pop goes the world: this land is my land

No column for Feb 14, Valentine’s Day

 POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  21 February 2013, Thursday

This Land is My Land

A nation hinges its identity and sovereignty on the lands it possesses and the seas that surround it and the airspace that covers it; these, after all, provide a home for the people of that nation.

From childhood we have been brought up to know the Philippines as an archipelago of over 7,000 islands tied together with the bright blue and green ribbons of the sea.

Those of us who have left our country in the diaspora to work and live in other lands feel their hearts skip a beat when they recall the beauty of their hometowns.

As the national anthem goes, no greater thing can we do for our country than “Ang mamatay ng dahil sa iyo.”

But when confronted by the idea of war, even the remotest possibility of war breaking out in our lifetime, we feel only fear, and the imperative to protect our families, our land, and prevent fighting at all costs.

China is rattling its sabers by claiming waters and islands in the West Philippine Sea, which are in closer proximity to the Philippines than to China. By common sense and under the law, China has no right to be intruding into our territory.

This has not stopped them, however, from pursuing their claim and asserting this in all venues, even manufacturing globes with the “nine dash line” that encompass the disputed territories and selling these globes to – the Philippines.

Good thing someone alerted one of the sellers, National Bookstore, which discussed the issue with the Department of Foreign Affairs, after which the store’s management decided to pull out the offending spheres.

The Philippine government took the matter of China’s claim to an arbitration panel under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which both countries are signatories, asking that China’s claims be declared invalid.

The other day, Chinese ambassador Ma Keqing met with DFA officials to return the notice on arbitration and a note verbale containing the Notification and Statement of Claim of the Philippine government to begin arbitration proceedings, saying that these contained “serious mistakes both in fact and in law.”

What’s in water and a few rocks? The disputed area is rich in resources – oil, natural gas, fishing grounds, and, I’ve heard whispered, even gold.

With China going so far as to return our diplomatic note and to refuse arbitration, it’s pretty much a given that they will not let go of this.

Will they go as far as a show of military force? It’s not far-fetched to think this – they are becoming mighty aggressive with their claim. As far back as the late ‘80s when I was a student in the University of the Philippines, my political science professor pointed to China as a potential threat to the security of the Philippines.

But we Filipinos are not above letting go of a claim, either. Right now there are Filipinos in Sabah (reports say from 80 to 300), followers of Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III, who crossed the waters to the town of Lahad Datu in the Malaysian state of Sabah.

The sultanate once ruled over parts of Borneo and is still receiving a yearly compensation package from Malaysia for possession of Sabah – proof of their claim to the area, the sultan says.

Fellow MST columnist lawyer Rita Jimeno explained at length in her column last Monday the legal bases for the sultanate’s claim, and they seem pretty sound. However, the claim to Sabah, as an issue, has been dormant for decades.

Is this quite the right time to bring it up, with all we have going on with China?

Let us hope both these issues are resolved peacefully, and that cool heads, diplomacy, and reason will prevail.

Life is hard enough in peacetime, much more so in war. We’ve got a good thing going with the economy posting 6.6 percent growth last year, one of the best performances worldwide. Let’s not put in jeopardy all the gains we’ve made.

But frankly, I’m scared, alab ng puso notwithstanding.

* * * * *

The Freelance Writers Guild of the Philippines is holding a couple of webinars for writers who want to level up their writing skills for the new media.

Today at 1pm in the “Quick Start Copywriting, A Live Webinar” with Lillian Leon at http://conversologie.com/quick-start-copywriting-webinar/, learn the basic principles of good copywriting and more.

On “The Complete Blueprint to Search Engine Success for Writers, a Live Webinar” at 4pm today at http://conversologie.com/blueprint-search-engine-success-writers-webinar/, SEO expert Steve Knight will explain how to develop a superior search engine optimization strategy to attract readers to your website.  ***

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