FORMER senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani criticized Manila’s wimpy response to China’s aggressive acts in disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea, saying the country seems “to be losing the psychological aspect of war.”
Ramos-Shahani, a former United Nations official and a seasoned diplomat before turning to politics in 1987, made the statement in Thursday’s Senate hearing.
“We seem to be losing the psychological aspect of war, as if Filipinos are wimps compared to the Chinese, as if Filipinos are cowards compared to the Chinese. Because we don’t say anything,” she said.
Shahani said the worsening threat posed by the Chinese should not be ignored and should be addressed “beyond diplomacy”.
“All we do is paper protest – a paper protest that is just ignored. We are not even ashamed of that, we seem to accept it as part of diplomatic practice. This is why we should go beyond diplomatic protocol,” she said.
Ramos-Shahani said local governments should now be involved in the West Philippine Sea issue as it has already directly affected the livelihood of people especially those living in coastal communities in the country’s western regions.
“It’s no longer an issue of foreign affairs. This is also domestic affairs. This is an issue where the vital interest of poor fishermen coincide with the most stylish diplomat we have in the Philippine foreign service,” she said.
“I know Masinloc, I don’t know Scarborough Shoal. That’s the English term. But Masinloc is what’s known to our children in Zambales, Bataan, Lingayen. Let’s bring the issue back to the people,” she said.
In the same public hearing, Harry Roque Jr., an international law professor, said that China’s reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea do not really have any substantial effect under international law.
He also accused the Armed Forces of just creating unnecessary public hysteria.
Roque, director of the University of the Philippines Law Center Institute of International Legal Studies, said that what China is doing is really to seek to annex the disputed territories. He said China’s actions are not different from Israel’s building of a wall within the Palestinian territories which has an effect of a de facto occupation.
Roque said regardless of how big the island China is building in the disputed territory, the area continues to be disputed.
“In fact, even if they build an artificial island the size of mainland China, (by) itself it cannot result in a title,” Roque noted.
This is because the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) doesn’t recognize low-tide elevation islands just like the ones being reclaimed by China.
“Moreover because China has been reclaiming these islands by way of conquest, by use of military force, they will never mature in to a valid title for China,” he added.