POSTSCRIPT / July 8, 2012 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

Share on facebook
Share This
Share on twitter
Twitter

P-Noy can cash in on tiff with Beijing

TOUGH TALK: Since President Noynoy Aquino did not deny or “clarify” the PhilSTAR banner story the other day saying “P-Noy to China: Pull out ships from shoal” we presume that the item correctly reported what he said or implied.

The story by Au Calica said that the President “called on China to pull out all its ships from Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal as he assailed Beijing for asking the Philippines to stop making provocative statements while itself continuing to talk.”

“It’s not clear to me what provocative statements the Philippines or Filipino officials have made,” the President reportedly said. “But we know that the other side has been saying a lot. So maybe they should read first what have been written on their end and, with all due respect, maybe they can balance that with reality.”

* * *

CHINA, BACK OFF!: Telling a neighbor through the media — instead of in a diplomatic note behind the scenes — to get out of its Exclusive Economic Zone is a public outcry that tells everybody the victim is now hurting.

Shortly before that, the foreign office formally protested Beijing’s establishing a new prefecture-level Sansha City to administer three disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea and other sites that it would develop in the region.

Marching in, Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban, Western Command chief, vowed that the armed forces would defend the long-thriving Filipino community in Kalayaan town that is part of the area that China claims in the Pagasa group in Palawan.

“We will keep on doing our duty, prepare for any contingency and let our leaders do the high-level solutions,” Sabban said. “Kalayaan is ours, we will defend it.”

* * *

COLD TREATMENT?: Observers on diplomatic row have been waiting for Beijing’s reaction to these barrages from the Philippine side that has grown tired of the noisy Chinese impertinence.

But until late yesterday we have not heard, in answer, any of the usual cocky retorts from the China foreign office or its embassy in Manila.

Could it be that that cold silence from the north, in itself, is China’s reaction?

Ignoring with pursed lips a head of government’s open demand to get out could be insulting in some cultures.

Could China be telling President Aquino to shut up if he cannot mount and fire a cannon ball to back up his protests?

* * *

WAR OF NERVES: It seems to some of us that the President is gaining confidence in his running war of nerves with the Chinese. His score has been improving.

For one, his telling the Chines interlopers to Get Out! was something.

President Aquino suddenly standing up to the neighborhood bully has had people wondering if Uncle Sam has given its assurance that it would move once a tipping point is reached in China’s belligerent bellowing.

Many people have taken as a hint the announced accelerated delivery of much-needed military materiel, including naval vessels and attack aircraft.

But President Aquino must be wise – is “cunning” the better word? – in his quid pro quo transactions with the Americans. Push it to the max, Mr. President!

* * *

OPPORTUNITY: The problem of having the Chinese Dragon snorting menacingly nearby may just prove to be more of an opportunity than a crisis for President Aquino — if he plays it right.

For one, the problem appears to have sped up the release of long-pending items in the armed forces modernization shopping list under the Philippines’ mutual defense treaty with the United States.

Never mind if the US is helping out not because of love for us little brown Americans but more because of the geopolitical need to promote its own security and trade interests in the Asia-Pacific area.

As long as the US delivers, that should be satisfying enough for President Aquino who, after two years in office, is under extreme pressure to make good on his election campaign promises.

* * *

RALLYING POINT: Another opportunity that the China problem has created for the Aquino administration is that, as in most similar situations, the people tend to rally around their leader  when the country is threatened from outside.

So when President Aquino evinced firmness by telling the Chinese to Get Out!, not a few of his critics sat up and agreed that China has been treating us shabbily.

Those mad at China, even some critics, now tend to speak out in support of our President – to the point of even glossing over his shortcomings.

From the propaganda point of view, especially in the period leading up to his July 23 State of the Nation Address, the President could harvest more political points by riding on the specter of China’s expansionism.

On another level, the adroit handling of the China issue would keep Uncle Sam solicitously attending to the Philippines’ security needs. That would reap plus points for the Aquino administration.

* * *

NOT THE WEATHER: But the President should shuffle out of that tricky statement he made, when asked if he would send back the coast guard and fisheries vessels to Panatag, that it all depended on the weather.

Asserting sovereignty over any corner of the archipelago does not depend on the weather. Executive action is firmly rooted in the Commander-in-Chief’s wisdom and political will.

If he did not know when or how he would send back Philippine vessels to Panatag where the Chinese are having a lauriat and laughing at us, he should not have said he was sending the ships back.

But as he has said it with the whole neighborhood watching, he must now move fast and not make his action contingent on the fickle weather.

The armed forces are just waiting for the order from the Chief.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 8, 2012)

Share your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published.