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‘Del Rosario, bistado ka na!’

July 13, 2019


“DEL Rosario” here refers of course to former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, and “Bistado ka na” translates to “You’ve been exposed!”

The occasion was Wilson Lee Flores’ Pandesal Forum last Tuesday. I wasn’t too late for the 10 a.m. event to miss the aria of Ado Paglinawan, described in the invitation as “a former Philippine diplomat to Washington.” He is the same Ka Ado of Radyo Pilipinas’ long-running show, “Ang Maestro: The Unfinished Revolution.” The day before, Ado was among the media guests at Melo Acuñas’ Tapatan sa Aristocrat, listening quietly to the ventilation on the PH-China row in the South China Sea by experts on the matter — George Siy of the International Development Studies Institute (IDSI), Rod Kapunan, author of the best-selling book, Revolution from the Center, and Herman Laurel, head of Brics-Philippines, who highlighted his participation in the forum’s anniversary presentation with a showing of a video footage of Acuñas’ interview with Ambassador Rosario Manalo back in 2017.

The footage had the lady diplomat declaring that both China and the Philippines had opted out of the compulsory arbitration provision of the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (Unclos). According to Manalo, such opting out of Unclos rendered null and void the arbitration proceedings in 2015 by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague, which purportedly decided the case on the two countries’ dispute over Scarborough Shoal and certain other areas in the South China Sea in the Philippines’ favor.

“It was not even an arbitration panel (the PCA),” said Ambassador Manalo. “It was a Philippine panel, funded by the people’s money.” The lady envoy proceeded to imply that the PCA could not have done otherwise but to rule the Philippines the winner in the case.

Forum in a forum

Now, to the Kamuning Bakery Pandesal Forum, Ado just found himself doing Ambassador Manalo one better, letting off steam full throttle over the issue. He flashed back to the Malampaya gas exploration whereby through clever manipulation of the constitutionally provided 60-40 sharing arrangement with foreign entities in the exploitation of Philippine natural resources, the Philippine government ended up with practically just morsels amounting to 10 percent.

Paglinawan said the bulk of the proceeds from the Malampaya venture went to Caltex and Shell, “both American companies.”

As the former diplomat increasingly raged in his opening salvo, it was again this joint venture scheme with private entities and all the imaginable evils that go with it that is at the heart of the simmering tension over the South China Sea, particularly in Recto Bank, the site of the alleged ramming, reportedly by a large Chinese vessel, of a wooden Filipino fishing boat. China showed honesty and purity of intentions enough by instantly admitting the Chinese registry of the vessel that hit the Filipino boat, but called the incident “a simple maritime accident.”

Trouble is, Ado’s tirade went, the scene of the “simple maritime accident” happens to be where the oil is — the oil coveted by Forum Energy, reportedly a company owned by Manny Pangilinan with funding from Indonesia’s Salim group. I am not so keen on business matters, but I thought I first came across the name of the business enterprise in an article by Bobi Tiglao in his column in the Manila Times on June 19, 2019 titled “Rushed oil search by ‘MVP’ firm triggered hostile stance toward China.” Let me throw back to it for a while.

Bobi wrote

“It was the rush by an ‘MVP’ firm to implement its tight program to extract oil and gas in Recto Bank in 2011 that triggered a chain of events which, under President Aquino 3rd, resulted in making China the Philippines’ de facto foe…

“By ‘MVP’ I of course refer to Manuel V. Pangilinan, who has run the First Pacific conglomerate for decades for its main owner, the Indonesian Anthoni Salim. The group has very successfully, and skillfully, made the public believe that it is owned by Pangilinan that it is even referred to by business journalists as the ‘MVP group.’

“The MVP firm is Forum Energy, acquired by the Salim group in 2008 through its Philex Mining’s PXP Energy Corp. Forum was given in 2010 authority to explore and drill for oil in a part of Recto Bank (known as ‘Reed Bank’ internationally), called Service Contract 72.

“Just a few weeks after Albert del Rosario assumed office as foreign affairs secretary in February 2011, Forum in March sent the ship MV Veritas Voyager to explore locations to sink appraisal wells. However, two patrol boats of China’s Marine Surveillance Force approached the ship and forced it to withdraw, telling it to stop its activities at Recto Bank, claiming it was under its jurisdiction as it was allegedly part of China’s Nansha Islands. For us, it is both part of the Kalayaan Island group that Marcos annexed in 1978 and within our 200-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as defined in a law that President Arroyo asked to be enacted in 2009.

“It was a colossal conflict-of-interest situation, unquestioned during Aquino’s entire administration, but which most probably resulted in its antagonistic stance towards China. How could del Rosario be objective in undertaking our relations with China when much of his socioeconomic status has been due to his directorships in, and business deals with, Salim firms? Other than Pangilinan, he is the only Filipino director in the conglomerate’s command and income center, the Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd.”

Ado aria: Del Rosario bistado ka na!

Back to Ado at the Pandesal Forum, he was screaming in a fiery outburst, the words coming out of his mouth like ratatats from an M14, while his closed fist banged the panel with booms reminiscent of cannon shells. Nonetheless, for all the fury in his pronouncements, he stated his case quite unerringly: that del Rosario had been doing his damn best to sway China into awarding to Forum the joint venture oil exploration in Recto Bank — to the extent of agitating the Filipino nation into warring with China.

Under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the United States and the Philippines, the former is required to retaliate in the event of an attack on the latter by another country. The del Rosario scheme must consist in leveraging his objective of getting Forum awarded the joint venture project from China over Recto Bank through a threat of war with China by the United States. But China sticks to its policy of going joint venture only on a state-to-state basis. Evidently, Forum — read that as Del Rosario — hasn’t given up on its scheme.

So, that’s why every time an event happens that leads to a rise in tension between China and the Philippines, del Rosario is the leading partaker. The PCA arbitral proceeding — which prompted Chinese Pemier Wen Jiabao to threaten the Noynoy administration: “ We are not a war hungry nation, but neither are we to back away from a fight when pushed against the wall. The Philippines will learn this lesson to its cost.” — was the handiwork of del Rosario. The filing of a complaint of “crimes against humanity” against Chinese President Xi Jinping at the International Criminal Court (ICC) was del Rosario’s joint venture with former ombudsman Conchita Morales-Carpio. Is it any wonder then that when the “the simple maritime accident” involving a Chinese vessel hitting a Filipino fishing boat was brought into the open by an announcement by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who should take the cue of denouncing the incident but del Rosario and known adherents of the Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRI) — Jay Batongbacal, Richard Heydarian, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, with Rappler to boot — making up the chorus line for Del Rosario’s demand of accountability to to war with China.

“Del Rosario, bistado ka na!” Ado blasted. “You, a secretary of Foreign Affairs, sitting as director in a foreign company. Shame on you!”

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