Here’s an interesting take that impacts on the ZTE scandal, coming from an article by Barry Wain in the the Far Eastern Economic Review issue of January/February 2008. I quote the relevant portions:
“Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s hurried trip to China in late 2004 produced a major surprise. Among the raft of agreements ceremoniously signed by the two countries was one providing for their national oil companies to conduct a joint seismic study in the contentious South China Sea, a prospect that caused consternation in parts of Southeast Asia.”
“But as details of the undertaking emerge, it is beginning to look like anything but the way to go. For a start, the Philippine government has broken ranks with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which was dealing with China as a bloc on the South China Sea issue. The Philippines also has made breathtaking concessions in agreeing to the area for study, including parts of its own continental shelf not even claimed by China and Vietnam. Through its actions, Manila has given a certain legitimacy to China’s legally spurious “historic claim” to most of the South China Sea.”
“President Arroyo’s agreement with China for a joint seismic study was controversial in several respects. By not consulting other Asean members beforehand, the Philippines abandoned the collective stance that was key to the group’s success with China over the South China Sea. Ironically, it was Manila that first sought a united front and rallied Asean to confront China over its intrusion into Mischief Reef a decade earlier. Sold the idea by politicians with business links who have other deals going with the Chinese, Ms. Arroyo did not seek the views of her foreign ministry, Philippines officials say. By the time the foreign ministry heard about it and objected, it was too late, the officials say.”
“Beijing and Manila did not make public the text of their “Agreement for Seismic Undertaking for Certain Areas in the South China Sea By and Between China National Offshore Oil Corporation and Philippine National Oil Company.” After the agreement was signed on Sept. 1, 2004, the Philippine government said the joint seismic study, lasting three years, would “gather and process data on stratigraphy, tectonics and structural fabric of the subsurface of the area.””
The article hints at other agreement(s) between president Arroyo and the Chinese government aside from the seismic study agreement. The clear fact was that, after the 2004 elections, the Arroyo administration went on a natural resources development binge, signing agreements and contracts for mining and oil exploration, development, and exploitation with foreign governments and companies. The ZTE and several dozen projects with the Chinese goverment and companies are part of this policy trend.
There are existing speculations of huge oil and natural gas deposits in the Philippines, including the Spratly Island group. In fact, presence and even commercial quantities of these resources were already confirmed in several areas in Mindanao and in offshore areas of Palawan.
The battle for the presidency in 2010 (or even the question of risking martial rule just to maintain the power) thus acquire a deeper meaning than simply citing the need for political survival or the pursuit of the trappings and pomp of the office. The stakes are higher, the risks are higher, and the willingness to conduct political adventures are also higher.
Selling off the country’s wealth is the new game in town. Secretary Neri called it “booty capitalism” by an “oligarchic state.” We call it by a simpler term.