SUPREME Court Justice Antonio Carpio is right. The Philippine government should help Filipino fishermen get access to the waters that have been their—and Chinese and other Southeast Asian peoples’—traditional fishing ground in the South China (West Philippine) Sea. And help the cash-strapped fishermen because they have no income.
The United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration has ruled that virtually says that what we call the West Philippine Sea is Philippine territory, meaning it is within our exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as defined by international covenants and protocols. Therefore, China’s PLA Navy and Coast Guard ships must not harass and drive away Filipino fishermen.
But despite the UN ruling, China has not budged an inch in its physical control of the areas it claims to have sovereign rights to. These are the seas—and the reefs and islets located inside the nine-dash line that China has drawn on the map of the region. That nine-dash line encircles practically the whole South China Sea, including Philippine waters.
Carpio’s call for the Philippine government to help our fisherman is, therefore, a wish. For, in fact, our Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr. was poised to have talks with China but retreated from it when his counterpart, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, issued the precondition that the UN PCA decision in favor of the Philippines would not be discussed.
China had earlier berated the UN tribunal’s decision as illegal, null and void, and a farce.
At the outset, China declared its position that the tribunal had no jurisdiction over the Philippine-initiated suit against China. The suit had asked for UN help to make China desist from taking over Philippine waters, reefs and islets. It also had asked the UN to chide China for its nine-dash line claim. The UN tribunal ruled in our favor, declaring China’s nine-dash-line null and void. It also ordered China to get out of the reefs and islets it had taken over and to stop preventing Filipino fishermen from fishing in the West Philippine Sea.
Alas, the UN Tribunal for disputes arising out of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has no means of enforcing its decisions.
China has ignored what virtually all countries, except China and its known close friends and dependents, have praised.
Beijing has declared that it will continue its construction activities in the South China Sea despite the UNCLOS PCA ruling against its claims to rights in the disputed waters.
A Xinhua report quoted Wu Shengli, the commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, as telling his US counterpart, Admiral John Richardson, “We will never stop our construction on the Nansha Islands. …”
Filipino fishermen have not been able to resume fishing in the Scarborough Shoal, known to Filipino fisher folk as Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc because it is close to Masinloc, Zambales.
So what are we to do—aside from expressing our disgust with sarcasm as President Rody Duterte did yesterday?
Speaking before the troops of the 6th Infantry in Mindanao, the President took a jab at China’s greedy claims and said, “I want to tell them (China), okay, okay, take everything, take the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean, too, they’re all yours.”
It was not in the report but if it was the Rody Duterte speaking before he became our President, he would have ended that sentence with “You greedy bastards, mga p_ _ _ _ g ina!”
Meanwhile, our fishermen must be helped to resume making a living. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Naval and Coast Guard ships must be made to stop blocking our fishermen and chasing them away.
Maybe it’s time to ask the US Navy to come and help, while Yasay unceasingly bugs Beijing to sit down and talk—about everything, including the UN ruling.