WE trivialize the loss of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and the damage the Yellows’ anti-China policy has wrought on the nation if we merely call for debate on it. We trivialize the fact that our quarrel with China was due to an oligarchic group rushing to be energy giants if we merely debate on it.
A debate isn’t what is needed. What’s necessary is simply putting facts out in the light of day, which the Yellows have managed to hide because of their control of a substantial part of media.
The only beneficiary of such debates will be lawyer Antonio Carpio if my thesis is accurate that he has all this time merely been lawyering for that First Pacific-led oligarchic group, whose project since 2011 to extract gas in the disputed Reed (Recto) Bank had been blocked by China.
As in all court cases, he’ll just be charging his appearance fee and even research expenses. Carpio has not responded to my asking him if he is indeed lawyering for that group.
We need a full-blown investigation — by a congressional committee or a “presidential truth commission” — on how the past regime lost Panatag Shoal and how and why it filed that arbitration suit against China that turned out to be a disaster for us, but which has, as I will explain below, raised the risk of war in the South China Sea, even a global nuclear war — and I am not exaggerating.
Look, other than Sabah, the only territory we’ve lost since the birth of our nation is Panatag Shoal. All the facts show that it was Aquino 3rd’s bungling Foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, clueless really to the world of diplomacy and geopolitics, who dropped the ball, which China merely picked up on June 4, 2011 after an eight-week stand-off there.
Very tragically, most objective scholars think that of all our claims in the South China Sea, that over Panatag is the strongest, not because of some old maps (as Carpio foolishly argues) but because we have had effective occupation of it for decades, thanks to the US military which had been using that area as its firing range since the 1970s for its jet fighters flying from Clark Air Base, or from aircraft carriers near Subic Bay.
We lost Scarborough because del Rosario ordered our vessels to pull out on June 4, 2012, leaving the Chinese vessels there which have since has secured the lagoon. He claims that in negotiations brokered by US assistant state secretary Kurt Campbell, China agreed to a simultaneous withdrawal, but which it reneged on. That is preposterous, considering China’s etched-in-stone policy of not allowing the US to show its face in any of its territorial disputes with other countries.
The Chinese have denied there was such an agreement. Campbell has refused to comment on it, which is strange as such Chinese “duplicity” would advance his and the US campaign to demonize China.
My suspicion is that Campbell deliberately lied to the gullible del Rosario so he would order our vessels out, so China could be left in control of the shoal. That would be the casus belli for the Philippines to file the arbitration suit — various versions of which Campbell and his former boss Hillary Clinton had declared should be undertaken to show to the world that China’s nine-dash-line has no basis in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
If we determined incontrovertibly through a full-blown investigation that the US conspired to get del Rosario to lose Panatag, wouldn’t that reveal to us the real nature of the Yellows’ anti-China campaign, which is the American machinations to make the Philippines its puppet in Southeast Asia that would demonize the People’s Republic of China?
The personalities are still living that a Congressional investigative body or a truth commission of sorts could summon to testify: former president Aquino 3rd; del Rosario; former senator Antonio Trillanes 4th, who was a “witness” of sorts to that loss; former ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia, who by one account relayed US diplomat Campbell’s report of a Chinese agreement to del Rosario; and the various supervising officials of the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Aquatic Resources whose ships were there and ordered to pull out.
Congress has investigated much, much less important issues. Why shouldn’t they arrive at the truth of how we lost Panatag Shoal?
The filing of the Aquino regime’s arbitration suit in 2013 was the decision solely of Aquino, del Rosario and, I was told, Carpio who had proposed it. Aquino called for a meeting only once in December 2012 in which a handful of legislators were invited (including Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile). Del Rosario in this meeting scared the wits out of the legislators when he claimed that if we don’t recover Panatag through the arbitration, China would occupy Zambales next.
But less on how the arbitration suit was decided on, an investigation should be undertaken to determine what really has been its impact, as the Yellows and Caprio have wielded the oligarchs’ massive propaganda machinery to spread lies. Among the truths such investigation will realize:
The suit’s award is the first official declaration by an international third party, even if it is just an arbitration panel, that a territorial dispute between China and the Philippines exists. Before the arbitration award, and starting in the 1990s, China had been quiet in claiming Panatag, allowing us de facto control of it, which is why Aquino foolishly sent a warship there to arrest fishermen in March that triggered the stand-off. But since China occupies it now, we can forget ever patrolling it, much less recovering it, unless out of the superpower’s magnanimity, it returns it to our control.
The award declared it cannot resolve the conflicting claims of China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan and Malaysia in the South China Sea.
The award bans us from declaring the 370-kilometer exclusive economic zones around the five islands we occupy in the Spratlys, including its largest, Pag-asa. We lost a potential 430,000 sq km of EEZ around Pag-asa that we could have declared. How big is that? That would cover the entire Visayas island group.
It declared our claims to waters within the Kalayaan Island Group as without basis under Unclos, which therefore requires us to declare the dissolution of that island group that Marcos established in 1978.
The worst consequence of the arbitration suit could have a global consequence. In response to the arbitration suit, in which the Philippines argued that all features in the South China Sea are mere “rocks’ at most, and that there are no islands there under Unclos provisions, China went on a massive reclamation program to convert the seven “rocks” they had occupied since 1988 into artificial islands. Artificial yes, but still islands with the most developed infrastructure in the area.
The arbitration suit changed drastically the very “landscape” of the Spratlys. To the horror of the US, that area now has a Chinese chain of huge de facto aircraft carriers disguised as islands, which have no need, as the US carrier battle groups do, for refueling. There is no doubt that the Chinese will fully arm these artificial islands. Why shouldn’t they, if American flotillas of warships regularly sail near them, when the US has no claim in that area.
Because of the arbitration, the South China Sea has become a tinderbox, as US warships, which had been regularly challenging the maritime claims of Chinese-occupied reefs with their so-called freedom of navigation operations, will instead be approaching fully armed Chinese fortifications, with the risk of an unplanned military skirmish between the two powers higher than ever.
That would be a slippery slope that could escalate into a regional or even global war between China and the US. And guess what would be the likely military targets of China in such a war? Five Philippine military camps — in Palawan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Cagayan de Oro and Mactan — that Aquino agreed in 2014 to house US troops and war materiel, through the so-called Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
None of the oligarchs mentioned nor Carpio have commented on my column last Monday, “Salim (aka MVP), Razon, Ongpin’s project behind Aquino’s discord with China,” whether to deny my assertions or confirm them. That piece has been one of the most widely read pieces in the Manila Times, garnering 8,000 “likes” and about 70,000 views. Of course that only shows how powerful oligarchs are.