FORMER President Aquino’s foreign affairs secretary, Alberto del Rosario, who pushed for the international suit against China over the South China Sea disputes, is now openly linked to a US think tank and lobby group, the Washington-based Bower Group Asia.
Del Rosario in May set up his pompously named “Albert del Rosario Institute for Strategic and International Studies” (ADRI) supposedly to undertake research on “issues affecting the Philippines and East Asia.” So far, it has been Del Rosario’s venue for defending Aquino and his move to pursue the arbitration case against China over the South China Sea issue and to paint China as an expansionist bully in the region.
While government won the suit, the emerging consensus is that if ever it would be implemented, it would probably be in the next century, or through a war led by the US.
To counter this consensus, Supreme Court Senior Justice Antonio Carpio, one of the biggest supporters of the suit, claimed that a template would be Nicaragua’s success in using international public opinion and the UN in getting the US to comply with the International Court of Justice decision in 1984 against the US for undertaking military actions against the small Latin American country. That is a total falsehood: Nicaragua under a pro-American president that the US helped to get to power, in effect asked the ICJ in 1991 to nullify its victory.
Del Rosario of course is free to undertake whatever advocacy he chooses. What is so inappropriate, which only bolsters suspicions that the arbitration case was made with the prodding of the US—to check China’s emerging dominant role in the South China Sea—is that Del Rosario has made his ADRI a part of Stratbase, a research group that is the Philippine partner of BowerGroup Asia, a consultancy group that specializes in US relations with Asia, headed by Ernest Bower IV.
Del Rosario and BowerGroup Asia should disclose to the public answers to just three questions:
Does BowerGroup Asia have research contracts with the US Department of State and the Pentagon regarding the South China Sea dispute?
As partner of BowerGroup Asia, will ADRI get assistance of any kind from that US-based lobby and think-tank group?
Will ADRI, as BowerGroup Asia’s partner through Stratbase be providing data and analysis for BowerGroup?
Del Rosario has so far refused to explain why the Aquino on June 12, 2012, ordered our vessels to withdraw from the area during the month-long stand-off with the Chinese vessels, when the Chinese ships didn’t, in effect turning over what we call Panatag Shoal to China.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, whom Aquino appointed to do back-channel talks with China, claimed that Del Rosario gave Aquino the wrong information that the Chinese ships had withdrawn from the lagoon, and therefore he should order Philippines vessels to do so, too.
It was Kurt Campbell, the US senior envoy for East Asia and the Pacific, who reportedly brokered an arrangement for a simultaneous withdrawal of Chinese and Philippine ships although the US government to this date hasn’t confirmed nor denied such a role.
A valid question would be: Was it all a US plot for the Chinese to occupy Scarborough, which even Del Rosario claimed was the reason why the suit against China was pursued?
What should also raise eyebrows, is that behind ADRI, whose advocacy is to pursue the case against China, is Manuel V. Pangilinan, the institute’s “co-chairman”. (Del Rosario is the “chairman”, while other trustees include Chamber of Mines president Philip Romualdez. Bower , and International Court of Justice judge Raul Pangalanan. Is Pangalanan allowed to be with a lobby and research group?)
Del Rosario since the 1980s has been working with Pangilinan, the Indonesian magnate Anthoni Salim’s representative in the Philippines. Much of Del Rosario’s wealth in fact has come through his income from board memberships in most of Salim’s companies in the Philippines as well in his mother company itself, the Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd.
What is very relevant about this is that Salim’s Philex Mining Corp., of which Pangilinan is chairman, is practically the only company so far that would immediately profit tremendously if the Permanent Court of Arbitration decision is implemented.
This is because the Hague court upheld the Philippines’ claim of a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) radiating from its mainland coasts to the South China Sea. While China may continue to assert its territory on reefs in the South China Sea, the arbitral court ruled that these—and all other geographic features in the Spratly area— cannot have a 200-nm EEZ, but only a territorial sea of just 12 nautical miles from them.
That means that no EEZ nor territorial sea overlaps with the Philippine EEZ in a certain area called the Reed Bank, or Recto Bank to us.
And guess what: this is where a certain company called Forum Energy had a contract given by the Philippine government in 2010 to drill for oil. Who is Forum’s majority owner? Philex Mining, through its subsidiary Philex Petroleum.
Forum’s attempts to explore Recto Bank in 2011 were foiled by the Chinese who declared they would not hesitate to use force to assert its sovereignty in the area. Philex’s efforts to have a joint venture with China National Offshore Oil Corp., however, fell through.
Those negotiations in early 2012 were undertaken by Pangilinan himself. What a coincidence that that was when the Scarborough stand-off occurred, which Aquino unwittingly triggered. It was the subsequent loss of that territory to the Chinese—because of Aquino’s bunging— that he and Del Rosario said required the filing of a suit against China.
Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao