POSTSCRIPT / October 23, 2016 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Panatag trumped by $24-B promise

AFTER attacking the United States to the delight of his hosts in Beijing and probing what China could offer the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte wrapped up his four-day state visit Friday carrying home promises of investments ($15 billion) and soft loans ($9 billion).

But Duterte failed to convince China to allow Filipinos back to their traditional fishing grounds at the Panatag (Scarborough) shoal off Zambales. He got instead another promise from Beijing to talk later about fisheries and such issues over disputed areas of the South China Sea.

The question of who lost in the bargain is likely to haunt the aspiring power player from Davao now dreaming of forming a China-Russia-Philippines axis against “the rest of the world.”

We were aghast, embarrassed even, that our President bad-mouthed its ally of long standing, the United States, while he was visiting China in search of goodwill and goodies. He did not have to announce his “separating” from the US to please his hosts.

The 2,330-word joint statement of Duterte and China President Xi Jinping avoided mentioning the arbitration ruling last July 12 at The Hague that struck down as illegal China’s extensive claim over much of the SCS, including several maritime areas of the Philippines.

China has built what appear to be military facilities on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi), Kennan (Chigua), Mabini (Johnson South), Burgos (Gaven) and Calderon (Cuarteron) reefs, areas being claimed by the Philippines.

Those who were hoping Duterte would fight for Filipino fishermen illegally deprived by China of their only livelihood found him agreeing instead to postpone Panatag discussions to a date to be decided by Beijing.

 Before playing Axis, fix traffic first

WE CUT down our commentary on the Duterte-Xi statement when we read, and liked, an essay of Sen. Ralph Recto on the same subject. Excerpts from the Batangas senator:

“Foreign policy rebalancing should not mean that we swing the pendulum to the other extreme, that we dump old friends for new suitors.

“We should practise big-tent diplomacy, welcoming all, and shunning no one. The national interest is served by extending amity to all, and hostility to none.

“In rewriting the country’s foreign policy playbook, the President can perhaps pick up a few pointers from his Facebook team.

“These are: You need not unfriend someone to befriend another. If you don’t like him at the moment, you can unfollow him without unfriending or blocking him so that you retain the option to follow him again.

“Any drastic shift in our foreign policy direction should be well-thought-out and not simply blurted out. It should be a product of deep study and wide discussion. Because of its far-reaching implications, it cannot be an announce-now, study-later thing.

“Crafting an independent foreign policy requires introspection, not   impetuousness. This is all the more true if the object of the President’s pique is not a backwater failed state, but a nation that is home to the largest number of Filipinos abroad, the biggest source of foreign exchange remittances, one of the biggest ODA donors, a major market of our products and services, like the BPO.

“Yes, our relations with the United States may not be perfect. But a country which has illegally built a great wall of sand in our seas is not, and far from, the epitome of a good friend either.

“As to our joining Russia and China in a new axis, let us fix our traffic first before we insert ourselves in the power games of nuclear states.”

EJKs may harm Phl GSPP status

SPACE limitations forced us to also cut last Thursday an article of Dean Mel Sta. Maria of the Far Eastern University Institute of Law on extra-judicial killings in the Philippines that have caught the attention of the International Court of Justice.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda recently said: “I am deeply concerned about these alleged killings and the fact that public statements of high officials of the Philippines seem to condone such killings and further seem to encourage State forces and civilians to continue targeting these individuals with lethal force.

“Any person in the Philippines who incites or engages in acts of mass violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing, in any other manner, to the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC is potentially liable to prosecution before the Court.”

In his article, Sta, Maria warned: “If we lose(because of EJKs) the Generalized System of Preference Plus status granted to the Philippines by the European Community, about 6,800 Philippine products will be subjected to tariff entering 20 EU member-countries whereas, under the GSPP, they will not be charged. The Philippines could lose billions of dollars.

“The GSPP is non-reciprocal. The Philippines has no obligation to provide EU members with the same privilege for their products entering the Philippines. The GSPP is an EU system helping underdeveloped countries in global trade. The only conditions are that the grantees have a good governance system, respect for labor rights and core human rights values. The EU does not want to extend privileges to countries notorious for human rights violations.

“In the ASEAN, Myanmar and other members followed the lead of the Philippines and were granted GSPP status, but the EU suspended the Myanmar grant because of violation of core human rights and labor conventions by Myanmar dictators. But Myanmar changed its direction and has recently shown some improvement in these areas. It reapplied and EU reinstated its GSPP status.

“The Philippine GSPP status is up for renewal next year. Because of the EJKs, the EU tried to remind the Philippines of its concern on its human rights situation. President Duterte, instead of taking this constructively, cursed EU with a middle finger sign to boot. Until now, the bad-mouthing continues. There is a danger of losing GSPP status if EJKs continue. Undoubtedly, EJKs involve serious violations of human rights and a negative implication on proper governance.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 23, 2016)

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