EDITORIAL

‘Nitpicking’

8

From the scattered statements of President Rodrigo Duterte and the many barely more articulate comments of those who support his every move, it is time for us and the rest of the world to prepare for a China-led future.

Fine, but will Malacañang please let us have a peek into its strategy for dealing with China’s overly aggressive actions in our territories (claimed, disputed or indisputably owned) in the South China Sea region and beyond?

On the news that China was building a radar facility on Scarborough/Panatag Shoal which Beijing had taken from the Philippines through a nasty ruse in 2012, Duterte said: “We cannot stop China from doing [this]thing…What do you want me to do? Declare war on China?”

When it was revealed that Chinese survey ships were seen at the resource-rich Benham Rise, with indications that they were on a mission to scout for suitable parking zones for China’s submarines, he said: ”So what if they stop there? They admit it is within the territory of the Philippines. That does not satisfy you?”


Benham Rise is a huge undersea land mass east of the Luzon mainland–on the Pacific side well away from the South China Sea–which was recognized in 2012 by the UNCLOS Committee on the Limits of the Continental Shelf as indisputably part of the Philippines’ continental shelf to which it has “exclusive sovereign rights”.

And then he drops a bombshell. He said he had allowed the Chinese surveillance ships into Benham Rise as part of a supposed agreement, which only he knew about. He said he did not want a fight over Benham Rise now because he wants economic help from China.

Those who insisted on raising the issue were ‘nitpicking.’Finally, he said that in talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in China last year, he agreed not to insist on the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling last year that said China’s historic claim to almost the entire South China Sea region, which would include Scarborough, was without legal basis.

“I said I will not invoke the arbitral ruling now, but there will be a time during my term” when he will bring the ruling to the table. That time is when “they [Chinese] start to tinker” with the “entitlements.”

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio suggests some diplomatic measures that we can use to protect our interest in Panatag without having to go to war. We can: 1) file a protest with the Permanent Court of Arbitration that recognized our right to Scarborough; 2) send the Navy to patrol Scarborough and if the Chinese balk, invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty with the US, which covers any armed attack on any Philippine Navy vessels operating in the South China Sea; 3) ask the US to declare Scarborough Shoal as part of Philippine territory for purposes of the MDT; and 4) accept the standing US offer to hold joint naval patrols in the South China Sea,” which will “demonstrate joint Philippine and US determination to prevent China from building on Scarborough Shoal.”

Duterte is not likely to seek the additional US protective cover – that would be foolish. Recently, newly confirmed US Defense Secretary James Mattis reaffirmed a US policy that the Senkaku islands claimed by Japan are under the administration of Japan and therefore, included in the territories covered by the 1960 Japan-US Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.

Sensible nations should not go to war over this case involving the Philippines and China in the South China Sea. All diplomatic options must be pursued and exhausted to maintain stability in the region.

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8 Comments

  1. JACINTO BAYBAY on

    My take. The International Court decision favoring the Philippines against China’s false claims was an accomplishment of the Aquino Administration. Duterte can not accept the fact that it was a best thing that happened to the country. He is virtually sabotaging that accomplishment . He must go greater things than his war on drugs. He might just overshadow Aquino if he can dissuade China to adhere to the Hague decision. For now all that hehas got is false pride.

    • I guess, it’s not pride. it’s just practical. what’s the use of insisting a decision favorable to the government but nobody from the international community would wish to implement the same by force. only pride we can get out of it. and pride can’t help the country’s current problems. having to asked the US to help, again they need something in return favorable for their own benefit only which has happened ever since.

    • I agree with Rey. there is no “world police” that will be eager to back PH against CN. US helps JP because JP is a huge economic partner. US helps middle eastern countries because they have other resources. The only thing US wants from PH is for PH to be a “base” for US troops to intimidate CN… And we don’t want that because we don’t want our country to be their battlefield…

      So yeah, PH might lose some rocks, but not economic rights. The Hague UNCLOS ruling on EEZ is based on “fishing rights” and was immediately respected by CN after Duterte became president (Chinese vessels no longer block Filipino fishermen access to the fishing grounds)…

      So yeah, the Philippines can’t do anything about it at this point, and everything will depend on the world perception of China and its further undertakings… The world is witness that we have treated CN as a long-lost brother in Asia. If CN will betray that brotherhood, then they will risk how the world perceive them. Moreover, the powerful countries can’t completely turn against CN because of economics and trade.

  2. MARIANO PATALINJUG on

    Yonkers, New York
    21 March 2017

    What more failures to act to defend Philippine sovereignty against China’s deliberate bullyish violations of that sovereignty by Mr. Duterte before you come to the painful conclusion , that, in fact, Little Tyrant Rodrigo Duterte has already SOLD THE COUNTRY DOWN THE RIVER” to China ?

    That point where he should have invoked the Mutual Defenss Treaty with the United States was reached after 12 July 2015 when the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippiines and against China in its territorial-dispute case under the aegis of UNCLOS. But, come to think about it, he must have known that if he invoked the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States, the latter would refuse to act for one reason or another.

    That could in fact be the reason with Mr. Duterte is doing what he can to placate and please China instead. It is not outside the realm of possibility, under these difficult circumstances, for Mr.Duterte to suggest to his friend Chinese President XI JINPING to consider the possibility of the Philippines becoming a PROVINCE of China!

    Come to think about it, realistically, the Filipino people may finally have a chance for the country to reap the fruits of prosperity, something which its so-called “leaders” have failed to deliver since “independence” in 1946. For all of these past many years, the Philippines has continued to earn the pejorative distinction as “The sick man of Asia!”

    A fundamental or drastic change is probably what the country needs.

    MARIANO PATALINJUG
    patalinjugmar@gmail.com

  3. This issue might be best handled quietly and behind the scenes. Carpio’s solutions seem counter-productive which moves the country towards an international conflict. While territorial issues must be eventually resolved, I think the greater maritime issue involves the security of the seas with respect to piracy, terrorism, and drugs.

    The administration’s moves to try to pull ASEAN together around these issues seems to make sense. To engage China in playing a key role in these security issues may also make a lot of sense. To provoke conflict between the US and China seems like an old Cold War solution that will not benefit the country in the long run. Better to seek collaborative solutions where China, the US, the Philippines, and ASEAN can work together around shared goals.

    The Philippines should arise as a leader in the region and help re-shape the roles of the superpowers. Neither the Philippines or ASEAN will be served by old Cold War tactics.

    • Jose Samilin on

      True we can trust this approach to SCS problem. Du30 has the charisma as global game-changer, we could trust him for this.

  4. Pensador de Manila on

    Entitlement declaration by China on the west Philippine Sea is what DU30 wants to hear to know that China is wanting to own the West Philippine Sea. Do you think China will declare it again and again? First, China has already declared its entitlement when China had declared its 9-Line that eaten up the Philippine water territory. Second, China is continuously having their coastguards presence in the West Philippine Sea and planning to build radar and other military facilities. Are these activities of China the in the West Philippine Sea already a blatant declaration of entitlement? Yes or No? I know that Du30 has understood China’s tone over 9-line that eaten up Philippine Water as already a declaration of entitlement, but he would prefer to be blind and deaf, for his ulterior motive for China’s investment to come to the Philippine. Investment of China in exchange of Philippine Territory! There are so many investors who want to put their money in the Philippine without anything to sacrifice for its territory. I am not against China, but am against for its continues incursion in Philippine water, an insult to Filipinos. I want to see the progress of people in both side, but should be in accordance with the abiding rules and respect to each other. And all these will depend to our leaders and leadership from our president, senate, congress and our justices. You should all talk to each other, because where shall we be found in our land and water small resources? Philippine is not owned by one person, not by a Philippine president definitely please.