‘Occupy Spratlys’ order Duterte’s diplomatic faux pas – analyst


PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte virtually aborted the implementation of diplomatic mechanisms between the Philippines and China as well as with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) when he ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to occupy all islands and reefs at the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) controlled by the country, a political analyst said on Tuesday.

Professor Bobby Tuazon, director for policy studies of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), said there was no need for the President to issue such an order since any action that the government wants to undertake in Philippine-controlled areas could have been done quietly so as not to set off a diplomatic “bedlam.”

According to Tuazon, Duterte’s order caused concern in China because both governments had agreed to use bilateral mechanisms to discuss and resolve maritime issues.

These bilateral mechanisms were to be discussed in May on the sidelines of the Belt and Road international conference in Beijing.

“Mr. Duterte preempted these bilateral discussions with his announcement to “occupy” the Philippine-claimed territories in the Spratlys,” Tuazon said.

The President’s order also sends mixed signals to Asean members at a time when the Philippines is to host a summit coinciding with the regional association’s 50th founding anniversary, he added.

“It was President Duterte’s diplomatic faux pas. President Duterte was clearly misinformed or not updated on regional issues,” Tuazon said.

The framework for the Code of Conduct is set for resolution this year between Asean countries and China which will serve as a regional platform for ensuring peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Asean member-nations intend to complete the COC framework by the middle of this year in order to fast track the completion of the code of conduct.

“Mr. Duterte’s announcement aborts the operationalization of these diplomatic mechanisms and could trigger unnecessary reactions to what may be perceived as provocative or a breach of protocol, to say the least,” Tuazon said.

There was no need to order the AFP to occupy the eight islands and two reefs in the Spratlys to assert Philippine sovereignty because these areas had been occupied by the Philippines since 1958, the analyst pointed out.

Thus, there is a need for the Defense department to correct the President’s pronouncement to clarify that what is needed is an upgrade to existing structures in those islands.

Tuazon said the President should be more consultative and open-minded on pressing issues to avoid “incoherence and inconsistencies” in his policy pronouncements.

Political analyst Ramon Casiple however sees nothing wrong with Duterte’s order since the areas concerned have been under Philippine control for years.

He however admitted that the order could raise tensions in the region.

“They are also doing it, particularly China and Vietnam,” Casiple said.


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  1. Grabe tayong mga Pinoy talaga. Sala sa init, sala sa lamig. Pag walang ginawa sabihing duwag si Presidente. Pag order ng occupation of our territory, sabihing diplomatic faux pas. Ano ba talaga kuya? Saan nyo gusto lulugar si Presidente?

  2. Ordering the AFP to occupy all islands and reefs at the West Philippine Sea controlled by the country is NOT a diplomatic faux pas at all, because these small islands and reefs rightfully belong to the Filipino people and the President has the legal and moral obligation to protect the country and its people. To Bobby Tuazon, was there confusions, unrest, or upheaval when PDU30 issued this statement? You used dime words such as faux pas and bedlam to support your disagreements with the President’s statement and you should be proud, hindi yung nahihiya. The President’s statement should not create any tensions in the region, because there would be no reason for our neighbors to be concerned; they know that those islands and reefs belong to the Philippines. Who knows, the President probably planning to relocate those NPAs in prison when he pardoned them, after a successful negotiation on the peace talk with the NDF. Few of these “kadamay” should be included as well, when exodus starts. Their livelihood is readily available, — fishing! I would like to see people like Antonio Contreras, Bobby Tuazon, Mocha Uson (born as a male) and some more people that I forgot their names, to maintain the diversity of the population.