Deuterium: China’s major interest in the Philippine seas?

I visited Davao City a month ago and got an interesting story in President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown. Circulating among the middle class and intellectuals is the theory that China’s interest in the West Philippine Sea and Benham Rise is not oil or your typical marine resources but Deuterium —a colorless, odorless, nontoxic, diatomic, flammable gas which, when burned, releases only water vapor to the atmosphere unlike other fossil fuels. Hence, environmentally, it is one of the best, if not the best, energy source on the planet.

Deuterium is widely used in prototype fusion reactors and has their application in military, industrial and scientific fields. It is is used in nuclear power, fusion power, deuterated optical fibers, deuterated lubricants, lasers, light bulbs, R & D laboratories, and annealing semi-conductor rims.

In nuclear fusion reactors, it is used as a tracer and it is responsible to slow down neutrons in heavy water moderated fission reactors.

Deuterium is not radioactive and could even be used for medicinal purposes.

Deuterium is still understudied but it promises to be the fuel of the future offering a better and cleaner energy. In its raw form, it is also believed to be a “coolant” for nuclear reactors and may be useful in mitigating nuclear meltdowns similar to Chernobyl or that of Fukushima. And China, being a country that is becoming dependent on nuclear power, needs to search for alternative energy that is safer or, at least, something that can ensure the safety of its current nuclear reactors. Currently, China has 45 nuclear power reactors in operation, about 15 under construction, and more about to start construction according to the World Nuclear Association.

There are claims that Deuterium is currently found in the deepest parts of the oceans including the Philippine Deep and other waters surrounding the Philippine archipelago. But while the chemical properties and uses of Deuterium is uncontested, the claims of its presence in the Philippine waters is. A South China Morning Post writer in 2004, for instance, considered this a science fiction without offering any scientific evidence that could debunk the claims.

Assuming that the presence of Deuterium in the Philippine waters is indeed a hoax, why is it that China has been going out of its “Nine-Dash Line” entering the uncontested Philippine territory passing by Tawi-tawi, patrolling the Turtle Islands, and surveying the Benham Rise. If the interest of the dragon is just a territory, why risk its reputation and just be contented with the 200 exclusive economic zone that is accepted by more countries around the world?

Interestingly, the Philippine President who is known to lean more to China, diverted his “jetski ride” to the Benham Rise, which allegedly contains more Deuterium than in the West Philippine Sea, rather than go straight to the Spratly Islands or, if just for a show, in the territorial waters of Bataan or Zambales where Chinese ships are also doing surveys? And, ironically, why is this kind of story circulating in the very city where the President lives? Aren’t conspiracy theories supposed to hatched somewhere else?

Don’t forget to share your thoughts.

Is the US justified in banning entry to those involved in the De Lima case?

Malacañang and several high ranking Philippine officials decried as intrusion in the Philippine domestic affairs the move of a United States Senate committee to amend a bill and ban the entry in the North American country of Philippine officials involved in the continued detention of Senator Leila de Lima. Is Malacañang and the high ranking officials correct or are they the ones intruding in the domestic affairs of another sovereign?

Presidential Spokesperson Sal Panelo slammed the move as “a brazen attempt to intrude into our country’s domestic legal processes given that the subject cases against the detained senator are presently being heard by our local courts“. This was echoed by Senate President Tito Sotto who touted the US Senators as “mga pakialamero” adding that the latter do not know what the case is all about.

But let us think this way: When former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario were denied entry in Hong Kong, nobody came to their rescue — even the Philippine Government they both previously served. Instead, the PRRD’s alter ego, Sal Panelo, issued a statement saying:

“I cannot also understand the good ambassador. Why? He knew from the very start that the Hong Kong authorities have detained former Ombudsman [Conchita Carpio] Morales… (I)f I were Del Rosario, I would have not gone to Hong Kong because I’m sure, I would have anticipated, that I would be going [through] the same ordeal like the former Ombudsman did. Now why did he go there? That’s my question to him.”

The only high ranking official who defended Morales was Ted Hui Chi-fung, a Hong Kong lawmaker who criticized the action as “barbaric.”

In simple terms, the Philippine government admits that foreign countries have the right to deny or admit entry to individuals other than their citizens. And that includes the United States whose legislators can define who to bar or to admit. Just like how Ramon Bautista was declared persona non grata in Davao City over a “hipon” remark.

Apart from that “inalienable right”, the Philippines has also given the United States a “handle of control” — the aids. As US Senator Patrick Leahy spilled in a statement, “Every year, the United States provides large amounts of aid to the Philippines, and I have supported that aid. I assume President [Rodrigo] Duterte’s spokesman who defended the wrongful imprisonment of Senator De Lima does not consider our aid to be ‘interfering’ in their sovereignty.”

Leahy’s statement is an outright slap on the face of pro-Duterte defenders who claim that the Philippines has shaken free of US control but that is another story. The point is: The Philippines is still in the position where it cannot dictate things. Not yet.

So is the US justified in banning entry to those involved in the De Lima case? What do you think? Don’t forget to leave your comments.

Entrust your life to someone who doesn’t even know how to take care of his own boots?

While a number of more eligible teenagers are dropping out of school for failure to pay their tuition fees, Philippine Military Academy (PMA) students are being subsidized by the taxpayers’ money just to build a better, disciplined, and more knowledgeable armed force. According to Senator Raplh Recto, the Filipino people is spending P2.982 million for each PMA graduate as against the P507,000 being spent to produce a UP graduate of a four-year course. And the irony? Some of these PMA cadets do not even know how to take care of their boots so they ended up murdering their own kind.

Based on the reports, Darwin Dormitorio was beaten up to death for his failure to safekeep the boots of his buddy. Is laziness to keep one’s personal belongings a part of the instruction in the PMA? And we are paying P2.982 million for that method of instruction? When these cadets graduate and become soldiers, will they also be allowed to be lazy and let others take their jobs defending the country and protecting the people?

While it may true that PMA is just exercising the “buddy system” to inculcate trust among students, or cadets for this matter, is beating a buddy part of that method of instruction? Should a soldier beat his/her fellow soldier for the laziness of the former? And we are paying P2.982 million for that method of instruction?

Buddy system is supposed to instill not only trust among buddies but also protection and defense from those that try to hurt their mates. But if at this point the buddies, who are supposed to defend each other, are the ones hurting or killing their partners, something must be wrong. Do we deserve to pay P2.982 million for each of them?

The cadets suspected to have murdered Dormitorio may have been expelled and the high ranking officials of the PMA may have resigned but this doesn’t close the issue. There are ways to train better and effective soldiers. And by “better” we mean those who are not lazy and know how to take care of their own kind. We cannot entrust our lives to soldiers that doesn’t even know how to take care of their own boots, and more so murder their buddies for their own laziness and negligence.

Why Filipino youth join fraternities

The myth that fraternities could provide “leadership experience” abound. In reality, though, what these youth want is a taste of power because of the perks they see from their mayor or governor…. Many failed to see, or the Filipino schools and families failed to teach, that leadership is a matter of accountability and not benefits.

While the Philippines cannot get over yet the Dormitorio hazing incident, another student is hospitalized for injuries that could be due to hazing. The newest victim is  Jonathan Cabueños, an 18 year old Crimiology student from Laguna Polytechnic State University seeking to be a member of a fraternity.

But why do Filipino youth risk their lives undergoing hazing just to join fraternities?

Reporter.ph enumerates 10 reasons why and these are as follows:

  • Long-term friendship
  • Acceptance
  • Social opportunities
  • Support system
  • Personality development
  • Career quest
  • Belongingness
  • Don’t want to left behind
  • Leadership Experience
  • To Party

While these are true, these are but a tip of the Philippine socio-cultural iceberg.

First, the concepts of “acceptance”, “social opportunities”, “support system”, “career quest” and “belongingness” are all rooted on the idea that in this country, what matters is “whom you know” and not “what you know”. Meritocracy is nothing but secondary to the endorsement of Congressman, or the governor or high ranking officials. When I did a study of the political economy of public works and engineering districts, a Department of Public Works and Highways official spilled that the curriculum vitae of applicants for the position of District Engineers are flowering with endorsements from public officials, mainly Congressmen. Can now somebody make a correlation between the Congressional pork and the relationship of the Congressional District Representative and the District Engineer?

Second, “acceptance” and “belongingness” also point out that divisiveness is very high in the Philippine society. One can easily spot this by just looking at the DDS-Dilawan divide. This is because of the “black and white” branding leaving no room for gray. Under the present context, for instance, one is easily branded a “dilawan” just for airing a disgust on a government policy — a disgust that is not even aired against President Rodrigo Duterte. But ask what is a “dilawan”, some would say “these are the Liberal Party people” or the elites shelving up the fact that almost all of these “dilawans” are already in the President’s political party.

Third, the concept of “personality development” also shows how weak the Filipino families are that they could not build the personality or even confidence of their children. This is being corroborated by a Facebook post showing that the Philippines is last on the list of ASEAN countries in terms of IQ, or ranked 62nd of 110 countries as per the data presented by WorldData.info.

Fourth, Filipinos are a political animal so the myth that fraternities could provide “leadership experience” abound. In reality, though, what these youth want is a taste of power because of the perks they see from their mayor or governor. “A mayor or a governor gets what he wants and the mayor or governor is a leader. Therefore, I want to be a leader, too.” Many failed to see, or the Filipino schools and families failed to teach, that leadership is a matter of accountability and not benefits. Has anybody admitted to the death of Atio? Or the other victims of hazing? None, because everyone is a Pilate.

The original concepts of fraternities and sororities are good. But then again, these are used and abused and something should be done about it. Maybe it is high time for fraternities and sororities to do an introspection while the government strictly regulate these organizations. Families and schools should also get involve and rethink how to grow and nurture members of the society that are confident and can live even outside a group.

Where’s “express” in South Luzon Expressway?

Commuters from south of Metro Manila were greeted yesterday with a standstill traffic due to the closure of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) Lane 3 Northbound after Alabang viaduct to give way to the Skyway extension project. Thousands were late for school and work, and hours were wasted because of the heavy traffic which, heaven forbids, could last until December 2020.

Commuters pass the expressway and pay toll fees because of the promise of speed and convenience. Otherwise, they would have taken the secondary and arterial roads. But with the not-so properly planned traffic system, the toll fees become an unneccessary burden.

If the essence theory is to be followed, since SLEX cannot anymore provide the speed and convenience it promises, it loses its right to impose toll fees. It cannot reason out that the Skyway construction is inevitable, and that in the future, convenience will resume. If that is the case, then the charging of toll fees should also be suspended and resume only when the convenience being provided by an expressway returns.

Second, while it may be true that the Skyway being constructed will provide future benefits, the discussion is focused on the “now”. Will the Skyway operator not charge fees in the future once the road becomes operational? If it is also going to charge toll fees, why should the commuters pay pre and post construction? Can’t fees be exacted only once the facility becomes operational?

Moving forward, SLEX should provide a clear plan and implement a traffic scheme that the commuters deserve. Note that SLEX traffic will build up further with the coming semestral break and during the All Saint’s Day leading to Christmas Day. If it cannot, then it should consider removing the toll fees altogether. This is because if the purpose of the thing is gone, what use is that thing for, right?