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Del Rosario: The worst foreign affairs secretary in our history

IT is disgusting for former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to use a diplomatic passport thinking this would allow him to slip unnoticed into a country whose head of state he accused of crimes against humanity, in order to attend to his private business, that is, a directors’ meeting of his main income source, the First Pacific Co. Ltd.

But what is more appalling is that, since 2016, he should have given up any claim to being a diplomat.

After all, del Rosario was the worst Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) secretary in the history of the Republic, for three reasons.

First, he is the only — and hopefully the last — foreign affairs secretary directly responsible for losing Philippine territory: Bajo de Masinloc, internationally called Scarborough Shoal, over which both we and China claim sovereignty.

He lost Bajo de Masinloc when he ordered on June 2, 2012 our two remaining government vessels in the lagoon of the shoal to leave the next morning, in effect turning over the disputed area — after eight weeks of that episode called the “Scarborough Shoal Stand-off” — to China, which then sealed it off.

He claimed to have done this because a US official had told him that he got China to agree to a simultaneous withdrawal of Philippine and Chinese vessels, but then China reneged on the agreement.

To this day, only del Rosario and his boss President Aquino 3rd claim that there was such an agreement.

The US official who supposedly brokered the deal was US assistant secretary Kurt Campbell, the brains of President Obama’s so-called “Pivot to Asia.” That sea change in policy in reality has been the US move to reassert its hegemony in Asia, and to prevent the emerging superpower from rising in Asia. Campbell retired from the State Department, and before that from the Pentagon, in 2013. Why wouldn’t he claim that there was an agreement with China if there was one?

It turns out that del Rosario didn’t even talk to Campbell. It was merely the Philippine Ambassador to the US at the time, Jose Cuisia, and then the American ambassador here, Harry Thomas, who relayed Campbell’s claim that he got China to agree to a pull-out from the shoal.

Why on earth would the Americans fool del Rosario so that we would lose Bajo de Masinloc? The only possible answer is that it wanted to push the Aquino government into filing a case in a multilateral venue against China’s claim to the entire South China Sea, even if this could be undertaken only through a mandatory process disguised as “arbitration.”

Arbitral panel
Three years after the arbitral panel issued its decision, we got nothing, expectedly as China refused to be a part of the “arbitration” — after all it means the agreement of two contending parties to a third-party decision over their squabble. More importantly, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) that the ruling was based on categorically stated that it cannot rule on sovereignty claims.

So, what use was the arbitral ruling? As spun by Western media and scholars — and by del Rosario of course — it painted China as a bully, which does not respect the rule of law. Leaked emails by Hillary Clinton hint that that this was in fact one of the key strategies for Obama’s drive to isolate China in Asia. Convinced that it was an American machination, China was emboldened to build artificial islands on the atolls it occupied, as it controls not a single island in the Spratlys.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th, who was Aquino’s secret envoy to China to resolve the Scarborough stand, disclosed in an aide memoire that China had offered in July to revert the shoal to its status quo ante — i.e, both countries continuously claiming the shoal as theirs but freely allowing their fishermen to go there for refuge after fishing in nearby waters. China would allow this if the Philippines did not push through with its announced plan to file the arbitration case.

Del Rosario pushed Aquino to reject the Chinese offer. So, we have a useless arbitration decision and Bajo de Masinloc lost.

A second reason why del Rosario was our worst DFA secretary is that, from the start of his post, he had a hostile policy against China, which of course he got Aquino — who has totally no idea what foreign affairs means — to embrace. It was with such a belligerent mindset that Aquino didn’t give a second thought to sending the Navy warship BRP Gregorio del Pilar to arrest in April 2012 Chinese fishermen at Bajo de Masinloc, which triggered the eight-week Scarborough stand-off.

Colossal error
That was a colossal error, as it gave the Chinese so much propaganda fuel to claim that the Philippines had militarized the sovereignty dispute by sending out a warship. This of course raised such a howl among the Chinese people — netizens even cried out for the People’s Liberation Army to invade us — that the Chinese leadership had to adopt a hardline stance against us.

Vietnam has had far more serious territorial disputes with China. Vietnam in 1974 even lost 60 soldiers and one warship in a battle with Chinese forces over the Paracel Islands that the two countries claim sovereignty over. Vietnamese fishermen have had more skirmishes with Chinese government vessels than us. Yet China is the country in Southeast Asia with which Vietnam has had the closest relationship with since the 1990s, with no Vietnamese foreign affairs minister ever badmouthing China as del Rosario has done, incessantly calling it “treacherous” and a bully. Aquino’s top diplomat, del Rosario obviously doesn’t know the meaning of “diplomacy.”

Del Rosario in effect has made the Philippines America’s proxy in Asia, infuriating China. What kind of Foreign Affairs secretary is that?

What could be worse than undertaking a foreign policy hostile to a neighbor with the world’s largest population of 1.4 billion, which is emerging as a superpower, economically and militarily?

Whatever you think of China, it has emerged a superpower we cannot be antagonistic to. Del Rosario should have followed what other Asian countries — especially Vietnam — have done and are doing. If you have to go against it, do it with other nations. Don’t pretend to be a David going against Goliath — which has been del Rosario’s favorite metaphor. Unlike Biblical mythology, the history of the world is the history of Davids crushed by Goliaths.

The reason why del Rosario was so bold as to be hostile to China is that in his mind he thought he was an American and that US military might was behind the Philippines. Which brings us to the third reason why he is the country’s worst DFA secretary.

How worse can a foreign affairs secretary be when, after decades of our people’s nationalist struggle, he pulled the country back to the US as its protectorate, which in effect reversed the 1992 Senate decision declaring our rejection of such status, when it refused to allow US military bases in the country.

Del Rosario and Aquino almost from the very start of the Scarborough Shoal stand-off declared to the world that the country was under US protection. That was another huge error in the Scarborough Shoal stand-off. For the Chinese, it wasn’t a case of a small country asserting its sovereignty over the shoal but the hegemonic US using the Philippines to wrest control of what it claimed to be its Huangyan Island.

When they lost the shoal on June 3, and realized in the weeks that followed that they had been fooled by a US diplomat, del Rosario and Aquino appealed to Washington to send its warships to escort ours so we could recover our territory.

Obama reportedly was irked by Aquino’s insouciance over US intervention that risked a military confrontation between the two superpowers, which could even have led to World War 3.

But the wily Obama got something out of Aquino and del Rosario’s distressed begging. First, he said we might recover Scarborough if we filed a case in a international court, and the State Department would recommend to us the best lawyers for such a project. That turned out to be the arbitration suit against China, with the best Washington, DC law firm handling it.

As important, Obama told them that if ever the US had to defend the Philippines against China, it would require bases where it could stockpile its war materiel, as the arena of war, the South China Sea, was too far.

A year later, Aquino gave the Americans those bases, disguised as “agreed locations,” our armed forces’ military camps where US forces could pre-position and store defense materiel, equipment and supplies.

How worse can a Foreign Affairs secretary be when he got the government to give back military bases the US had lost here in 1992?

It is a testament to the power of an oligarchic agent like del Rosario that he has kept these truths hidden from us, made possible by the media empire here of Indonesian Anthoni Salim, whose First Pacific Co. he has been with for decades. This media conglomerate includes the Philippine Star group, Business World, TV 5, and the website interaksyon.com. Have you read any article in these media outfits critical of del Rosario?



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