THE Philippine government’s tacks of filing an arbitration case against China and openly seeking international support for Manila’s claim to disputed shoals and islets in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) may only be fanning nationalism among the Chinese who believe that the contested parts of the sea are theirs.
According to former Ambassador Roberto Romulo, Beijing’s assertion of the nine-dash line principle in proving its ownership of the disputed territories are among the “long-held beliefs” of the Chinese people that the area was theirs dating back to the Chin Dynasty.
Speaking during the Business Forum organized by The Manila Times, the former envoy also criticized the government for “not being good at restraint.” He said the Aquino administration’s moves to prove eignty over these islands naturally come as “provocative” to the Chinese.
“Aligning ourselves with the US and Japan and seeking world opinion should not be done in a public and provocative manner. It will fuel nationalism from the Chinese,” Romulo explained.
Earlier this year, the government through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) filed a “memorial” with the International Tribunal on the Laws of the Sea contesting China’s claims to the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea based on its nine-dash line rule.
In September, Aquino sought the backing of the European Union in Manila’s move against Beijing, invoking the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea where China is a signatory.
But these tactics, Romulo noted, do not sit well with China.
He said it is impossible for the Chinese government to strike a compromise because it will be perceived as an act of treason.
“If you look at the interior of China, aside from these substantive issues, [we have to know]China’s current political dynamics.
Realizing this help to calibrate [PH] response,” Romulo noted, adding that there’s “universal public support” in the mainland for its government toward its policies in the contested seas.
“Public support has devolved… Chinese [ownership]extends back to the Chin Dynasty. It is impossible for any Chinese government to compromise [because]compromise will be perceived as betrayal of the nation’s sovereignty,” he pointed out.
The former Foreign Affairs official maintained that it will be “difficult to imagine a major shift in China’s position until [there is a]new eldership bold enough to run counter along that long-held belief [of ownership over the territories].”
He said while there is no quick fix or “magic solution” to the problem, “subtlety” and “restraint” on the part of the Philippine government may do the trick in the long haul.
“There is no magic solution here other than the virtues of patience, perseverance and it is important to have that level of restraint, where we are not very good at, and subtlety,” Romulo added.
He said China and the Philippines should seriously consider joint use and exploration of the disputed areas and set aside the issue of sovereignty since none of the claimants are inclined to give up such.
“[Many] Chinese have all proposed shelving sovereignty and [resort to]joint use. Claimants should work together for maritime cooperation and joint development, maintain peace and stability, reduce tensions,” Romulo added.
Earlier, the former ambassador claimed that China’s rise as an economic superpower is inevitable, making it imperative for the Philippines to rekindle and even strengthen its ties with Beijing.
The chairman of AIG Philippine Insurance Inc., he said Philippine leaders must face the future and accept China’s “preeminence.”
“Why should we care to bring our relations to normalcy? Because [China’s rise] is a reality that we have to accept. [Thus it follows that] engagement and mutual accommodation [are]unavoidable,” Romulo added.