Why is the Aquino government suddenly being combative against China, over the disputed Spratly Islands, and North Korea over its satellite launch?
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Sudden “tension” at the Scarborough shoal, seemingly contradictory government statements over North Korea’s satellite launch (such as the “highly unlikely but probable” danger being raised by Defense Undersecretary Benito Ramos), government officials’ intermittent discussions of the Chinese threat at the Spratlys – these are just some of the security worries occupying the Aquino government as reported by the mainstream media. But do these really constitute threats or, as some critics asked, are these just preparations for justifying the arrival of more than 4,700 US troops this month?
Until the Philippine government started arresting Chinese fisherfolk at Scarborough shoal, Filipino fisherfolk living near and fishing at the rich shoal told a TV interview that they and the Taiwanese and Chinese fisherfolk have all been fishing together in that shoal. There was no enmity and tension, based on their accounts. Some fisherfolk even said that at times, when they have no catch yet, those Chinese or Taiwanese fisherfolk would even share with them their catch. All the Filipino fisherfolk pray is that they will not be barred from fishing in the shoal.
As to the impending North Korean launch of a satellite, geopolitics expert Prof. Roland Simbulan told Bulatlat.com that the government warnings against the potential risks due to the launch, such as falling debris, for example, are “exaggerated.” There is no truth to that, said Simbulan, explaining that the debris from the rockets to be used for the launch would shatter into small pieces as it falls into the earth.
(Photo by Alan Boylet / bulatlat.com)
Simbulan said the US has launched even bigger satellites, using bigger rockets in the past. He charged that the current Philippine government pronouncements about the North Korean launch, which closely echo those of the US, is, in part, anti-Korean, and opportunist because they want to take advantage of the event by misrepresenting those it considers as its rival.
Double standard in viewing North Korea’s technological leap
If successful, the North Korean’s launch of a satellite, said Simbulan, will improve its telecom and military capability. A satellite in outer space can be used for surveillance. Simbulan surmised that the satellite launch is worrying the US government because it demonstrates North Korea’s achievement despite years of being isolated by the US.
“It represents North Korean leap in technology, an achievement made despite the isolation in which it finds itself because of US efforts,” he said.
There now appears to be two standards in perceiving a satellite launch. North Koreans’ launching of its satellite only follows in the wake of other global powers such as the US and Britain, which launched their satellites earlier. The launches of these powers had been welcomed and congratulated, but why is the North Korean launch being viewed with suspicion?
The government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has announced it will launch an earth observation satellite known as “Kwangmyongson 3,” using an Unha-3 rocket between April 12 and 16. President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, echoing concerns raised by the United States, has expressed alarm at the planned launch, saying it is a disguised ballistic missile test.
“To justify its position and generate support among the Filipino people, the Aquino regime has even resorted to making such wild speculations that falling debris from the DPRK satellite launch may hit Philippine territory,” the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said in a statement.
The CPP also described as “completely ludicrous” the Aquino government’s imposition of a no-fly zone policy on the days of the launch, considering its recent declaration of an open skies policy for US military spy drones. The Aquino government has also barred fisherfolk from going out to sea during the days of the possible launch.
ACT Teachers Party-List Representative Antonio Tinio condemned the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) for endorsing a “STAY INDOORS” policy put forward by the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), where “residents of Regions 1, 2, 3 4A, 4B, NCR and 5” are urged to stay indoors “during the 12-16 April 2012 period, particularly between 0600H to 1200H.”
“This is an utterly absurd and self-contradictory recommendation. The PNRI Director Alumanda de la Rosa clearly stated that the rocket will not carry a nuclear warhead and that no radioactive material will be carried on board, so why ask the whole population of Luzon to stay indoors?” Tinio asked. He said it is “totally out of proportion to the danger posed by the rocket debris, which is expected to fall in Philippine waters some 200 kilometers east of Luzon. Why is this government asking nearly 50 percent of the population to cower under their roofs when the splashdown will take place far from Philippine soil?”
“The NDRRMC report is riddled with politically-charged rhetoric, irresponsible generalizations, and absurd recommendations that grossly exaggerate any danger posed by the North Korean rocket,” said Tinio. “They are spreading misinformation and sowing fear among the public,” he charged.
ACT Partylist Rep. Tinio wondered if the NDRRMC report, now being used to explain no-fly and no fishing policy, for example, is “just product of sheer incompetence, or is it part of a calculated effort to generate public support for increased US troop presence and more intervention in the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific region?”
The CCP accused the US of trying to prevent the DPRK from further building itself up as a formidable scientific power, “in the same way that it is blocking efforts by other self-respecting anti-imperialist sovereign nations from building their independence.”
Instead of viewing the North Korean’s technological leap negatively, the CPP said that in behalf of the Filipino people, they are extending their felicitations and well wishes to the government and people of the DPRK for its plans to launch another satellite into space.