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A show of strength

China’s Sept. 3 military parade, unprecedented in its scale and magnitude, was clearly a show of strength. The occasion, to mark the 70th anniversary of World War II and the defeat of Japan, more than anything else was to make the world know China is a strong military force to reckon with.

This, against a backdrop of a rising and resurgent China locked in territorial disputes with Japan in the East China Sea and its Asean neighbors in the South China Sea.

Modern fighter jets streaked across the sky over Beijing and the People’s Liberation Army marched in cadence in front of President Xi Jinping and foreign guests. Although only 12,000 soldiers marched in the power parade, the PLA with 1.6-million ground force is the biggest army in the world. Other Chinese arsenal like tanks, rocket launchers with long range multiple warheads also rolled by to project power of a modern military force.

China took measures so that there would be no rain on its parade. Beijing was locked down; factories shut down to clear pollution. Snipers were posted on top of buildings along the parade route to guard against any trouble maker. China after all, has its share of dissidents particularly in the restive Xinjiang province.

The military parade also carried a domestic message that Xi Jinping and his politburo cabal are in control and cannot be toppled by any internal struggle despite allegations of corruption within the ruling clique. Officials of PLA are also officials of the ruling politburo and the two pillars of power are inextricably linked.

Xi spoke at length of a China committed to world peace even as the parade’s display of military muscle was in stark contrast to his message.

Notably absent from the dignitaries guest list were high-ranking representatives from the United States,Great Britain and other Western leaders. President Barack Obama spent his time in Alaska espousing the environment’s concerns against climate change.  Secretary of State John Kerry was kept busy defending and mustering support for the US-Iran nuclear deal and Washington was probably represented by its ambassador to China.

President Vladimir Putin was in attendance to affirm Russia’s long-standing alliance with China.

The South Korean President Park Geun-hye was present but there was no indication from Malacañang that President Benigno S. Aquino III was extended an invitation. Informed sources told us some of our Tsinoy taipans were invited to the event but we don’t know who attended. Three Manila newsmen were invited by the Chinese embassy in Manila but went a week before the big parade.

World outcry for refugees

After camping out for days around Budapest’s main railway station, hundreds of migrants were allowed by Hungarian police to board trains only to stop them outside the capital. It was apparently a ruse to clear the migrant from the capital and away from media glare. The migrants, however, resisted getting off the trains and be herded to a detention center for processing. The migrants said they don’t trust the Hungarians. Heart-wrenching images flashed by CNN and BBC by  a TV crew who managed to board showed migrants and their families, including small children being forcibly removed from the trains while those who were offloaded tried clinging to the rails as Hungarian police dragged them.

Under pressure from the migrant crisis is the Schengen Treaty of free movement of people acceded to by the 26-member European Union.

Hungary, an EU member, is the entry point of the flood of refugees from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Having crossed the borders of non-EU members Macedonia and Serbia, the refugees should have been given asylum by Hungary but the migrants preferred to go to economic power Germany in search of a better life.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel who said Germany would take in 800,000 migrants called on other EU countries to share a quota of accepting migrants. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, insensitive to the world outcry over the human suffering, said the migrants are Germany’s problem. Orban disregarded that thousands of Hungarians persecuted by the Nazis during World War II were given sanctuary in Canada.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, on the other hand, maintains his hard line stand against migration and suggests solving the problem at the source—   sending in troops to staunch the ISIS scourge in Syria and Iraq. That makes sense, but the British PM stopped short of saying Britain is ready to join a United Nations coalition force to do the job.

UAE got its way

No matter how you look at it, the granting of additional flights by the Civil Aeronautics Board to both national flag carrier Philippine Airlines and Gulf carriers Emirates and Etihad was a victory for the foreign airlines. The 28 flights a week were increased to 35, “in line with the country’s open skies policy to develop alternate gateways to Manila by including a provision the ME carriers also fly to Clark and Cebu,” explained CAB Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla.

The bright side to the air accord is that PAL and Cebu Pacific obtained additional fifth freedom traffic rights to fly onward from the United Arab Emirates to any country like the US, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia which improves their connectivity and viability.   

While PAL and Cebu Pacific, which earlier opposed the additional flights, signed the air service memorandum of understanding with UAE, the local carriers still have the option not to avail of the additional flights which might be more than the market can bear. The Gulf carriers, state-owned and heavily subsidized by their governments, would have the undue advantage to offer cheaper fares attractive to overseas Filipinos workers in the Middle East.

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