Saturday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time Father Walter Schu, LC
Matthew 6: 24-34
Jesus said to his disciples: “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you - you of little faith? Therefore, do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed, your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today."
Introductory Prayer: Lord, as I begin this day, I trust in your unfailing providence. You are the deepest desire of my heart. In this moment of prayer, I want to please you alone. Even though I might be tired or uninspired, even though I might only experience dryness, may this be my prayer: I offer you all I am and all I have.
Petition: Lord, help me to trust more deeply in the loving providence of our heavenly Father.
1. Why Worry? What can be added to Christ’s beautiful images in the Gospel, urging us to trust in the loving providence of our heavenly Father? All that is necessary is to ponder how God feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field and to let the reality of his fatherly care for these ephemeral creatures sink deeply into our soul. How much more will he not care for us, the crowning work of his hand, his sons and daughters, for whom he is willing to send his only begotten Son to die on the Cross? Christ penetrates to the real cause of our worries and anxieties, our anxious concern that often overwhelms us in life: we have little faith. Little faith and even less trust in the goodness of our heavenly Father. Let us thank him for his patience and allow his fatherly goodness to penetrate to the depths of our spirit.
2. Stay Focused: Our worries and concerns about the material needs of our daily life make us lose sight of the one thing that is truly necessary: striving for holiness, for the establishment of Christ’s kingdom in our own lives and the lives of those around us. If only we would allow Christ to set our hearts on fire with the consuming passion of zeal for souls, how our lives would change! We would become driven by the mission, constantly urged on by it — and all of our former worries and anxieties would fade into insignificance. Then we, too, could exclaim with Christ, “I have come to light a fire on the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already!” (Luke 12:49)
3. Simplicity of Heart: One virtue that helps us trust God more and grow in apostolic zeal is simplicity of heart. When you grow in simplicity of heart, you will never demand of God that he explain your vocation or your sufferings. Thanks to simplicity of heart, you will always see God’s holy will in everything, and everything, even pain, becomes wells and rivers of peace and joy. Thanks to simplicity of heart, you will be able to understand people and their misery and give them a helping hand. Thanks to simplicity of heart, you will never harbor hate, an evil wish, a grudge, or an evil thought in your heart. Everything brings you to God.
Conversation with Christ: Lord, help me through this prayer to grow in simplicity of heart, to recognize everything in my life as coming from your loving hand.
Resolution: I will renew my spirit of faith to see everything that happens to me today as part of God’s loving providence.
RATHER than throwing racist diatribes at China and engaging in endless eristic blah-blahs on who owns what in the South China Sea region, we should do what all claimants in the Spratlys have done or have been doing in the past two decades.
Instead of filing useless suits in international bodies, which have no force anyway, and begging the world to help us enforce the law of the sea as President Aquino 3rd did, let’s do what China, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have been doing since the 1980s: Secure whatever we now occupy. “Build, build, build” on our properties in the disputed area.
The principle in international territorial disputes is a version of the legal principle “Possession is nine-tenths of the law.” And possession is enhanced and strengthened if Claimant A that occupies a particular island or reef, in the case of the South China Sea, builds facilities there that it would require so much violence by claimant B to eject Claimant A that the world community would likely intervene.
This is what President Marcos in fact did when he grabbed the Kalayaan group of islands in the Spratly archipelago in 1974 and decreed it to be a municipality of Palawan. He renamed the biggest island Pag-asa, stationed a fully-armed army and marine detachment, and built an airstrip—the first such to be constructed in the Spratlys—that could be used even by C-130 transport planes.
All administrations after Marcos did nothing else, so that the airstrip has been eroded by the sea that it has become hazardous even for small planes to use.
In the past two decades though, other claimants aped what Marcos did.
Structures that Vietnam built on its islands and islets.
While the US and the Aquino regime whipped up a frenzy against China’s fortifications on its claimed reefs, Vietnam, starting in the 1980s had also built structures on all of the 21 islands and reefs that it controlled, or occupied.
Pugad (Southwest Cay) was a barren islet when the South Vietnamese grabbed it from us in 1975, after tricking our Marines into leaving the island for an overnight party in a nearby island. Now it is a garrison with over a dozen buildings and barracks (see image).
In 2000, Vietnam built an airstrip on its biggest island Truong Sa (in the Spratlys group) and doubled its size in 2016 so it could be used by its largest warplanes. Reuters in 2016 reported that Vietnam had discreetly fortified several of its islands in the disputed South China Sea with mobile rocket launchers capable of striking China’s runways and military installations.
Pag-asa island with its airport built by Marcos in 1974 (left). Our other “structure” (right), a rusty ship grounded on Ayungin Shoal.
Vietnam shames us. A nation ravaged by war, it is much poorer than us, with a GDP per capita of only $2,200 compared to our $3,000. Yet it spent billions of dollars to build up its sovereignty in the Spratly islands. The Aquino 3rd government spent nothing to secure Pag-asa Island, yet dispensed P220 billion as pork barrel funds, including the P10 billion that was used to bribe the Senate to boot out one of the best Chief Justices we ever had.
Check out what Malaysia did. It sent in 1983 its special forces to just grab Swallow Reef which Vietnam and China claimed, asserting unilaterally that it was part of its continental shelf.
Renaming it Layang-Layang, Malaysia built an airport there with two hangars, a radar station, an air traffic control tower, watchtowers, a jetty, and a marine research facility. Just in the past few years, it built there a five-star resort, which has been gaining a reputation as a top-of-the-line scuba diving destination. Layang-Layang’s official website gives no hint at all that it is in the disputed Spratlys.
Left, Taiping island (Itu Aba) in the Spratlys, controlled by Taiwan. Right, recreational diving map of Malaysia’s Pulau Layang Layang (Swallow Reef).
The largest island in the Spratlys, Itu Taba (or Taiping Island) is occupied by an entity most countries in the world do not recognize as a sovereign nation: Taiwan. Although it had a marine detachment stationed there starting in1956, Taiwan went on a build, build, build spree only in 2000.
It now has an airport there, capable of accommodating military planes, a port that could berth navy destroyers, and four-story bunkers. Yet the arbitral court ruling that largely favored the Philippine suit, claimed that Taiping island was just a “rock.”
Mainly because China and Vietnam in the early 1970s ware too economically and military weak, the other claimants – including us—managed to occupy the “choice” properties in the Spratlys, that is, the islands and islets.
By the time China became a military power, the choice properties had been taken, and it could occupy only seven reefs, which other claimants including us had ignored or decided too expensive to build structures on.
By comparison, we control six islands and islets (Pag-asa being the largest), and two reefs. Vietnam is actually the biggest “landowner” in the Spratlys with 21 islands, islets and reefs. It has managed to transform several of its reefs into artificial islands.
Let’s be objective: If you just had seven features in the Spratlys, all reefs, and you had the necessary funds, wouldn’t you transform those into artificial islands – as China did?
We had choice properties, but failed to develop them. The Aquino regime spent P500 million – P300 million in fees paid to an American law firm – for its arbitration award against China, which hasn’t been and cannot be enforced. The better use of that P500 million would have been to repair and extend our airstrip in Pag-asa and build structures on all our islets and reefs in the Spratlys.
I propose that we take these two major steps:
1. Congress should immediately allocate P10 billion to build structures – buildings, lighthouses, piers, marine-life stations, even dive resorts in our South China Sea properties. The Estrada government grounded a rusty, World War 2 vintage ship in Ayungin Shoal to serve as our outpost there. That is a national shame. If the Senate intends to spend P10 billion just for a new swanky building, I’m sure Congress can allocate that much to assert our sovereignty in the area of the South China Sea that we have boldly renamed as the West Philippine Sea. That P10 billion though would certainly not be enough, compared to what China, Vietnam Malaysia and Taiwan have spent to secure their properties in the South China Sea.
2. Congress must enact a law that would make the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) a Special Administrative Region directly under the President, with the necessary annual budgets necessary to build structures there and oversee its development, on the same level as the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone and the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. The Republic would be slowed down in developing the KIG if it remains in its status now as a mere municipality of Palawan province.
The past four regimes’ total mismanagement of our properties in the South China Sea is an embarrassment before the world. The Aquino regime merely did what the US wanted, which was to embarrass China in a world forum. Duterte must change all this. His “build, build, build” program must extend to our properties in the Spratlys.