I apologize to a colleague who caught the faux pas we committed in two recent articles. One misspelled the city of Man Gui in Inner Mongolia as Man Dui. The other is our claim of SoKor President Lee Myung-Bak undiplomatic visit to Tsushima when in fact, he went Dokdo, a South Korea/Japan contested island in the Sea of Japan. This shows that even Social Studies teachers get sloppy with their facts!
The Dokdo mistake, however, is unforgivable given the heated situation prevailing on the island, closer to Korea than it is to Japan, but occupied by Nippon. Korea has a legitimate claim to geography, for Japan’s presence is like Great Britain’s continued occupation of the Falklands. Dokdo was part of the Japanese occupation when it ruled the Korean peninsula. It is clinging to the rocks for its wealth in natural gas and untapped oil deposits. Would it not be better if our politicians just say, "there is oil in them waters"? Then, we can negotiate around the table on who is going to invest on what and develop the field. We have global corporations, why not glocal governance?
Another source of conflict is the uninhabited Senkaku group (Japan), aka, Diaoyutai (China), and Pinnacle Islands (in English maps). A group of HK Chinese delight in making trips to the 5-islands 3-rocks group, and the Japanese Coast Guard keeps apprehending them and releasing culprits on humanitarian grounds.
Taiwan (Formosa of the Portuguese) was ceded to Japan by the Qing dynasty in 1895 after the first Sino-Nippon war. A fish factory operated in Diaoyu until it closed in 1940. Provisions of the Potsdam conference returned Taiwan back to China. From 1945-72, the U.S. administered Diaoyutai until Okinawa reverted back to Japan.
The Scarbourough Shoals (Huangyan) in the South China Sea was in the news a few months back as the Philippines continues to push its claim on the Spratley Islands. The shoal is physically closer to the Philippines than to any real estate claimed by China. In this instance, China flexed its naval might, and encourages fishing expeditions into these far-flung rocks of the Nan Hai islands. A Pinoy-led boycott of China-made products resulted as a consequence.
The Philippine-China bone of contention is whether the conflict will be adjudicated by an International Court (Pea Eye’s position egged by the U.S.), or on bilateral negotiations (China’s stand). Ironically, the claims of the Philippines, that continues to host U.S. forces, inspite of the formal closure of military land bases, and Vietnam where the U.S. lost a war, are supported by U.S.’ oil interests.
The sovereignty over islands is a particular issue to the Marianas. We saw this play out when the Bush Administration declared the Marine Monument on our northernmost islands. Many felt a violation of native rights to natural resources.
If the past 30 years is any indication, our indigene population, entitled to own real estate on a temporary preferential treatment, squandered that right by mistaking financial capital as a substitute to the biocapital that natural resource provides. To promote just one more real estate development just so one can increase one’s financial asset does not really create wealth. It simply moves financial assets from one ledger to another.
At the moment, the planet takes 1.5 years to regenerate one year’s worth of unsustainable use. It means, we are stealing, not borrowing, from the mouth of future generation, not to mention eating off the biocapital that is the basis of sustaining life. Tourism on the fast-buck-track simply moves environmental destruction to the host destination rather than the place of origin.
The development of fossil fuel as the basis of the global economy has led to incredible carbon emissions that provide all kinds of doomsday scenarios by both sane and crazy folks. It would be foolish to assume that investments to oil will dry up just so we can save the planet! Some quarters, like the flat-earth society, are yet to be convinced of the validity of scientific evidence, and widespread experience, in this case, the reality of climate change. I am reminded of the Phillip Morris fight in the '60s that tobacco was unproven to be hazardous to one’s health!
President Lee’s Dokdo trip, if it was to assess how Korea might protect the island from further devastation, is one thing. Sadly, that was not the case. Nor are claims to the Scarborough Shoals concerned about protecting the fragile environment. The moving of more financial assets into the pockets of a few is more the case, and in so doing, we add more carbon into our already polluted air!
The roof of the 10-storey men’s dorm next to our non-Chinese quarters is having solar panels installed. Perhaps, a quixotic effort, but it addresses the carbon-laden skies of Dong Bei to be a little bluer!
I wonder what would happen to CNMI governance if it convinced Shell-Mobil investments to fund all kinds of eco-friendly measures in a small island like Saipan as a priority, and even take on the power-generating function of CUC as an experiment in sourcing green technologies for the island. Shell-Mobil CNMI will not make immediate money but the wisdom it can learn would be helpful in the long run to the whole company and the world.
We do dream once in a while.