Saturday, March 5, 2016

Disinformative plurals and collectives

Disinformative plurals and collectives.
March 5, 2016

Last February 28, 2016 the Manila Standard newspaper had this headline, "China's moves alarm nations". The trouble with that headline is when one goes through the body of the report the misleading use of the plurals and collectives become obvious, not intending to give an accurate picture but instead intent on creating a wrong impression of innumerable countries and international bodies frightful or at the very least distressed about what China is doing.

Upon closer examination of the story the report is only about a meeting of three nations of which one of the three isn't even eager as the other two to express such "alarm". It is not clear whether the "meeting" was a formal one called on behalf of some forma organization or just a coffee clack of three diplomats, set up by the Japanese and towing the Australian and Indian the report cites. The report brandishes the name of ASEAN which turns out was not part of the "meeting".

Here's the starting paragraph of the report, which turned out to be a PNA (Philippine News Agency, the Philippine government's news agency) and the AFP (which isn't likely to be Agence France Presse but Armed Forces of the Philippines):

"MORE nations expressed concern at China's rising maritime assertiveness with Japan, Australia, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations expressing 'concerns' about tensions in the region.
Senior officials of Japan, Australia and India met in Tokyo on Friday to stress the importance of maintaining the rule of law in the South China Sea and expressing 'strong concerns' about tensions in the region amid China's rising maritime assertiveness."
Asean was not part of the "meeting" at all so why is the report lumping it together with the "meeting"? And among the three in the "meeting" India has made it clear in many instance that it is not siding with the U.S. and its diehard (some would say puppet) allies like Japan in any way against China. India has instead been a steadfast member of the BRICS alliance seeking to turn the world away from the uni-polar framework to a multi-polar one. 
India also recently turned down the offer of the U.S. to engage in joint sea patrols in the China Sea. This is The Times of India reporting last February 11, 2016:
"New Delhi: The defence ministry has denied reports that India and the US have held talks about  conducting joint naval patrols, which in the future could even extend to the contentious South China Sea..'Such reports are highly speculative. Whatever concrete bilateral discussions took place between defence minister Manohar Parrikar and his American counter Ash Carter in the US are reflected in the joint statement issued on December 11… Moreover, India's stated policy is that it does and will join any international military operation only under the blue flag of the United Nations…'"

Abhijit Singh, Senior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation heading the Maritime Initiative wrote on March 1, 2016 in The Diplomat, "Even though the UNCLOS  permits continuous and expeditious passage – necessitated by the  requirements of  navigation – New Delhi does not concur with the practice of conducting maritime operations to score political points. New Delhi know it cannot support a U.S. maneuver, whose logic could be used to justify greater Chinese maritime activism near the Andaman Islands. For this reason  alone, it is unlikely that U.S. and India will conduct joint patrols any times in the near future…"

The PNA/AFP report uses the collective Asean indiscriminately.

The collective name Asean is a much abused one in Western and local, Philippine mainstream media. That this headline of the Inquirer of February 16, 2016 emanating from the Obama-Asean meeting in Sunnyland, U.S.A., "US, Asean hit China military buildup" – as if Asean has such a consensus against China on the China Sea issues. 

ASEAN cannot have a consensus in the manner that the Philippine government under the BS Aquino/Albert del Rosario administration wants, i.e. a unanimous stand against the interpretation of China of the priority in restoring bilateral dialogue and support for litigation through the Law of the Sea Tribunal, as the regional association is clearly divided into four major camps: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand keeping close to China's view given their extremely close economic ties with China, then there's Vietnam which has disputes with China yet refuses direct litigation and continues bilateral talks.

There is the Philippines which has taken the lonely path of shutting out bilateral talks and bring the issue to the Tribunal, and there's Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Singapore each of which have kept its distance from the Philippine position and maintained dynamic cooperative relations with China. As I wrote in my blog entry last February 26, 2016, in the recent conference sponsored by the Japanese RIPS (Research Institute for Peace and Security) held at the De La Salle University, the Malaysian and Indonesian CSIS representatives maintained their independent stance from the conference initiators that sought a unified position vis-à-vis China. 

Malaysia said it had vital economic ties with China while Indonesia maintained that it wants to maintain its "honest broker" status to help in ensuring a peaceful and constructive settlement of the disputes in the region.

A flurry of disinformation.

            Since February there has been a constant flurry of disinformation in the headlines of the major mainstream newspapers in the Philippines. One them the past few days was the "China takeover of islands" near the Pagasa. It was a story that was expanded from a report of Pagasa Island's mayor Bito-ono sighting some Chinese ships in his vicinity. The initial reports were followed by more alarmist reports of the Chinese ships pulling away a Filipino fishing vessel and harassing Filipino fishermen. All of these were distorted reports which the mainstream newspapers clearly were not intent on carefully verifying before sensationalizing.

            The Global Times report on March 2, 2016 headlined "No more ship-grounding tricks allowed in South China Sea":

"The Chinese foreign ministry confirmed Wednesday that China had towed away a foreign ship that was grounded on Wufang Jiao in the South China Sea. For safety concerns, China urged nearby fishing ships to leave.

However, Philippine media and some Western reports rendered a different picture of the same affair, saying several Chinese ships were sent to patrol the surrounding waters after a Philippine boat was grounded, and 'blocked' the waterway…."

            The foreign ship was a Philippine fishing boat that its owners had abandoned after removing more valuable equipment as salvaging the vessel may have been too costly. The Chinese towed away the vessel which could pose a hazard in the area and wary that it may be another ploy as in  Ayungin Shoal where a Navy vessel had been deliberately grounded to serve as an "occupied" structure. The reported use of "water cannons" by the Chinese vessels at Filipino fishermen was later clarified by the Philippine government as "hoses" which the Chinese explained was a measure to ward off straying boats to ensure no accidents happened.

            The Philippine media often makes much of these  "hosing" as hostile acts, but conveniently forgets that the Chinese have never used lethal  force while the Philippine  Coast Guard and Navy, the Global Times report recalls, have used assault weapons against Chinese fishermen. These were in the cases of the Guang Da Xing incident where a Philippine Coast Guard vessel fired machine guns at the Taiwanese fishing boat killing one. The Philippine government later apologized and paid compensation for that incident. Another incident over a decade earlier was also recorded where the Philippine Navy used lethal fire against Chinese fishermen.

More effort into this blog.

            We took a leave from this blog for two months due to the heavy pressure of so many other tasks, but with the constant barrage of disinformation and misinformation coming from so many directions intent on poisoning the minds of our people – and with so few stepping up to raise the torch to kept the light shining on the path ahead to keep out people from stumbling again and again – we return to this blog hoping it makes a modicum to the general effort to keep our national discourse along the informed and enlightened path.


 26 May 2000:  Philippine troops open fire on Chinese fishermen, killing one and arresting seven. -
 source: bostonglobalforum survey June 2015

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