’s old glory.” He was introduced by our fellow Rotarian and former great Manila Mayor himself, Alfredo Lim, who ran against Moreno and former President, Mayor Joseph Estrada last May, 2019.
Speaking extemporaneously and alternating between Tagalog and English, his short biographical sketch disclosed he came from a truly poor family who rose through great difficulties but who had real breaks, and later took special courses in the universities of Harvard and Oxford. He said that as Mayor, his top priorities are “cleanliness, orderliness, education, jobs, and health.” He appealed to his constituents and stakeholders to help him carry out the much-needed reforms and programs in his city, saying that he could not do so by himself.
We were quite impressed by the young mayor’s determination, charisma, and public speaking skills. More impressive, however, is his performance as chief executive less than three weeks into his term because of his apparent and no-nonsense approach in bringing back law and order in the country’s capital.
On another note, our Rotary Club of Manila President Jack Rodriguez has designated us chairman emeritus of RCM’s “Ambassador Committee” and RCM’s “ambassador” to all Rotary clubs in China. God knows how many Rotary Clubs, Jaycees, Lions club’s and other civic organizations there are in China, one of the oldest civilizations in the world.
Although at 82, we are already burdened by much work and wearing many hats, serving the Rotary Club of Manila, the oldest Rotary Club in the Philippines and Asia, is a distinct pride and honor.
After celebrating Manila Rotary’s 100 years anniversary, recalling its founding in Manila by American businessmen in the early 1900s, outgoing President Jesus Pineda Jr., after a successful presidency, turned over the leadership to an equally capable business leader Jack Rodriguez.
Tags: Jose C. De Venecia Jr.