Peace deal reminds me of jazz & gamelan
By Raïssa Robles
A security analyst in the Philippine military told me last year they were worried over two things in the face of the worsening conflict between Beijing and Manila over the South China Sea. These were:
ONE – Chinese control of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) that interconnects the power companies to consumers in Luzon and Visayas islands; and
TWO – Chinese control of the biggest inter-island shipping company, the Super Ferry group, which used to be owned by the Aboitiz family but which has since been sold to the China-Asean Investment Cooperation Fund. This Fund is a private equity company set up in the Netherlands by the Chinese government to buy private companies in Southeast Asia.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs has just sent this compilation of reports on the South China Sea conflict that have been published in various foreign outlets. Those from Chinese media are understandably absent:
If plans of privately-owned ZTE Corporation of China had pushed through, the entire Philippine government telecommunications network would also have been another cause for worry for the Philippine government.
But I could not write the story because there was no one I could quote by name on such a sensitive issue. Finally, yesterday I was able to write the story because Rafael Alunan publicly came out about it.
Separately, I was able to verify Alunan’s statements by talking to a senior government source.
Here is a portion of my story which was published in today’s edition of South China Morning Post:
Philippine national grid denies claims China could shut off power
Wednesday, 26 March, 2014, 3:15am
Raissa Robles in Manila
Firm rejects claim that Beijing could use Chinese shareholder to pull plug over maritime disputes
The Philippines’ national electricity supplier has dismissed claims by a former senior official that China has the capability to sabotage the country’s power grid.
Rafael Alunan, a former interior and local government secretary, warned such action was among a range of actions China could take in retaliation for Manila’s move to seek international arbitration of its maritime territorial disputes with Beijing.
Alunan said a government official had told him of the possible threat.
The National Grid Corporation (NGCP) provides the infrastructure for power companies to provide electricity to their customers. State Grid Corporation of China owns 40 per cent of the corporation.
Corporation spokeswoman Cynthia Alabanza denied the network was at risk of being shut down.
“The State Grid Corporation of China does not have control. It does not in any way influence anything beyond the technological aspect of the business,” she said.
But Alunan repeated his claims yesterday.
“Right now, according to my source, we are potentially vulnerable to remotely controlled sabotage. When, depends on China’s calculus,” he said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs declined to comment.
Charles Jose, its new spokesman and former consul general in Shanghai, said: “The Department of Energy is in the best position to explain or comment on the participation of the State Grid of China in the power transmission business in the Philippines.”
But a senior government official told the South China Morning Post the government was “quite concerned” about a Chinese state-owned company controlling the technical aspects of the national grid.
Four senior officials of the State Grid of China sit on the NGCP board.
Alunan declined to identify the senior government official with whom he discussed possible sanctions that Beijing might impose on Manila.
Alunan, a co-convenor of the West Philippine Sea Coalition that has staged protests and boycotts against China over the South China Sea dispute, said the first sanction could be “stopping the flow of raw materials needed by our manufacturers and exporters”.
To read the rest of the story, please click on this link.
Unfortunately, my story got cut due to space constraints. Here is what was cut:
Boo Chanco, Philippine Star newspaper business columnist and a former energy department executive, told The Post:”what we need is an independent analysis of the risks we now carry with the Chinese control of the grid.”
Chanco noted that two years ago, Interior and Local Governments Secretary Mar Roxas disclosed in a news conference that he had transmitted a message to China’s foreign affairs vice minister Fu Ying that Manila was “not comfortable” with having the Chinese in charge of the national grid. Roxas had cited security issues and called on China to abide by the contract to transfer technology and control to Filipino engineers.
The State Grid of China was part of a consortium that was awarded in 2009 the franchise to operate the national grid for 25 years by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
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The Muslim rebel deal, which is about to be signed tomorrow, reminds me of jazz & gamelan.
It is a deal signed with the blood of generations who fought and died for freedom. It is a mixture of realpolitik and of hopeful change.
Like jazz, the deal will still need much improvisation and multiple voices in order to work.
I know that members and leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) are very sad that the deal will replace the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that they fought so hard and long to put in place. But I also know that many of them, deep in their hearts, want this deal to succeed for as long as they, too, are able to play a meaningful role in its success.
In commemoration of this historic day I would like to share with you all a video I took of one of the musical numbers in “Himigsikan”, a free open air concert at the University of the Philippines by the Office for Initiatives in Culture and the Arts (OICA). The featured musicians that day were the Ka-Fu (Katutubo Fusion) with Kontra-GaPi.
This particular piece reminded me of the numerous starts and stops, the frequent reversals and progressions in the 18-year peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Has it been THAT long? It’s not over yet. Not by a mile.
Oh, just an addendum. The quickest way to mess this up is to drop the Sabah claim because most of the Tausug are related by blood and marriage to the original claimants. They will conclude their blood rights had been sold out. And they will fight no matter what the odds are.