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Ignorant senators, irresponsible newspaper

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FOR two straight days, the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s banner headlines were about bringing our disputes with China to the United Nations. Its banner on June 26: “Senator backs bringing WPS case vs China to UN.” Who’s the senator? Francis Tolentino.

Yes, he’s vice chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, which, because it doesn’t have a hand in almost anything in the country, is one of the least sought-after posts in the Senate. But c’mon, Tolentino’s worldview has probably not gone beyond Tagaytay, which he has headed for 18 years, and beyond the buildings of Metro Manila as chairman for five years of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

Screaming headlines supporting a cockamamie proposal.

And then yesterday, that paper had as its banner: “UN as venue to resolve WPS row gains support.”  Who threw in their support to that cockamamie idea?

One, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, has been also a small-city mayor and hardly a thinker known to contemplate geopolitics. The other is Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who had been with the Pink Akbayan Party for years before she made a successful run for the Senate due to then President Benigno Aquino’s inexplicable, massive support.

With utmost respect, these three senators are colossally ignorant about, in general, what our territorial disputes with China are about, and in particular, what the “ruling” by an arbitral panel was in 2016 involving these issues. I doubt very much if Estrada, Tolentino and Hontiveros even read the 500-word ruling. I strongly suggest they undertake a crash course on the South China Sea disputes before pontificating on these.

Why, I don’t think they have even read the United Nations Charter, or even know what this international body with 193 member states is.

Government

The UN is not a “world government,” nor does it have authority to rule on disputes between nations, especially disagreements on the rightful owner of any territory.

We will be the laughingstock of the world if our government tries to bring the  South China Sea disputes to what they refer to as the UN General Assembly for it to issue a resolution. Hontiveros wants the UNGA to issue a resolution asking China “to stop its harassment of Filipino vessels in the West Philippine Sea.”

These ignorant senators obviously are naïve, believing that getting a resolution passed by the UNGA is as easy as getting a resolution passed by the Senate. UNGA resolutions are serious stuff, made on very important issues confronting the world, which the majority of the 193 members support. 

Such resolutions require extensive research and documentation to be presented to the GA. Stop China’s harassment of Filipino vessels? But the Chinese claims it is Filipino vessels that are intruding into their sovereign territory, without even attempting to get their permission. What proof would Hontiveros present to the UNGA — Inquirer and Philippine Star clippings?

Tolentino gullibly believes that  the government should support the proposal of retired Justice Antonio Carpio “to file a resolution seeking UNGA’s action to compel Beijing to respect the 2016 arbitral ruling that recognized Manila’s sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.”

Misinformation

That idea is based on the massive misinformation spread by the US and Carpio that the 2016 arbitral ruling supported the Philippines‘ sovereignty claims and rights  in the South China Sea.

First, the arbitral panel has no authority to rule on sovereignty disputes. In the very first pages of the panel’s “ruling,” it emphasized that its “award” was “without prejudice to any questions of sovereignty or maritime boundary delimitation.”

Secondly, the ruling is really a hoax*, with its perpetrators claiming that it invalidated China’s nine-dash line that encompasses a huge part of the South China Sea. It is therefore ruling that China’s claims in the Spratlys are invalid.

Yes, the ruling invalidated the nine-dash line. But even the US official position is that the nine-dash line is not the basis of China’s claims in the South China Sea. It had made its claims hundreds of years ago which are embodied in Chinese laws.

Academic

The arbitral ruling the three senators and Carpio want the UNGA to ask China to comply with, is that it really doesn’t order China to do anything. Its findings actually border on being academic in these aspects. This indicates that it is really nothing but a propaganda tool.

It doesn’t order China to vacate the seven features in the South China Sea (SCS) that it has occupied since 1988. It doesn’t order it not to undertake patrols by its Coast Guard, “maritime militia,” and even by the People’s Liberation Army Navy in our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and in that part of the Spratlys that we claim, the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG).

It doesn’t order Chinese fishermen not to fish in our EEZ but only for China not to bar Filipino fishermen fishing around Scarborough Shoal.

EEZ

Yes, the award “ruled” that no feature that China occupies generates an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and therefore only the Philippines has an EEZ in the Mischief Reef and Reed Bank areas. But does it order China to vacate these areas or to desist from stopping Philippine-authorized oil exploration ships from exploring for oil and gas in the Reed Bank? No.

It can’t as this would mean ruling that China’s claims of sovereignty over these areas it calls the Nansha and Zhongsha archipelagos are invalid, which it cannot do.

The “award” didn’t order China to dismantle its fortifications on the artificial islands it built in response to the filing of the suit against it. It doesn’t order it to remove its vessels from Scarborough Shoal.

The award concluded that based on a seven-day study by an environmental scientist (who wrongly used his findings from Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as a substitute for the South China Sea, as he didn’t go there), China’s reclamation work has damaged the corals there. But does it order China to pay the Philippines whatever compensation for such damage? No.

DNA

It’s perfectly understandable for the three senators to talk nonsense and speak from a vast reserve of ignorance. After all it is in the DNA of Philippine senators to try to always be in media’s limelight, a requirement for the next election cycle.

I can’t understand though — unless they are as ignorant as the senators which might well be the case — why the Inquirer’s editors would broadcast their nonsense in banner headlines.

The impact of such idiotic headlines is to demonize China that public opinion would be against striking a compromise agreement with the Chinese to make the South China Sea an area of peace and cooperation. That is terribly irresponsible for the Inquirer to do.

On Friday, I will discuss such a compromise to the South China Sea disputes, which has even been proposed by anti-China American scholars.

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*I have shown this based on extensive arguments and documentation in my 2022 book Debacle: The Aquino regime’s Scarborough fiasco and the South China Sea arbitration deception.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jonathan B. Bangui

    Media limelight in aid of re-election is the motivation of these ignorant senators. Staying in power makes them relevant. I voted for Sen. Tolentino not for this specific issue but I think he is better compared to the other two senators on other issues 😁🤣😂

  2. Dorina S. Rojas

    Not only senators but other government officials are just as ignorant and irresponsible when it comes to this West Philippine issue. I feel embarrassed for them. I think I am beginning to regret that I voted for them.

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