WE lost Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc) in June 2012 to the Chinese when then President Aquino 3rd’s foreign secretary, Albert del Rosario, ordered our vessels out of the shoal’s lagoon, naively believing the claim of the US mediator that the Chinese had also agreed to do so. That is an indisputable fact.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th claims that Del Rosario ordered our vessels out without Aquino’s permission. Neither del Rosario nor Aquino has responded to Trillanes’ account ever since I reported it back in 2013.
The Chinese vessels didn’t leave the shoal, and with the unwritten rule in all territorial squabbles that a party that leaves a disputed area loses it, unless it uses military force — for which the world will, however, condemn it.
If China had not taken advantage of del Rosario’s boo-boo, and allowed Philippine vessels to return to the shoal’s lagoon, there would have been such a howl among the Chinese, especially the People’s Liberation Army, that the Communist Party leadership would have certainly been ousted from power.
Only our then ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia, who was actually in the meetings with the Chinese, and del Rosario have claimed that China reneged on the agreement. But they cannot even produce a document such as an aide memoire or “draft memorandum of agreement” that are SOP instruments in any kind of negotiations.
The Chinese diplomat in the talks, then Foreign Affairs Vice Minister Fu Ying, totally denied that that there was such an agreement. Indeed, only the most incompetent diplomat would have assumed that Fu had the authority at that one-day secret meeting in a Virginia hotel, to commit her country to such a crucial decision. It was astonishing indeed that Cuisia and del Rosario were ignorant of the fact that China — as all countries do — have a mandatory hierarchical system for deciding on a course of action.
Even the respected London-based Financial Times in its report on that episode was aghast at del Rosario’s naiveté:
“It is unclear whether Ms Fu really tried to sell the agreement in Beijing or whether the foreign ministry was overruled by more hawkish elements in the Chinese system, including the military. ‘When you think about it, neither is a very appealing outcome,’ says one participant in the talks.”
What is extremely significant is that not even the US has gone on record to claim that the Chinese reneged on an agreement to leave Scarborough Shoal together with the Philippines.
US Assistant State Secretary for Asia Kurt Campbell was the diplomat who initiated the talks and told Cuisia that the Chinese had agreed to withdraw from the shoal. But even he has not claimed that China reneged on the agreement. In his 2016 book, The Pivot: The Future of American Statecraft in Asia, his only mention of the episode was: “The Philippines’ ten-week standoff with China ultimately resulted in its loss of the Scarborough Shoal, which is claimed by both countries.”
Why didn’t the US, and especially Campbell, raise a howl to the world that China didn’t honor its word, especially as this perfectly fits into the American narrative that China is a traitorous, expansionist power?
Light would be shed with Campbell’s background. He is not just your ordinary State Department career diplomat. He is considered as the main architect of and propagandist for the Obama administration’s major foreign policy thrust, euphemistically called “Pivot to Asia,” the American strategy to contain China’s emergence as a regional superpower and maintain American hegemony in the region.
But not only that. Campbell’s had been Chief of Naval Operations Special Intelligence Unit, deputy assistant defense department secretary for Asia, and director on the National Security Council Staff. After leaving the State Department in February 2013, he set up a national security think tank, the kind that undertakes national-security strategies.
His background says he is less a diplomat and more of a strategist — and agent — for advancing America’s superpower status, and his main concern has been to contain the rise of China in Asia.
With his background, Campbell could not have made the blunder of trusting that China would keep its word that its ships would leave Scarborough Shoal together with those of the Philippines. If he had made that monumental boo-boo, wouldn’t he have been fired immediately by Clinton?
He wasn’t. He even went on to become a member of the elite US Council of Foreign Relations and the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
The only logical conclusion with these facts is that Campbell executed a plan to advance the US “Pivot to Asia.” This is the US’ comprehensive strategy and operations, started during the Obama administration, to contain the rise of China as the superpower in the region that would have ended the US’ decades-long, unchallenged hegemony in Asia.
Aquino provoked the Scarborough crisis when he sent the Navy warship BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a former US Coast Guard vessel that was sold to the Philippines cheap by the US, to help our Coast Guard arrest Chinese fishermen there.
That ignited a howl in China as Aquino’s move was portrayed as the Philippines using a warship given by the Americans to arrest helpless Chinese fishermen in territory that “China owned.” It became a cause célèbre in China, that the Chinese leadership could not back out of, lest it risked being ousted. For the first time in China’s recent history, generals of the People’s Liberation Army were quoted as saying that they would not allow a single inch of Chinese territory to be lost.
Chinese and Philippine vessels refused to budge at the shoal’s lagoon for 10 weeks, knowing that whoever leaves the area in effect gives up its claim to it — forever, as it were.
Campbell then pretends to act as mediator, and fools del Rosario that China had agreed to leave the shoal so he would order our ships to abandon Scarborough. Indeed, a secret email dated June 17, 2012 from Clinton’s chief of staff had reported to her a week after the Philippines lost Scarborough: “We put a lot of pressure on the Phils to step back…”
The result of Campbell’s Machiavellian maneuvering, and after the propaganda support by the Aquino government and its controlled media, as well as by the Western press, is the following narrative:
“China grabbed Bajo de Masinloc from the Philippines. Imagine, it is only 200 km from Subic Bay and 1,000 km from China’s Hainan province.” Even an old hand in Asia like Philip Bowring who claims to have studied the South China territorial disputes for decades wrote in a news website that “China invaded Scarborough.”
The Yellow Cult, since President Duterte made his own “pivot to China,” have kept up the narrative, exploiting Filipinos’ centuries-old anti-Chinese racist bias, and spreading the fake news that China has been harassing our fishermen.
Campbell though had an even long-term aim. As del Rosario had reported, it was China’s “grabbing” of Scarborough that was “the catalyst” in his — and most probably the Americans’ — success in getting the Philippine government to file the suit against China in the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague, invoking the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
There is no multilateral institution and no country that would enforce the arbitration award.
But it has given the US the huge propaganda victory and justification for its government lawyers to claim that the award by an international body ruled as without basis much of China’s claims in the waters in the South China Sea — especially those encompassed by its enigmatic nine-dash line. The US’ aircraft carriers, battleships and submarines therefore had the right by international law to sail almost anywhere in that sea, telling China that it is still the hegemon.
The Americans had been wanting for more than a decade for some international body to rule in the way the arbitral court did. The US itself couldn’t file such a case, however, as it had no business in the South China Sea, having no claim to any territory there.
But lucky for the US, an incompetent, slavishly pro-America Yellow regime emerged in 2010. It took the Americans just three years to play it to file the suit against China — even getting it to happily pay for its P500 million legal costs.