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Jose T. Almonte, Former National Security Adviser and Director-General of the National Security Council MBC General Membership Meeting 22 August 2012, Wednesday Hotel InterContinental, Makati City Officers and members of the Makati Business Club, ladies and gentlemen, friends. Your Chairman asked me to share some perspectives on how to deal with China. My sense is this: Perhaps the more effective way, the more honorable way to deal with Chinaor with any other power for that matteris first to deal honorably with ourselves. We have to work together to be worthy to friends as well as to non-friends. In other words, we have to befirst and foremosta worthy friend, but if there is anyone who wants to make an enemy out of us, we must also be a worthy opponent. With this thesis, may I proceed.

ASEAN has made some progress for the last 45 years. But, against an assertive Chinasextravagant claim to 3 million square kilometers of the South China Sea, ASEAN has lately found itself unable to speak with one voice as it is also a subject for divide and control, although this great inland sealarger than the Mediterraneanhas since primeval times been Southeast Asias maritime heartland. As a result, Vietnam and the Philippinesthe ASEAN member-states currently the objects of Chinese pressurehave found themselves largely alone in their effort to defend their rights to specific islets in the South China Sea in accordance with international law like UNCLOS. Already the Vietnamese have twice clashed in 1974 and 1988 with the Chinese over the Paracels islands. But aggression from their big northern neighbor is nothing new to the Vietnamese. In fact, it was a thousand years of struggle against dynastic Chinese rule from 111 BC to 948 AD that gave birth to the Vietnamese nation. By contrast, how we will respond to the China challenge is still uncertain. I doubt whether even our policymakers have decided on how they would respond to, say, a Chinese attempt to occupy Scarborough Shoal as they occupied Mischief Reef in 1995. Yet the quality of our response could decide whether we rise or fall as a nation.

That our time of trial on the South China Sea will come is certain. Short of wara war nobody wants or would wish to happenno one, not even the United States can stop China from claiming indisputable sovereignty over the South China Seaexcept of course China itself, or the authoritative power of world opinion. Just now, Beijing can only intimidate and bluster, as it probes for weaknesses in its rival claimants. But once China is able to translate its flourishing economic capacity into military power credible enough to stand up to the United Stateswhen the time is right in Chinas termsthen the geopolitical configuration in the Asia-Pacific could change radically, or profoundly if you wish. And China is favored by time and circumstances. Economic analysts say China is likely to become the worlds largest economy in 10 to 15 years from now.

If the analysts are right, the Philippines has only a decade or so to prepare for what is likely to become an interesting Asia-Pacific future.

President Aquinos governmentgiven its administrative constraints and the multiplicity of demands on its meager resourceshas so far done all that could possibly be done to defend our nations interestsin the short termin what we have come to call the West Philippine Sea. By begging and borrowing from Washington and Tokyo, it has tried to add some hard assets to our naval forces. But we face a situation where dealing with the immediate problem is not enough: our nations long-term security itself hangs in the balance. The extravagance of the Chinese claim in the West Philippine Sea makes it difficult for the outsider to take seriously. But generations of Chinese leadersfrom Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai downwarddo take it seriously, vowing only to make good on the claim in its own time. To ensure our nations safety, therefore, we must look to the root of our security, which lies not in the hands of anybody but in our own peoplein each and every one of us, including each and all of us in this ballroom. If we are eventually to deal honorably with the China challenge, we must first deal honorably with ourselves. We cannot depend on other peoples to fight our battles for us. For, despite all the fraternal pieties of the United Nations, our world still has no authority higher than the nationstate. The so-called global community is still made up of an anarchy of great powers, quick to disintegrate once national interests begin to differ. At bottom, global relationships have changed little from the way the Athenian historian, Thucydides, characterized them during the Peloponnesian War in the fifth century BC: The standard of justice still depends on the equality of power to compel: the strong still do what they have the power to do and the weak still accept what they have to accept. If our country is to prevail against any challenge and to become worthy of respect as a sovereign statewe must now begin to put in place the fundamental reforms that will enable our people to become effective creators of social wealth, so that we can acquire the means to defend our nations interest, and protect our national dignity and uphold our national honor.

To carry out the governments strategies, policies, plans and programs to grow and develop the nation, we must strive urgently to create the four conditions necessary for our growth and development. Let us make no mistake: without these four conditions present, no government will be able to effectively enforce our Constitution and our laws, and no development plan can truly succeed. This has been our experience since we recovered our independence in 1946 to date, or a period of 66 years. What are these four conditions? May I now enumerate them with your permission: 1. We must come to terms with ourselves. We must build among us the infrastructure of nationhood. We must be able to answer the basic question of who we are. We must live the core values our forebears fought and died for: dignity, honor, freedom, justice, selfdetermination, hard work, discipline, tolerance, mutual caring and compassion. We must become a people at peace with ourselves and with the world. There is nothing our people cannot accomplish under the sun, if we articulate our identity and the goals we seekor for that matter what we want to bein terms of the core values taught us

by our heroes and martyrs. These core values which I just mentioned define what is right or wrong for our people. They guide uslike our heroes and martyrsto live only when it is right to live; and to die, only when it is right to die. 2. No matter what it takes, we must end our internal wars. We must overcome all the forces that are holding us down. Our radical insurgency is kept alive by our grievous inequality and the elemental injustice of mass poverty. And both are caused by corruption and misgovernment. The same is true of our separatist conflict in the Southern Philippines. There popular frustrations are worsened by rivalries over land and livelihood, complicated by ethnic and religious enmities. 3. We must complete all the land and non-land reforms we still need to do. Not only will their completion make rebellion, separatism, mutiny, and terrorism irrelevant. It will also accelerate our nations growth and development; and, most of all, it will finally unite our people. 4. We must transfer the power of the few over the State to the people as citizens. In the World Banks view, we are a country where state policies and their implementation serve not the common good but those of special interests. The capture by vested groups of the Philippine State and its regulatory agencies has made our economy the least competitive among comparable economies in the Asia-Pacific. In sum, we must put our house in order. We must level our playing field of competition to grow and develop the nationand so enable our people to surmount any challenge.

As we create the four conditions necessary for our growth and development, we must also carry out our development plans. Given the uncertainties building up in the Asia-Pacific, we do not have the luxury of time. It is the Chinese peoples historic sense that is driving their countrys rise. They count their recovery from generations of humiliation at the hands of the great powers as lasting 150 years starting from the initial European effort to open up China around 1800. In 1949, Mao proclaimed China has stood up. But China began to recover economically only after Deng Xiaopings reforms in 1978. In three and a half decades, China has become the second largest economy in the world. If you recall from 1949 to 1978, or a period of 29 years China under Mao experimented on two great nation-building programs: the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Both failed and cost millions of lives. But it was only Deng Xiaopings economic reforms in 1978which reflect the same spirit as the four conditions necessary for our growth and development suggested earlierthat are now threatening to make China a superpower. We, too, must tap into our peoples sense of nationalityand do no less. By creating the four conditions necessary for our growth and development that I have cited, and by simultaneously carrying out the governments development plans, we can change our countrywe can modernize it without leaving anyone behindduring these next 10-15 years. By that time, we will also have nurtured the inclusive institutions that will sustain our peoples capacities for wealth creation, deepen their organic stake in the system, and evolve a cohesive national community worthy of the worlds respectall because by putting in place the four conditions necessary for our growth and development, we were able to develop inclusive institutions that work for the common good.

Let us not deceive ourselves. There are no short cutsno primrose pathsto growth and

development. But we must never give up, even if our countrys rise takes 150 years, or even a thousand years. We have no choice. The alternative is too dire to contemplate. We must work togetherrich and poorto prevent a situation developing that reduces our country into a tributary, a vassal, a province, or a condominium of any great power. Those who sacrificed and died for us and for Filipino generations yet to come will never forgive us if we fail to summon the courage and the will to take the radical steps toward our future: to deliberately put in place the four conditions necessary for our growth and development without delay.*

* Original material published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 20, 2012.

Facing the West Philippine Sea challenge

Gen. Jose Almonte

22 August 2012 As the Philippines tackles its toughest diplomatic challenge in recent decades, a former National Security Adviser and a recognized scholar of Chinese culture and foreign policy said that rising tensions in the West Philippine Sea require an urgent but holistic response from both the government and its citizens. Speaking before members of the Makati Business Club at the Hotel InterContinental in Makati City, Gen. Jose Almonte and Chito Sta. Romana highlighted that, while an immediate end to the conflict is not within reach, the Philippines must not stand idle, improve its security capabilities, inculcate nationalism in the people, encourage restraint in public opinion, and explore all options to diffusing tensions.

In his address, Gen. Almonte emphasized that only a united Philippines can effectively deal with the challenge the country faces with China. The former National Security Council directorgeneral reiterated the importance of putting our own house in order for the country to better protect its interests.

Drawing parallels to Chinas rise to global prominence after Deng Xiaopings economic reforms in 1976, Gen. Almonte proposed the establishment of four necessary conditions that would similarly propel the Philippines to a strong position in the world stage. The brigadier-general called for a rekindling of Filipino core values and nationalism, an end to all internal wars, completion of vital land and non-land reforms, and the empowerment of the people. He concluded that widespread poverty and injustice has resulted in a fractured citizenry. The solutions to this problem require policies and reforms that, though involving difficult choices, are nonetheless necessary and long-overdue.


Meanwhile, Sta. Romana, a former Beijing news bureau chief of the United States ABC News, briefed the business executives on the historical, cultural, legal, and geopolitical perspectives underlying the conflict. He stressed that national sovereignty and economic security lie at the heart of the impasse, and is the fuel that continues to divide the two countries. He noted that Chinas upcoming leadership transition is the cause behind the East Asian countrys adoption of a strong stance against supposed foreign intervention in its interests. Admitting that Philippines-China relations are now at its lowest point since 1975, Sta. Romana discouraged resorting to brinksmanship as it may result in disastrous and unintended consequences. A proper response to the situation, he said, is through a policy of engagement, which involves two tracks. First, Sta. Romana proposed that the Philippines should recognize that the sensitive issue of sovereignty cannot be resolved immediately and should be put on the backburner. Though talk on the sovereignty issue should continue via high-level discussions, greater focus should be given on managing public opinion and normalizing economic and cultural ties. However, he also said that the Philippines should prepare for any eventuality by building a minimum credible defense, strengthening ties with current allies, and further engaging ASEAN as a forum towards resolution of the conflict. Sta. Romana posited that the business community can contribute to the solution by considering joint projects with their Chinese counterparts, particularly in Recto Bank. He said that a

unilateral exploration on the areas resources may not prosper as it may be challenged by the other side.

MBC chairman Ramon del Rosario Jr. and Chito Sta. Romana CHINAAT A CROSSROADS
Sta. Romana described China, amidst its leadership change, as being at a crossroads: whether it would continue with its assertive stand on national sovereignty and territorial integrity, or allow peaceful development to be its primary policy in foreign relations. While the answer has yet to be known until later this year, both Almonte and Sta. Romana agree that the Philippines should prepare for what could be an interesting future in the AsiaPacific region. Other event details and speeches

Coffee with Jose Almonte

Recently had coffee with General Jose Almonte, the former National Security Adviser during President Fidel V. Ramos time. This reminded me of an article I wrote about him way in 2008, which Im reproducing below and, I believe, still well worth pondering upon: I arrived at General Jose Almontes apartment on the dot, as befits a meeting with a military man. It was 13:00 and the General courtly escorted me to the dining table. His assistant, Edna Co, was there and helped serve coffee and pizza. The apartment cum office was modestly furnished but lined with numerous shelves filled with biographies, books on politics and current events. Interestingly, a number of religious books were there as well. After all, this is the guy who once declared: I have only one hero - Jesus Christ. Gen. Almonte is a bulky man, with a voice to match his built. His face was lined and he had a weary air about him. He immediately went to business: So, what is it that you want to talk about? The conversation, of course, focused on an area that he knew so well: that of Philippine development and the role the oligarchy plays in hindering it. One comment Ive heard is that the oligarchy isnt what it used to be, having diversified their businesses from mere landholdings and are now into telecommunications, manufacturing, and IT. The point is that, so the argument goes, the oligarchy isnt the same and as pervasive as it once was. Almonte would have none of this thinking, saying that such is misleading. Our economy is supposed to be a free market, but it is controlled by politics not designed to serve the national interest, but certain families, he says.

And therein lies the problem. For although every country has an elite, the Philippines has a significant problem with its local version as the politics that has evolved [in our country] has no capacity to serve the nation as a whole; it only serves the oligarchy, or rather the party that serves the oligarchy. For Almonte, it is the elites undeserved domination of economic and political power that is the primary cause of Philippine problems. This observation, it must be observed, is not radical. Nor is it new. Political scientists from 1965 such as Dante Simbulan (who wrote The Modern Principalia), to politicians such as Ferdinand Marcos (Todays Revolution: Democracy), to the writers of Anarchy of Families, and todays journalists who reported in the book The Rulemakers, almost unanimously say the same thing. A recent book (Asian Godfathers by Joe Studwell) describes our elite as the most selfish and self-serving in the region. It is General Almonte, however, who provides the most colorful description: You give Rizal to our oligarchy, theyll shoot him. General Almonte is reminded of a passage in his book We Must Level the Playing Field, where then Commissioner William Cameron Forbes recounts that: [Sergio Osmena and Manuel Quezon] practically admitted to me that [the demand for immediate independence] was really a catch way of getting votes; that what they wanted was office, not independence. General Almonte notes dryly that the skills that get a Filipino politician elected President are often the opposite of those qualities required for the decisive and upright administration of the state. General Almonte is a very charming speaker. And forceful as well. He observed that I was not touching the pizza. Hearing that from a Brigadier General who infiltrated the Viet Cong and who almost led the assault on Malacanang in 1986 with an AK-47 rifle brought home from Vietnam, I was eating in a millisecond. Continuing on the subject, General Almonte is of the firm belief that the country doesnt need geniuses or high intelligence in a leader. You can get experts to make the studies and the policies. What is needed, he says, is a leader who will have the courage to implement the policies and with no attachment to the oligarchy and other such parties with vested interests. Or, in the colorful Almonte-speak, even a monkey could lead this country a whole lot better than a genius affiliated with the oligarchy. Assuming, of course, the monkey is not attached to the elite. The secret to nation building is simple: just inspire the people. For a president, that is the one important thing he or she should do. The problem is, how do you inspire the people when opportunities are closed to them by the oligarchy? The discussion had gone on longer than expected, the General being quite generous with his time. I murmured my leave and he courteously rose to escort me out of his apartment and into the elevator. You know, he says, a leader unattached to the oligarchy would do this country a whole lot of good. A leader with vision, values, and conviction. The elevator opened. Before I stepped in, the old warrior shook my hand. Take care of our people. Our people are good and they deserve better. It was a goosebump inducing moment. After all, he is right: our people do deserve better.
Posted by jemy at 6:55 PM

And the Right (Jose T. Almontes To Put Our House in Order We Must Level the Playing Field)
(NOTE: This is Part Two of a two-part blog that attempts to correlate Almontes work to that of Walden Bello. Please read the blog entry I Have Two Hands: The Left first.)

Retired General Jose T. Almontes ties with former President Fidel V. Ramos go as far back as the late 1950s, when the former was a second lieutenant and the latter was a captain of the Armed Forces battling the Hukbalahap insurgency. It was the common realization that they were waging war against their fellow Filipinos that spurred them to think about how to solve the problems of poverty and underdevelopment. Almonte later became a key member of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement that helped topple the Marcos dictatorship, and served as National Security Adviser during the Ramos administration.

Almontes military roots and his right-leaning, Christian-Democrat perspective, traits which he shared with Ramos, inclined them towards a liberal and pro-free trade stance. Such a stance is apparent in his articles, speeches and essays.

(N.B. I saw Almonte on television yesterday in an afternoon program of ZOE-TV relating Ramos appointment of Guillermo Parayno as Customs Commissioner. According to him, Ramos told Parayno that if his wife Ming [Ramos] or any of his children are caught violating Customs regulations, he [Parayno] should not report to Ramos, but instead immediately arrest the erring family members. To me, this shows that he is a Ramos man through and through.)

Almonte shares common ground with Bello in that they both advocate decentralization of power from the central authority, land reform and a progressive system of taxation as measures that will spur the countrys development. However, when Bello speaks about a strong state, he envisions it as one with a strong interventionist and protectionist agenda; meanwhile, Almontes concept of the very same strong state is one with the power to resist both interventionist tendencies and partisan political demands. While Bello looks at the domestic market as the engine of economic growth, Almonte sees such inward-looking nationalism as a luxury the country cannot afford, and instead encourages an outward-looking, export-oriented competition to ensure that only the best and strongest industries in the country will survive, but also urges compassion for the sectors that such a system leaves behind.

Almontes central theme is putting our house in order. This entails three things: (1) restoring political stability and civil order; (2) rational economic policy-making, leveling the playing field of business competition, and linking the economy to the global market; and (3) reduce corruption in the civil service, collect the right taxes, and manage public administration prudently and wisely (page 130). For this purpose, the Ramos administrations program, Philippines 2000, was adopted as the countrys action plan for development. The program promotes communitarian capitalism, i.e., a partnership between and among the government, the private sector, and civil society, with greater care for social harmony and beneficial competition, as opposed to dog-eat-dog competition.

However, Almonte did not offer a critical assessment of the Ramos administrations performance. Instead, he has reiterated that Ramos term was too short to bring about the sweeping reforms envisioned under Philippines 2000. Bello has no such qualifications, but instead goes straight for the jugular, blaming Ramos for acceding to WTO before the Philippines was ready to do so, the countrys vulnerability to the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, and the failures of privatization.

In the end, Almonte subscribes to Ramos view that democracy should never be done away with in the Philippines in the quest for economic and political development. As Ramos had said, If democracy is a handicap to development, then it is a handicap we in the Philippines accept gladly. Perhaps this stance would make even Walden Bello happy.