Impossible for Carpio and del Rosario not to know that they are deceiving the country
THE claim that President Duterte should be impeached for not restricting our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) from foreigners is so absurd that it is astonishing that media has given it mileage at all, with even otherwise sober commentators believing that rubbish.
What is disgusting is that the two men mainly responsible for spreading this nonsense—Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio and Aquino 3rd’s foreign secretary Albert del Rosario—cannot not know that they are misleading the public, as I will show in the course of this piece.
Why are they doing so? Because of an ideological hatred for China, and an added factor for del Rosario, to cover up for his role in our losing Bajo de Masinloc (also known as Panatag or Scarborough Shoal) in 2012 to China. The Yellows are cheering them and repeating their yarn of course because they think they can pull down Duterte’s popularity by stoking the embers of anti-Chinese racism among Filipinos.
At the outset, we have to emphasize first that Duterte was referring not to our EEZ in its entirety but only to Recto Bank (Reed Bank) within which he said we cannot ban Chinese fishermen. His comment was in the wake of protests over the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel – whether it was a deliberate case of ramming or an accidental collision hasn’t been established.
Recto Bank is indeed within our 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and whose natural resources therefore we have the sovereign rights to exploit. (Let’s leave out of this discussion the other fact that Recto Bank is also within the area we claim as territory, the Kalayaan Island Group, but which China, Taiwan, and Vietnam also claim.)
Fire-eating What the Yellow demagogues, and the two fire-eating anti-China haters do not mention because it would immediately shatter their propaganda tack, and what many commentators astonishingly are so ignorant about, is the following.
Our EEZ that includes Recto Bank is partly in an area which three other countries (and Taiwan) have declared as their sovereign territories, decades before 2009 when we drew precise geological coordinates for the zone through the so-called Baselines Law.
We call this area the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG), which Marcos named as such when he declared it part of Philippine territory in 1978. For China it is their Nánshā Qúndǎo, part of Hainan province; and for Vietnam, Quần đảo Trường Sa, part of its Khánh Hòa province. Our EEZ also overlaps a similar zone and the territorial sea of three other countries – Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia – and Taiwan.
China occupies two features that is within both our EEZ and KIG, including the most well-known Mischief Reef. It has five more outside our EEZ but within the KIG. Vietnam occupies five within both our EEZ and KIG, and an additional 9 within our KIG but outside our EEZ. Malaysia occupies four, three of which are in the KIG. (See accompanying map.)
Mind-spinning these may be, the point is this: We cannot and have in fact not been able to ban from this area in our EEZ—the KIG— citizens from countries which also claim it as their sovereign territory. How difficult is it to understand that?
Say, you have title to a property adjacent to your residence, and you shoo away people who are planting kamote there to make use of it. But then somebody else comes and claims it as his property, shows you his title, and says those people are his relatives he gave permission to plant. Do you quarrel with him, even hire goons to throw out those people?
Metaphor’s limits This metaphor has its limits though since in the case of the Spratlys, China, Vietnam, and Taiwan claim it is their sovereign territory. And unlike property disputes among individuals within one country and therefore bound by that nation’s laws, there is no super-state, i.e., no court to determine which “title” is genuine or fake.
It is impossible for Carpio to not know all this. He had declared in 2011: “Under traditional international law typology, States acquire territory through occupation, accretion, cession and prescription, not by executing multilateral treaties (such as UNCLOS that issues guidelines for defining an EEZ.” He wrote that ponencia in an August 2011 decision upholding the constitutionality of the 2009 baselines law that in effect defined our EEZ. Or was it just his staff who wrote it, that he didn’t bother to read?
In fact, what Duterte is saying is exactly what Carpio proposed right after the arbitral panel’s ruling in 2018: “The ruling says that Scarborough Shoal (which is within our EEZ) is a traditional fishing ground of Filipino and Chinese fishermen. So, both can fish there,” he said. “The Philippine government should talk to China and establish protocols so we can fish in peace,” he said.
Why is he saying now that Duterte is violating the Constitution for allowing Chinese fishermen to fish in an area in our EEZ which China claims is their territory?
Constitution Yes, the Constitution mandates the President to protect our EEZ. But it is absurd, or downright stupid, to claim that a Philippine president is violating the Constitution when he cannot stop foreigners’ activities in, or kick foreigners out of our zone, when they also claim it as also theirs.
Carpio exhorts us not to call the Spratlys a “disputed area.” But the entire world calls it that. Even the world’s superpower, the US, has not recognized our claim to the Spratlys, with its Navy manual on territories in the world saying: The US does not take a position on territorial disputes in the Spratly Islands.
In 2011, Aquino authorized an energy firm of the Indonesian-owned First Pacific Co. (the source of wealth of his foreign secretary del Rosario) to explore for oil and gas in an area in Recto Bank. In March, two Chinese maritime surveillance vessels forced out of the area the survey ship MV Veritas Voyager that the company had contracted to find out where to drill appraisal wells. The vessels claimed the area was Chinese territory and the Voyager did not have permission from its government for its activities there.
Did anyone claim that Aquino violated the Constitution for not sending our Navy to escort the ship so it can undertake its surveys?
Then the next year, because of del Rosario’s gullibility in believing what a US assistant state secretary—several ranks below his stature—told him, we lost Bajo de Masinloc, which is of course within our EEZ.
Why didn’t they or anyone claim that Aquino should be impeached for not kicking out the Chinese from a shoal within our EEZ?
Other than the fact of course that the Yellow Cult was in complete control of media then, there was no way for Aquino to grab back Bajo de Masinloc except by force, which the UN Declaration categorically bans.
In these two cases, del Rosario himself was witness to how a president could not restrict China from a part of our EEZ it claims it owns. Why is he now alleging that Duterte is violating the Constitution by allowing Chinese to fish in Recto Bank?
Or does he want Duterte to do what Aquino stupidly did in 2012, which was to send a warship to arrest Chinese fishermen in Bajo de Masinloc. Well that ended up in our losing territory that at least we could say we controlled since Spanish times.