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Socio-economic issues are people’s top concerns * Latest Posts At Ground Level Commentary Contributions 

Socio-economic issues are people’s top concerns

Five days before President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his first state-of-the-nation address on Monday, he was gifted by the Pulse Asia Survey with the report that its nationwide survey on July 2-8 (his first week in office) showed a 91 percent trust rating for him – both across the nation and socio-economic classes. (His predecessor, Benigno S. Aquino III, got an 85 percent trust rating in a similar survey in July 2010.) The nine-to-one public trust record was largely anticipated. We need not dwell on it further. More important to…

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A lot remains to be seen, done about SCS row ruling * Latest Posts At Ground Level Columns Contributions 

A lot remains to be seen, done about SCS row ruling

On July 12, as expected, the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled to uphold the Philippines’ maritime rights in the South China Sea and dashed (no pun intended) – as having no legal basis – China’s “nine-dash-line” sovereignty claim over nearly all of the sea. And as also expected, China rejected the ruling. President Xi Jinping has reasserted “historic rights” to the resources of the SCS, without rebutting the arbitral tribunal’s two bases for nullifying his government’s claim. The tribunal said: 1) China’s historic rights claim were “extinguished” in 1996…

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Self-restraint must prevail over South China Sea row * Latest Posts At Ground Level Commentary Contributions 

Self-restraint must prevail over South China Sea row

Both by its extensive propaganda blitz and by conducting military drills in the Paracels, China seeks to impress upon the world its resolve to assert sovereignty over almost all of the South China Sea – no matter how the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration will decide: to uphold or negate such a claim. The decision is set to be issued this coming Tuesday. The Philippines has challenged the basis for the claim – a “nine-dash line” map drawn up in 1947 that encompasses several of our maritime claims and those…

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Direction of Duterte gov’t: ‘Compassion, real change’ * Latest Posts At Ground Level Commentary Contributions 

Direction of Duterte gov’t: ‘Compassion, real change’

Formally speaking as President of the Philippines soon after making his oath of office last Thursday, Rodrigo R. Duterte made it abundantly clear that “Malasakit, Tunay na Pagbabago” (Compassion, Real Change) define the character and direction of his administration. He emphasized that he had articulated these battlecries during the presidential campaign “in behalf of the people hungry for genuine and meaningful change.” Having been elected on that basis, he deems it his mandate to pursue such change, no matter the “rough ride” to its realization. For the change to be…

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A tri-nation approach to South China Sea row * Latest Posts At Ground Level Commentary Contributions 

A tri-nation approach to South China Sea row

Early this week in Manila, the defense chiefs of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia wound up discussions they began last month in Vientiane, Laos. They agreed to conduct “trilateral maritime and air patrols” in their “maritime areas of common concern,” particularly in the Sulu Sea where the three countries share borders. They will establish a working group that will identify the operational directions of tri-nation patrols, with each country putting up a maritime command center responsible for deploying its military assets for the patrols. Rising criminality, piracy, kidnapping, and smuggling…

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Duterte moves fast on GPH-NDF peace talks * Latest Posts At Ground Level Commentary Contributions 

Duterte moves fast on GPH-NDF peace talks

Within three weeks from his inauguration as the 16th President on June 30, Rodrigo R. Duterte will resume the formal peace negotiations – in limbo since 2013 – between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. The talks will reopen ahead of his first state-of-the-nation address on July 25. And to enhance the positive atmosphere for the negotiations, Duterte will soon order the release from prison of 18 NDFP peace consultants and staff allowing them to join in the talks; other political prisoners will also be released…

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Under EDCA, Balikatan drills become slippery slope * Latest Posts At Ground Level Commentary Contributions 

Under EDCA, Balikatan drills become slippery slope

Judging by this year’s version of the US-Philippine joint military exercises, Balikatan 2016 has taken a new direction, courtesy of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. From the declared purpose, since 2002, of “enhancing interoperability” between the two allied armed forces, Balikatan is now being placed by the American side squarely within the “context of existing tension” in the South China Sea, and conceptualized as a “mission rehearsal.” This sounds like we Filipinos are being taken down a slippery slope – risking further loss of our national sovereignty, and control over…

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Lee Kuan Yew on Marcos and the politics of the elite * Latest Posts At Ground Level Commentary Contributions 

Lee Kuan Yew on Marcos and the politics of the elite

“Only in the Philippines could a leader like Ferdinand Marcos, who pillaged his country for over 20 years, be considered for a national burial. Insignificant amounts of the loot have been recovered, yet his wife and children were allowed to return and engage in politics…” The quotation is from Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s prime minister for 31 years who is credited for building the tiny resources-poor city-state into a “First World oasis in a Third World region.” Marcos’ contemporary as autocratic ruler in Southeast Asia, Lee died last year (March…

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Pursue diplomacy, restrain belligerence in sea dispute * Latest Posts At Ground Level Commentary Contributions 

Pursue diplomacy, restrain belligerence in sea dispute

Starting Monday the 15th annual US-Philippine joint (Balikatan) military exercises under the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement will roll out in various sites in the country. Nearly 10,000 American and Filipino soldiers will undergo 10 days of training in warfare. This is a massive exercise for the US, which will deploy 55 aircraft, including its much-touted Ospreys, and at least five warships. For its part, the AFP will use two brand-new FA-50 fighter jets, S-211s, and two refurbished former US battleships. Balikatan this year will take place within the framework of…

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Engaging moments with Jovito R. Salonga * Latest Posts At Ground Level Contributions 

Engaging moments with Jovito R. Salonga

At the Senate tribute to Jovito R. Salonga, who passed away last week at age 95, Senate President Franklin Drilon recalled how in 1991 Salonga, then the chamber’s head, had firmly but politely refused President Cory Aquino’s plea that the Senate ratify the extension of the RP-US military bases treaty. “Ka Jovy held his ground, he maintained his principle,” Drilon said. Quoting from the movie about Gen. Antonio Luna, he added: “’Bayan muna bago ang sarili!’ That sums up the way Jovy Salonga lived his life.” Reading this in the…

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Poor people are losing their homes everywhere * Latest Posts At Ground Level Commentary Contributions 

Poor people are losing their homes everywhere

For two days recently, violent clashes broke out between the police and informal settlers resisting the demolition of their homes (about 100 families) in a privately claimed lot in Culiat, Quezon City. These were but the latest of similar scenes in the metropolis and elsewhere in the country. Demolition – or the threat of it – has become the bane for urban poor families living in mostly makeshift dwellings (with some relatively permanent houses gradually improved over the years) built on lots they do not own. Their perception is that…

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