• I will not go to war vs China over ‘little issue’

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    PRESIDENT-elect Rodrigo Duterte said the country’s territorial dispute with China over some shoals and reefs in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) is no reason for him to engage the mainland in a shooting war even with the backing of the US military.

    During his speech at the Davao City Business Forum on Tuesday, the incoming President made his policy clear against further fanning the conflict over such a “little” issue as the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

    “I will not go to war [just]because of Scarborough Shoal. The shoal is not a territorial issue but [involves]exclusivity [of]economic zones,” he explained,

    Duterte said he will wait for the judgment of an international arbitration court on a complaint filed by the Philippines against China before deciding on his next move.

    “We will wait for the arbitral judgment, then I will decide,” he told his audience.

    The court is expected to hand down its ruling in July.

    Duterte criticized the outgoing administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd for giving priority to acquisition of expensive items such as FA-50 fighter jets instead of using the money for more practical purposes.

    “It’s a waste of money. Insurgency is the problem at the moment. The aircraft [FA-50] are only used for ceremonial fly-bys,” he pointed out.

    The incoming leader said the funds spent on the FA-50s would have been used to procure more “fast boats” and choppers with “night vision capabilities.”

    “One purpose for buying [them]is to match the air power of China one to one. But beyond Scarborough, there are 300 MIGs… and your battleground will be Palawan,” Duterte said.
    The FA-50 acquisition was among the priorities of the Aquino administration under the military modernization program.

    The Defense department had entered into various questionable contracts, including procurement of 21 defective UH-1D helicopters that was the subject of congressional investigations.

    One of the questioned units crashed and burned last year in a rescue operation.

    Also on Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Jose Rene Almendras warned former senior career diplomats against making statements that are contrary to the government’s position on the South China Sea issue.

    Former Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rosario Manalo and former Philippine Representative to the United Nations Lauro Baja earlier said that Manila should hold bilateral talks with Beijing to ease maritime tensions.

    Manalo led the High-Level Task Force on Asean Charter, while Baja represented the Philippines in negotiations for Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea.

    In an interview with The Manila Times, Almendras said there are certain “conventions in diplomacy” that require diplomats to abide by certain opinions.

    “For example, I will never make a diplomatic comment when I’m no longer a secretary of Foreign Affairs because it impacts the country,” he added.

    The Aquino administration has refused to hold bilateral talks with China and instead filed a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague to question China’s excessive nine-dash line claim.

    The ruling will be handed down on July 7, according to a source.

    But Baja insisted that he can advocate for anything “without government restrictions.”

    “I don’t know what convention he [referring to Almendras]is talking about. What’s the matter with him? I doubt very much if there is a convention that stops any diplomat [from voicing his or her opinion on foreign policy matters],” he said.

    Baja argued that even incoming Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. wanted to pursue bilateral talks with China.

    “So what’s the matter with the current secretary?” he asked.

    Manalo was not available to comment on Almendras’ statement as she is currently at the United Nations in New York to campaign for a seat at the UN Committee to Monitor Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

    WITH MICHAEL JOE T. DELIZO

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    12 Comments

    1. The incoming President-elect R. Duterte needs a cram course on the Panatag issue. He may think it just a “small issue”, but China surely does not think so. In fact, China is willing to engage in a shooting war over these shoals and reefs that Duterte seem to belittle and minimize. The USA is willing to help out its former colony The Philippines should a war actually break out over this territorial dispute, but it took quite a bit of lobbying and persuading by the former Sec. of Foreign Affairs Mr. del Rosario before the US Pacific Fleet, etc., actually did something concrete like patrolling the area and monitoring the activities of the Chinese. Now that China may lose the issue before the UN, it is threatening to withdraw from the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (“UNCLOS”). Small issue, indeed! Duterte should read and bone up on this matter before he shoots off his opinion again.

      As for Rosario Manalo and Lauro Baja, they should exercise “delicadeza” and just shut up. They are just former bureaucrats, and they are not representing the Philippines. They are muddying the waters by their statements. They are not experts, and no one should listen to them. Just a couple of people seeking their fifteen minutes of fame!

    2. Yes , we should not resort to war in claiming what is really ours, but we should fight for our right, if Sir Ignacio is correct on his assumption that Panatag shoal has that so much oil deposits we should stand for our right not in terms of guns but thru international tribunal.

    3. WAR or no WAR… as long it will be very clear… Scarborough Shoal belongs to the PHILIPPINES … PERIOD!!!!

    4. Reynaldo De Guzman on

      This is the kind of thinking that Senator Trillanes had when we lost Panatag Shoul Because we are weak militarilyand will not be able to match China, DU30 will give up our natural resources in the West Philippine Sea to the Chinese and maybe the Natural resources in the Benham Rise.later . . .This incoming president is not the strong man that the PH needs during this time that we are under the Chinese cabbage strategy

    5. Nomer obnamia on

      Duterte is correct that a shooting war with China is suicide. PI could hardly buy bullets for long rifles. China, whether we like it or not, is there to stay at the shoals since they have built permanent base. UN arbitration will not change things. People calling for war with China will not be counted on to risk their lives when armed conflict erupts. China knows PI has a weak, poorly trained military and the US will not start a war to reclaim a reef. Just negotiate and shut up. By the way, what is the big deal? PI is already owned by the Chinese tycoons since Filipinos have sold their birthright to the industrious Chinese. Who is to blame?

    6. Baja will come to his senses when he gets a taste of U.S. diplomatic skills. and if Duterte really believes that the shoal is no more than an economic zone, he really needs a lot of tutoring and mentoring. he is messing with the lives of 100 millions filipinos.

    7. Matino na Pinoy on

      It seems like Lauro Baja is out of place and he should remember that he is no longer working for the government, neither representing the interest of anybody. Therefore, a well mannered diplomat or former diplomat should know when to shut-up, not voicing his personal opinion in front of the media. This guy, Lauro Baja, is a plain arrogant and an egoistical maniac that he wanted to advocate anything without government restrictions kunu. Lauro Baja, kasama ka ba rin ni Trillanes na binayaran ng China?

    8. Ignacio Balbutin on

      The shoal is not just a shoal, underneath are quadrillion barrels of oil and gas much bigger than that of Saudi Arabia, the very reason why China is purposely taking it from us. Its the hope of the nation and all filipinos, our children and our children’s children. Yes we should not go to war and I think China does not want to go to war but we must stand on what is ours, Let us pursue it with all peaceful and legal means. We need the joint patrols with the US and Japan. Showing by force is the only language that the chinese understand show it with the joint patrols, the two aircraft carriers is already in the south china sea so why not use it?

      • Absolutely correct! It is not a little issue Mr. DU30. It’s the largest issue our country have since Spanish conquest of our country. I can enumerate hundreds of reason why we have to stick to our claim of Spratley and Scarborough Islands even if it means to go to war like what Vietnam did. The moment you show weakness to this arrogant Chinese, they will eat you alive. They did this to surrounding countries like India, Vietnam, Korea, Mongolia, etc. The world is with us and it’s not time to back down. To mitigate the risk of China attacking our country, we need to beef up our missile program, acquire more jets, submarine, etc. We need to be like Israel and this is achievable. My one cent of thought.

      • Bonifacio Bangayan Claudio on

        The economic zone of the Philippines covers the coastal water and sea bed around its shores claiming EXCLUSIVE rights for fishing, oil exploration, etc — as per definition. Duterte said to wait for the UN verdict, I guess, so that we may know whether to focus on the Exclusive Right or whatever for the Bilateral Talks…

      • Ignacio your 100% correct!
        Duterte needs to stop being feckless over the Scarborough shoals land grab in front of the world but most importantly his own Philippine people.
        His wishy washy attitude over Scarborough shoals is being monitored by the Chinese ccp, and all it will do is embolden their current thieving and false land reclaimation activities further.
        You need to stand your ground over this because the resources at Scarborough shoals
        The oil and gas reserves that are locked under it belong to the Philippines. It can provide countless jobs.
        The United States, Japan, South Korea,Vietnam, Brunei, Indonesia, Taiwan India, France, Australia, United Kingdom, Spain, and Italy are with you in the fight for freedom of navigation and for your rights to Scarborough shoals.
        What Duterte better realize is the close proximity of Scarborough shoals to Luzon the main island. So that while he wants no war with China, but if he were to allow them to take it without a fight then the chance of an attack or military invasion of the Philippines would be more than likely at some point.
        Stand and fight for what is yours