Something fishy

The talk of the town in the latter part of this month is the sinking of a Philippine fishing boat by a Chinese fishing vessel.

As far as I can tell, the facts are as follows:

1. The Philippine fishing boat was anchored within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone.

2. At or around midnight, with only the cook awake, another vessel was spotted on a collision course with the anchored vessel. The rest of the crew were fast asleep.

3. The cook began to wake the crew. They saw the vessel coming and hit the rear of the fishing boat. The boat began to sink.

4. Some of the crew were able to board a launch and approach the vessel that hit them to ask for help. The others were in the water holding on to drums to stay afloat.

5. The vessel turned on its lights but soon turned it off and the left. The Filipinos were able to identify the vessel as Chinese because of the light configuration. The Chinese later admitted, retracted, and admitted again, that it was their vessel that hit the boat, while fishing, and left the crew to fend for themselves.

6. The Filipinos on the launch rowed out about 5 nautical miles until they saw a Vietnamese vessel from whom they sought assistance.

7. Using the radio of the Vietnamese, they were able to call for help. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese vessel picked up the rest of the crew from the sea and cared for them. The engineer stayed on the boat to save it.

8. All 21 crewmen, the engineer and the boat were able to return to the Philippines.

The experience was bad enough but what happened after seemed completely surreal. Granted, there may be a question on whether or not the collision was intentional, it doesn’t seem disputed that the Chinese vessel left the crew at sea with the sinking boat.

The Chinese admitted that it was a Chinese fishing vessel that struck the fishing boat but they claimed that it was trying to avoid 7 or 8 other Filipino fishing boats that was trying to “besiege” it when they accidentally hit the anchored boat. They said they wanted to save the crew but were afraid of being set upon by the other boats.

The Philippine government isn’t much help. They downplayed the incident as nothing more than a maritime accident aping the Chinese line on the matter. The Presidential spokesman also casted doubt over the crew’s statements about the incident because of alleged inconsistencies in their statements, which is surprising coming from a lawyer but maybe not so surprising because it came from this particular lawyer. Anyway…

Any lawyer worth his salt would know that no two eyewitness accounts will ever be 100% consistent. If it did, then it would have been surely 100% scripted. There will always be some discrepancy but the main story remains the same. From what I read, it appears that there was some time between the Chinese vessel being spotted until the collision occurred. Certainly enough time for the cook to rouse his fellow crewmen from sleep and they had time to see the Chinese vessel ram them. Whatever else may be inconsistent, the fact remains that the vessel hit them while they were anchored, and left them.

If, as the Chinese claim, there were other Filipino boats in the area, then why did the crew have to row some 5 nautical miles out before they were rescued, not by another Filipino boat but a Vietnamese one? Another sad/silly/hilarious statement arising from this fact is that the Philippine government said that it will waive suing the Vietnamese vessel for trespassing. I hope so because they did save our fellow Filipinos; however, the same thing should not be said of the Chinese vessel that rammed the Filipino boat. Remember, the Chinese admitted that it was their vessel that struck the Filipino fishing boat, going so far as to actually name it, and that it was fishing within the Philippine EEZ at the time.

Worse, police in full battle gear suddenly laid siege on the fishermen’s homed as if they were common criminals instead of the victims of a “maritime accident.”

On the other hand, it certainly does not help to rabidly growl and bark at the Chinese or at our own government. If we have to take action, then it certainly should be at the very least, a rational approach.

This incident is just one among many. So, someone — the Philippine Government does not seem to be interested — has to build the case against the Chinese, continue to protest each and every infraction by the Chinese, then build an international coalition against China to shame them. China wants to project itself as a responsible State on the world stage. It’s reputation will suffer if we press them on this. Some say China should not lose face so that some concessions can be had from them but it may be too late for that since they have already illegally occupied what is rightfully ours. If anything, then it is our face that needs saving or preserving.

Remember, this is an offshoot of their baseless Nine-Dash Line that was trashed by the international tribunal. The Chinese presence in the Philippine EEZ is patently illegal. That alone should give us the right to damn well put them in their place.

To paraphrase Jose Rizal, “ang taong hindi marunong magmahal sa sariling bayan ay masahol pa sa hayop at malansang isda” (those who do not love their own country is worse than an animal and spoiled fish). We do not need to declare war to fight the Chinese but we do have to fight.


Elections 2019

The partial results are in and it’s not looking good for most of my candidates.

Be that as it may, I refuse to call my countrymen “bobo” (idiots) for electing someone into office who does not seem qualified at all. The thing is, I am judging them using my lens. In their eyes, I am sure my reasoning would be ten thousand degrees off. We have to understand their perspective and it is that where a majority of those who ran failed.

Candidates must connect to their constituents. All of them, not just those from their own social class or spheres. The candidates we might consider “inferior” or “unworthy” have connected with the voters in ways that would ensure their victory regardless of who they are and/or what they have done. Some of this may diminish over time but it is that connection that makes them winnable.

Of course, winning is not everything but if we want to effect change, then we need to get to first base by winning in the elections. To do this, one does not need guns, goons and gold but a connection to the people that matters, the connection and not necessarily the people. Those who share your ideals and run in the same social circles as you do may understand who you are and what you stand for but as important as that may be, it is also important to connect with others. These “others” should see you and connect with you. Even if they know you are not from the same social class, they will trust you to look after them. Most of them see you as an elitist with elitist aspirations. They are of the masses. Damn your elitist ideals.

If this election has taught us anything, then it is that qualifications per se are not enough. If we want to win, then you don’t need to lose your ideals. You just need to connect to the people in a meaningful way to gain their trust. It will not be easy. They will be suspicious. They may even accuse you of just using them. Work sincerely and gain their trust. It is the beginning and you have to start now. Batter up!


The Promise

The Game of Thrones is hurtling towards its end. With just six episodes to finish a story eight seasons in the making, the writers are cutting corners leaving a very bland taste in the mouth, which quickly turns foul.

The story thunders through two wars in quick succession: The Long Night saw the living doing battle with the dead in the Battle for Winterfell; and The Bells brought the Battle of King’s Landing to its abrupt end. I have already noted my disappointment at the Long Night in my post, The Assembled.

The only thing powerfully moving in Episode 5 was the reunion, and death, of the Lannister twins. It was so them that you loved them even as you hated them. That was how good those fleeting scenes were. The rest of the Episode though was a right royal mess. The battle between the Hound and the Mountain echoed hallow even if it was one of those build-up moments. Arya, Lady Death herself, turning away from her mission to kill Cersei was an emotional bummer. She risked death in going after the Night King, and left Gendry never to return North, then this? Cersei’s mercenaries were a joke; her Scorpions useless. What a turn from just a week ago where one dragon went down from fewer Scorpions. What the heck?

Now it all boils down to two: Dany and Jon. Fire and Ice. Who will sit on the Throne? You remember the prince that was promised? Here’s what I think will happen: Greyworm informs Dany that Jon was not in on the massacre at King’s Landing. Dany — now full on Mad Queen — sentences him to death by dragon. Drogon may hesitate but the Mother of Dragons wills it and so it is. But since Jon is Aegon Targaryen, he does not burn but stands, sword in hand now aflame with dragon fire. He is revealed as the true heir to the throne! The prince that was promised. Sure, he wasn’t the one who actually killed the Night King but it was his character that brought them together to fight the dead and end the night.

The question is will he sit on the Iron Throne? If Jon will be true to himself the way the Lannister’s were, then it is most likely that he will not. Who then will actually sit is still in the air. Tyrion, having betrayed Dany again, may not be there in the end. Bran no longer sees himself a Stark. Maybe Sansa? Quite frankly, I really don’t care anymore. The whole series is just passing like a blur and any emotional investment made in any of the characters have been lost in their hurry to end it.

Fine, end it but at least give us the satisfaction of knowing that the prophecies, no matter how difficult they may be, were never a lie. Promise us that. Give us that.


The Assembled

This week, I got to watch Avengers: Endgame and GoT’s Episode 4: The Long Night.

Endgame Mind Games

So, everyone’s theory that the surviving heroes will use the quantum realm to time travel proved true. They have their theory pretty much worked out by Professor Hulk, and Stark…until the end when Cap decided to go AWOL and pop back up old and frail. If he popped out of this timeline, how does he get back to it to pass on the mantle of Captain America to Sam Wilson a.k.a. The Falcon?

Banner explained to the Ancient One that while it is true altering a timeline creates a separate timeline, restoring the alteration at exactly the same time should also restore the previously altered timeline. So, what does Roger’s return to this timeline mean?

Best guess is, of course, he goes back and alters a past but knowing about Henry Pym and his Pym Particles, he just might have borrowed some to make a jump to this timeline, at a time he knew Professor Hulk, Bucky and Sam would be. Of course, it would mean that this timeline will be altered but I guess they will just have to live with that. Bucky didn’t seem surprised; so, I’m guessing he knew this would happen.

Remember, this isn’t the only wrinkle in time since there’s a version where Loki gets his hands back on the Tesseract after the War of New York. We might learn more about this and other possible timelines when Disney+ runs their shows on their streaming app.

So, what about the movie itself? Epic. Sure, there were problems here and there like the fat shaming thing with Thor, and why the skies went dark after the aerial bombardment by Thanos, but they did string it along just fine that it didn’t feel like it ran for three hours. That’s how good the storytelling was. Joss Whedon started great and the Russo brothers ended it by kicking it up by leaps and bounds. A perfect ending for a new beginning.

The Night Ends

Teased for seven seasons, the battle between the living and the dead finally happened and, unlike Endgame, this felt like a disappointment.

First of all, you could hardly see anything. I’m sure that went with the feel of the story but it can only go so far.

Second, the battle made no sense at all. You are up against a guy who can raise the dead. Battles result in a lot of death, and they decided to throw everyone out of walls of Winterfell? They had catapults but it was hardly used.

They had cavalry but they just threw them away. I mean it was night and they could hardly see the enemy. The Dothraki are light cavalry, they could have looked for the flanks of the dead, or the front line to feed intel to the catapults and have those bombard the lines with fire. Once softened, the Knights of the Vale can charge in. That’s how it’s usually done but, no, the Dothraki charged with flaming swords and all only to be decimated, and the Knights fought on foot.

The surprise ending was great although one had to wonder how Arya managed to sneak in when the entire courtyard was surrounded by white walkers and wights.

The rest of the episode, however, was just so disappointing. Sure, some great scenes here and there but, overall, it felt rushed. I thought it would take a couple of prolonged episodes to tell the story right but they did it in one and it came up short. Sadly, my dark horse, Theon Greyjoy, did not make it and Cersei was a no-show. I understand this is The Game of Thrones, not a Song of Ice and Fire, and there are only six episodes, so the real end comes when we see who sits on the Iron Throne but still the battle with the Night King was supposed to be a big thing. After seven seasons, I guess it wasn’t. Now, we are just supposed to shrug this off and move on the next battle.

I may be among the minority here but I really did expect more.


Right and Wrong

It is completely idiotic for someone to target someone else just because the latter is a Muslim, regardless of what the Koran says. We Christians certainly cannot say that we follow the Bible to the letter. We pick and choose. That’s the way Muslims are too, in a way. Not all of them are blind adherents of the Koran. We cannot lump everyone into a bag labeled “Bad” just because they’re Muslims. Even our own teachings prevent that.

We admit that ours is not the only way to salvation; otherwise, we have arrogated upon ourselves something that our God freely gives to whomever He pleases. If we think otherwise; then our God would truly be a terrible god. If God discriminates between Muslims and Christians, then He wouldn’t be much of a loving god, would He? And if we are supposed to have the same God, then we shouldn’t think too highly of our selves. The parable of The Prodigal Son taught us that (Luke 15:11-32).

We live our lives by the Word made flesh. In that we are not perfect even as we struggle to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Regardless, the good Lord gave us that ability to choose between right and wrong. I think, given the opportunity, we would rightly choose what is right. That is if we truly dare to call ourselves Christians…


Philippines, my Philippines

The Philippines is in trouble. It doesn’t take a genius to know that China’s aggressive moves in the cluster of islands known to the Philippines as Pag-asa (hope) on the South China Sea, or as the Philippines would say, West Philippine Sea, has deprived the Philippines of actual use over the territory. Despite a more China-friendly approach to foreign policy, China has run roughshod over the Philippines…who now seems to act a lot like China’s bitch. Harsh?

Some say the problem for the Philippines started when, like a bull in a china shop, it kicked out the Americans who were holed up in Subic and Clark bases. From these bases, the US would project its power and might over the surrounding waters including, of course, the South China Sea. China back in the 80s and 90s did not have the navy to or even the economic means to match the US in its neo-colonialist best.

In a bit of nationalistic fervor, the Philippine Senate rejected the US bases agreement in 1991. The agreement would have extended the US presence in Subic Navy Base for another ten years even as it surrendered Clark Air Base in 1992. But, like a bull in a china shop, there was no Plan B, and the china got its revenge. Without the US so close, and the Philippines weakened by, well being the Philippines (fine, Marcos’ failed cronyism), China grew a couple and moved forward.

Then globalization came and everyone took advantage of China’s dirt cheap labor, which made the Chinese very rich indeed. The Chinese, being the astute Chinese that they were, forced all the foreign companies coming to their shores to play by their rules, even forcing technology transfers these companies wouldn’t have considered had it somewhere else to go. Chinese labor was that cheap companies were willing to lose a little — that turned out a lot — to gain a lot. Even if companies had to ship goods from across the Pacific, it was still cheaper than doing it from the US. All that money and technology the Chinese used for their own ends. They became a superpower.

Which brings us back to those islands in the South China Sea. China, with all that money, is willing to lend some to the Philippines to build its infrastructure. Its loan terms are less attractive than say Japan’s but that doesn’t seem to kill the deal because it seems “the Philippines needs friends.” What for exactly is not certain. Maybe a balance against post-neo-colonialist US but somehow it’s not working out too well for the Philippines. The Philippines managed to win a major score at an international tribunal that declared China’s claims over the South China Sea absolute hogwash and yet the Philippines is still down. It’s neighbors, Indonesia and Vietnam, actually manage to hold China at bay. The difference lies in the power to enforce its will. Both Indonesia and Vietnam has a navy capable of defending its interests. Not so the Philippines, and the most laughable thing about its situation is that China is now offering to fund its naval buildup. The country that is taking the most from the Philippines, is going to fund its navy! How terribly effed up is that? I mean this does not even include the invasion of Chinese workers and the chaos their presence is causing in the housing sector. China is dominating the Philippines and the best the latter can do is wag its finger and say “Bad China! Bad China!” But all the while its tail is wagging.

Oh Philippines, my Philippines.


Those itchy fingers

Today, I woke up to the news that US President Trump has withdrawn the US from the Iran nuclear deal reached during the Obama era with France, the UK, EU, China and Russia. This at a time when the US wants to talk to North Korea about denuclearization.

It seems Trump’s idea of a nuclear deal is a zero-sum deal where Iran or North Korea is expected to capitulate completely in exchange for no sanctions. That, or war…and Trump is on the record in saying he has the bigger button.

The same zero-sum approach has been used in the UN where its ambassador regularly reminds its allies and aid beneficiaries that it expects them to vote with the US on issues before the UN or Security Council. It has not always worked but they do it anyway.

For its allies, the US pulling out of its international commitments — the first being the Pacific free trade agreement followed by the climate change deal — gives them reason to doubt its ability to keep its word on anything already agreed on. The US still has influence, for sure, however, how much influence is up for debate. I wonder what the next administration will do to restore its credibility?

Then there’s North Korea. Seeing what it is seeing now, I wonder if it still wants to do a deal with the US.

With the US retreating into itself, Germany seems to be taking over the West. For the rest of world, it seems China is gaining ground. The world is indeed changing and it may not be for the better.