PH should enlist allies – Shahani

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Former senator Leticia Ramos Shahani. PHOTO BY JIM PILAPIL

Former senator Leticia Ramos Shahani. PHOTO BY JIM PILAPIL

THE Philippines may be holding the upper hand now after getting a favorable ruling from the international arbitral tribunal but it needs to be careful on how to play its cards, former senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani said on Wednesday.

She advised the Duterte government to enlist the country’s allies to join the Philippines in pressuring China to stop its reclamation projects in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

“China is a big power, economically. Find our allies because we cannot do it alone,” Shahani said during a forum in Quezon City.

She warned that the United Nations is not a Supreme Court but a political body that promises to protect small nations but actually exists so that super powers will rule.


China, the former senator noted, is a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

“President [Rodrigo] Duterte’s first State visit should be in China and he should bring with him well-versed Chinese-speaking advisers. Before that meeting, he has to use all diplomatic channels, including backdoor negotiations,” said Shahani, who headed the foreign relations committee at the Senate.

De La Salle University political science professor Richard Javad Heydarian shared Shahani’s view, saying China is in a panic mode because it could be branded an international outlaw if it will insist on rejecting the tribunal’s ruling.

He said even if Beijing is a global maritime power, Duterte should issue a strongly-worded statement following the verdict.

“China will offer him a lot of carrots. He should stick to the game plan. Not relax our claim just because they’re investing a lot. Duterte has to be careful not to fall into that trap,” Heydarian added.

Shahani said just like in a poker game, Duterte is holding the winning card and he just has to be careful.

Her stand is also espoused by other political scientists, among them,

Prof. Aileen Baviera of the University of the Philippines Contemporary China Studies Asian Center, Prof. Jay Batongbacal of the UP College of Law Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea and former ABC Beijing bureau chief Chito Santa Romana, who was a guest on Tuesday at a forum held also in Quezon City.

Baviera said China is in a dilemma but the Chinese will never surrender their 9-dash-line policy.

“That mentality also is going to be very difficult for everyone to accept. China can insist on it and stand on that leg as long as it wants to,” she added.

Santa Romana said the Communist Party of China has been shaken by the ruling and the leadership is at its lowest point.

“They now have siege mentality, suspecting a Western conspiracy. They will cling to their belief that Mischief Reef is theirs legally. Watch carefully and use the [UN arbitral court] award to leverage,” he added.

Santa Romana cited border issues that China had with Vietnam and Russia that were settled after more than 30 years because the two governments did not go easy on Beijing.

“There were changes of leaders in Vietnam before the settlement was reached. It took Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev to negotiate to solve the river border [issue]. Now, with Duterte, it is the most opportune time to settle the issue. China obviously did not like the Aquino administration,” he said.

Batongbacal said the issue of sovereignty remains undecided and the dispute with China will remain.

He added that the Philippines, however, should strive to enter into provisional practical arrangements like having common fishing grounds.

“China forces will remain on the disputed islands. Reclamation will continue. So the best is to reach some practical sharing,” Batongbacal said.

Other political scientists believe that China will not go to war even if other sea claimants will follow the Philippines’ lead and also file suits before the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Prof. Rolando Simbulan of UP Manila said with the ruling, the Philippines should strike a balance in dealing with the US and China.

‘We now need to be very careful in striking a balance in dealing with the US and China because any wrong tip of that balance throws us into a position where we are caught in the middle and we become the battleground,” he added.

UN help
Senator Panfilo Lacson also on Wednesday said the Philippines can seek the UN’s help so that Filipinos can safely fish in certain areas in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Lacson added that aside from holding bilateral talks with China, Manila can go to the UN General Assembly and ask if it could send a peacekeeping contingent to certain areas outside the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

“We may opt to go directly to UN General Assembly and ask for their help. We can expect China to campaign against it. China won’t take it sitting down,” he said.

The senator believes that China will not dare harass a UN contingent.

“I don’t think China, for all its bravado, for all its military might, will drive away the UN peacekeeping force. Otherwise it will be going against the community of nations,” he said.

The senator expressed optimism that Manila and Beijing can reach an agreement.

“I have it on good information that they [China] are open to negotiate a sharing agreement. They are willing to put up capital,” Lacson said, adding that another source told him that China is even offering a 60-40 sharing arrangement.

Mighty Manila
The Philippines’ victory made Manila as mighty as Beijing and gave the Philippine government the edge when and if it will hold talks with China, Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque, a former professor in International Law at the University of the Philippines, said also on Wednesday.

“This is a huge win for us because the UN tribunal specifically cited the West Philippine Sea features which are within our exclusive economic zone. This is important because under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, only a coastal state like the Philippines has the right to put up reclamation projects within its exclusive economic zone. This means that China’s existing reclamation projects and military bases there are unlawful,” Roque told reporters.

“This arbitration ruling made us a co-equal of China when it comes to bilateral talks. Before, it’s like having a gun to our heads when talking with them. Now, we have this leverage. The issues were narrowed down because the nine-dash line is out of it,” he said. “This ruling means that we will be free to benefit from fishing in our seas and even search for natural gas.”

WITH JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA AND LLANESCA T. PANTI

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10 Comments

  1. Mariano Patalinjug on

    Yonkers, New York
    14 July 2016

    With all due respect to former Senator Leticia Shahani’s suggestion that the Philippines should “enlist allies” in getting China to honor and obey the July 12 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration which is favorable to the Philippines and in fact also invalidated China’s arbitrary “Nine-Dash Line” as without legal basis in International Law, the Philippines already has allies in the United States and Japan, but also even in the European Union which has urged China to respect International Law [UNCLOS].

    But China’s immediate reaction to the PCA ruling has been that of a wounded BULLY! It is writhing obviously in both pain and fury~ And it now threatens to impose an ADIZ on the whole of the South China Sea!–which is as stupid as it gets because that could easily be the trigger for a military confrontation with the United States which has made it more than abundantly clear that it has a vested national interest in keeping completely open international waters in the South China Sea through which an estimated $5 trillion in trade passes annually, including oil from the Middle East.

    MARIANO PATALINJUG
    patalinjugmar@gmail.com

  2. Andres Aguinaldo on

    There should be no backdoor negotiations as these will most likely lead to non-transparent agreements between the PH and China which could later prove to be disadvantageous to the Filipino people.

  3. I agree totally with Mrs. Shahani that we have to get the backing of our big allies US and ANZUS and other countries that have the same problem with China. For example, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, India, Tibet, Myammar, Laos and Cambodia UN is a political body. The best way is to start redrawing the map of the PH and show in all PH passports. This will counter nine dash lines of China appearing in all Chinese passports. More importantly, PH should start strengthening its military force enough to deter Chinese aggression. In two to three years, China will be more aggressive unless contain by US and it’s allies. Look at their budget in military and it’s well known that they are building two or three more aircraft carriers and hundreds of submarines. Where do you think they’ll use this?? Perilous times!

  4. Never getting it back no matter what any court says.

    What can be done is compensation and fishing rights from China in exchange.

  5. We should not forget the area also has natural gas and oil that can help ease poverty in us

  6. Romeo Tuazon on

    Please pray for our President Duterte and people that surrounds him specially his cabinet, that they may fear the Lord and use Godly wisdom in dealing with China. China will do everything to get the upper hand like luring Duterte and some of his cabinet members bribes. Woman and money. Watch out. These are weapons made by other countries to sabotage their enemies. When the enemy succeed in this game, people can betray and will betray their country. Just search the history of people who became traitors because of women and money. Please pray for our president and people that surrounds him, that Godly men and women may surround Pres. Duterte.

    • “China will do everything to get the upper hand like luring Duterte and some of his cabinet members bribes. Woman and money. ”

      ang taba ng utak mo pre..

  7. Ignacio Balbutin on

    I don’t think that China will have the nerve to go to war, they are just posturing but they knew fully well that it will be to their dis-advantage if they will go to war because. If shooting starts, the US will surely come to the aid of the Philippines as our mutual treaty with the US states. It will not only be the US but even Australia, Japan and even Nato will come to the aid of the Philippines. In this premise President Duterte should talk with the Chinese in the position of strength especially with the ruling from the arbitral tribunal.

    • Migs Doromal on

      Ang bobo mo talaga. You think America’s sons and daughters would willingly die for the brown-skinned monkey brothers?