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Thursday, November 30, 2023

On the rice crisis, destruction of corals

“Considering the attitude of China, even if the Arbitral Court will honor the Philippines’ case, will China honor it?”

I had to take a 2-week leave not only because Sept 15 was my 96th birthday, but because I knew that some close friends would take the occasion to invite me for a series of lunches. And Santa Banana, they did!

I also had so many Facebook greetings, not to mention online greetings from famous friends like Senator Robin Padilla, which made my birthday last Sept. 15 a September to remember.

I can only thank God for everything.

The rice crisis

The rice crisis is certainly a challenge to the leadership of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., as it was when other presidents before him were also threatened by the rice crisis.

But, the rice crisis now is something different.

It’s more of escalating prices of the main staple that we Filipinos are used to. Not only that.

As a result, the prices of other food commodities also soared, which forced BBM to issue an executive order putting price caps at P41/kilo for ordinary milled and P45 for well-milled rice.

No doubt, the rice crisis came about because of smuggling, hoarding and profiteering by a cartelized group of rice traders.

Santa Banana, I have seen it all.

In the past, rice was controlled only by a few rice traders.

Now, smuggling, hoarding, profiteering and manipulation of prices are cartelized by the same group responsible for smuggling of agricultural products and manipulating prices.

The rice caps cannot last long however.

They may soon be lifted because the leadership has to consider that price caps are not doing the small rice retailers any good, so much so that Malacanang had to subsidize small rice retailers that had suffered because these retailers bought rice at a high price from traders.

With the rice harvest season coming up, coupled with the milling season, the rice crisis may soon end especially with the price of palay increases in an effort to help rice farmers and producers.

The problem, however, is: will the price of rice ever go down?

I doubt it simply because fertilizer prices have gone up and almost everything else has also gone up.

But, that’s another problem since high prices appear to be a worldwide problem.

But, thank God, if there’s anything we can be thankful about this rice crisis, we don’t have to line up to buy our main staple, which we did in the past.

Now, with the biggest problem of all.

Will the problem of rice, insofar as we Filipinos are concerned, ever stop.

My answer is a big NO.

Will the Philippines ever have rice sufficiency?

I don’t see it in my lifetime.

Now, we have become the biggest rice importer in the world, even surpassing China with its population of almost 1.4 billion.

Will we ever go back to having rice at P20/kilo?

Well, that’s a dream we all wish for.

As I said earlier, high prices have become, Santa Banana, a worldwide problem, so much so that manufacturers are now petitioning for increased prices because raw materials are also escalating.

I know that high prices are hurting more of us than some of us. And that, Santa Banana, is another challenge that the leadership must face.

No takers

Another challenge that BBM has to face is that there appears to be no takers to replace him as concurrent.

While there had been talks earlier that National Economic Development Authority Secretary Arsenio Balisacan was the choice of the economic team to be DA Secretary, he said there was no offer to him.

If there are prospects of a replacement for BBM as DA secretary, the problem is there are actually no takers, at least for the moment.

With the problems facing the country insofar as food security is concerned, we need a DA chief.

But the problem is, as President, BBM cannot be DA secretary for another year.

There are multi-challenges and a myriad of other problems the President must attend to. Who can replace BBM? Your guess is as good as mine.

It would do well to ask the nation’s leadersjhip if a rice crisis will again recur in the future.

Destruction of corals

It does seem our problem with China is not only at Ayungin Shoal with the Chinese Coast Guard and China militia vessels constantly swarming around Ayungin Shoal which China claims as part of its sovereignty and territory.

Now, Santa Banana, China is harvesting and destroying precious corals at Rozul (Iroquois) Reef and Escoda (Sabina) Shoal that are within the 125 nautical miles off the Western side of Palawan and within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines.

The main suspects are the many Chinese vessels, mostly militia, that usually swarm the areas.

The impact of the harvesting and destruction of corals insofar as the environment is concerned, and on marine life cannot be underestimated.

Corals are the lifeblood of marine life and the source of marine life.

If there are no corals, marine life cannot exist. And without marine life there are no fish, which is the lifeblood of Filipino fisherfolk.

The Chinese love corals; because of corals, the Chinese can design a lot of things.

A series of underwater surveys by the Philippine Navy had definitely established that corals at Escoda (Sabina) Shoal and Rozul Reef had been harvested and destroyed, which validate whatever concerns and even protests that can be filed against China.

Thus, it’s not only timely, but a valid source of protest that the United States had given the Philippines a surveillance and monitoring aircraft to monitor the movements by China in the West Philippine Sea, particularly in the Exclusive Economic Zone.

The handover of the US surveillance and monitoring aircraft comes at a time when the incursions of China at the WPS have given rise to a lot of protests within the region.

It all comes at a time when there’s a need for satellite images that can monitor suspected Chinese ships massing every now and then at Rozul Reef and Escoda Shoal.

Aside from maritime surveillance the US aircraft will also provide humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

It will definitely be very useful, particularly in the aftermath of a natural disaster or calamity, to assess the damage.

Back to The Hague

There have been suggestions that perhaps it’s about time the Philippines should go back to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague to file another case against the new China 10-Dash line map that covers the entire South China Sea it is now claiming to be part of its territory and sovereignty.

In line with the illegal 10-Dash line claim of China, perhaps President Marcos Jr. and the Foreign Affairs Department should solicit the assistance of India because a part of its territory is included in the new Chinese map claiming it as part of China’s sovereignty and territory.

If The Hague Arbitral Court had ruled as illegal the 9-Dash line of China and that insofar as the South China Sea is concerned, while China may not be part of the jurisdiction of the Arbitral Court, it must observe the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the International Law.

In fact, the Philippines is set to file a case at the Arbitral Court against China for its destructive activities in the West Philippine Sea, particularly at the Escoda (Sabina) Shoal and the Rozul Reef, for mass destruction of environmental marine life, especially corals that are vital to marine life.

The case reportedly involved “crimes against humanity.”

Considering the attitude of China, even if the Arbitral Court will honor the Philippine case, will China honor it?

China simply ignored the Arbitral Court ruling against the 9-Dash line.

Under its ruling involving destruction of the marine environment, the Philippine case could well be an exercise in futility, Santa Banana, that’s how it goes following China’s incessant incursion on the West Philippine Sea and the Exclusive Economic Zone.

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