POSTSCRIPT / July 16, 2015 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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It’s time we rallied around flag vs China

AS ONE of the old typing exercises on manual typewriters went, “Now is the time for all young men to come to the aid of their country.”

Except that it is now time to rally not only young men, but all Filipinos to make a firm united stand against China’s arrogant rejection of the arbitration process initiated by the Philippines in the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague.

After the tribunal concluded Monday the hearing on the issues of jurisdiction and admissibility in the dispute over some Philippine areas in the South China Sea, Beijing threw the blame on Manila and claimed it was the victim.

Slamming the door, China reiterated that instead of a third party, such as the UN arbitral body, deciding the dispute, the two neighbors should settle their differences in bilateral talks – an option that Malacañang has ruled out unless other regional claimants are brought in.

We had anticipated that the long journey would come to this dead-end. The Chinese rebuff showed that the oversized Philippine delegation was ill-advised to have conducted itself at The Hague as if it were still operating in Manila:

• Malacañang deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte, like she were on her home ground, confidently announced before the hearing started that the group expected a favorable ruling. She should not have said that in that place at that time.

• Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, the senatorial wannabe dying to deliver some sound bites, telegraphed the Philippine plan to ask the arbitral court to stop, TRO-like, China’s island-building. She probably thought The Hague was in the same league as our Court of Appeals.

What does Aquino & Company do now?

SO, WHAT do we now do with the red Chinese dragon belching spit and fire in our backyard?

To begin with, the Chief Executive is the sole spokesman of the country and the government in foreign affairs. Upon him falls the onus of crafting a winning game plan, if he still does not have one until this late date, and playing it with consummate skill.

His prompters at the US State Department better hurry up as our overworked President is about to be swallowed up by legal and political storm surges (while having to pluck his chosen one Mar Roxas gasping at the bottom of the sea).

History tells us of leaders who triggered a war when their home approval ratings were dropping. Many times the ploy worked, because people usually rally around their leader when threatened from outside.

By its antics, China may have inadvertently given President Aquino an opportunity to try something warlike. He could put up a brave front without actually provoking a mini-war over the disputed corals and isles out there.

He could render an Ulat sa Bayan (or weave it into his State of the Nation Address on July 27) on the intransigence of China in spite of our pacific pleas for a just resolution. Here he could display his undivided firmness as a leader.

From our side of the table, we could play the joker by urging the President to, for instance, stop delivery and payment of the 48 Chinese imitation MRT coaches copied from original Czech originals and to order a review of all Mindanao projects involving Chinese firms (the Americans would love that).

The private sectors, including media, could go full blast urging people to stop buying Made-in-China products, most of which are of inferior, even toxic, quality anyway.

We also demand that Vice President Jojo Binay and all senators, as well as those planning to run for a national post to announce their stand on China’s refusing to face and honor the arbitration tribunal.

We hasten to clarify, however, that these suggested moves are not directed against the Chinese people.

We distinguish among the Chinese government, the great Chinese people and the Chinoys in the Philippines, whom we embrace as brothers and partners in building a peaceful and prosperous Philippines. Wala po tayong away! Mabuhay tayong lahat!

China explains its rejection of arbitration

FOR reference, here is the statement of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued Tuesday after the concluding hearing of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the issues of jurisdiction and admissibility:

“The Chinese Government has, on many occasions, expounded its position of neither accepting nor participating in the arbitral proceeding unilaterally initiated by the Philippines in disregard of China’s legitimate rights bestowed upon her by international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and in breach of the agreement that has been repeatedly reaffirmed with China as well as the Philippines’ undertakings in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). This position is supported by sufficient legal evidences. And for more information, please refer to the Position Paper of the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Matter of Jurisdiction in the South China Sea Arbitration Initiated by the Republic of the Philippines released last December.

“The origin and crux of the disputes between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea lie in the territorial sovereignty disputes caused by the Philippines’ illegal occupation of some islands and reefs of China’s Nansha Islands since the 1970s, and the disputes concerning maritime rights and interests that arose thereafter. Being a victim of the South China Sea issue, China, bearing in mind the whole situation of regional peace and stability, however, has been exercising utmost restraint. China has always adhered to and has been committed to resolving, in accordance with international law and on the basis of respecting historical facts, relevant disputes relating to territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests with relevant states directly concerned through negotiation and consultation. This is China’s consistent practice, and also common practice of the international community.

“China opposes any move by the Philippines to initiate and push forward the arbitral proceeding. On issues of territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, China will never accept any imposed solution or unilaterally resorting to a third-party settlement. China urges the Philippines to return to the right approach of resolving relevant disputes through negotiation and consultation as soon as possible.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 16, 2015)

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