“THE Philippine shall remain an enemy of none and a friend to all,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano proudly proclaimed on the occasion of the first year anniversary (July 12) of the historic ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague handing the Philippines a sweeping victory over China in the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
Such statement exposed Cayetano’s naiveté in diplomacy if not his outright ignorance of international relations and the dynamics of global politics.
Cayetano’s pathetic statement betrays the Du30 administration’s treacherous action of abandoning the interest of the Philippines in its territorial dispute with China. It is also a cheap attempt to cover up and sugar-coat the administration’s blatant subservience to China and becoming its newest lapdog in the neighborhood.
The ruling of the PCA upholding the Philippines’ 370-kilometer Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and invalidating China’s nine-dash-line is the most definitive and equivocal affirmation of the rule of law in the relationship among nations. China, as a behemoth neighbor, cannot just use its advantage in size, strength and clout to bully, intimidate, and terrorize its neighbors. The ruling gave protection to small and weak nations like the Philippines from abuse and harassment of bullies and aggressors like China.
The ruling of the PCA is the moral, legal and diplomatic weapon of the Philippines to stave off China’s aggressive and hostile actions in grabbing its territory in the West Philippines Sea. It put China on the defensive and made its position in the West Philippine Sea highly untenable. Instead of using this weapon to ward off China’s land-grabbing activities, the Philippines, under the leadership of Du30, threw away its most potent and deadly weapon.
Upon assuming office, Du30 undermined the PCA ruling by muting it and acting as if it does not exist. Under intense pressure from the public, Du30 and his minions would occasionally issue lame one-liners claiming it is committed to the ruling only to demolish it again by adding that the issue will be raised in due time.
Du30 justified his cowardly behavior by claiming that to raise the issue is to court war. He even revealed that he stood up to Chinese President Xi on the issue only to be rebuff with a threat of war. Given Du30’s penchant for lying and talent for falsification, his claim cannot be taken at face value. Also, considering Xi’s diplomatic savvy, it is doubtful he would be that crude. More likely, Du30 is again trying to give excuse to his sell-out to China and betrayal of the country.
Aside from Du30’s personal behavior, his administration has committed many sins of omission to undermine and dilute the victory of the Philippines in the PCA. For example, the Philippines was given a golden opportunity to promote and advance the PCA ruling when the country chaired the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit this year.
As chair, the Philippines sets the tone of the agenda and the communiqué issued after the summit. To the surprise of everyone, the Du30 administration’s silence was deeply deafening. The territorial dispute was not raised in the summit and there was no mention of it in the joint statement to the applause and delight of China. It was a stunning reversal of position, Philippines under the leadership of Du30 acting more like a vassal of China, joining Cambodia and Laos as China’s boys in the block. What a shameful and embarrassing behavior the Du30 administration displayed.
The eloquent display of idiocy of the Du30 administration was severely criticized by prominent legal luminaries, jurists and experts in diplomacy and international relations. Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said “the Philippines dropped the ball,” in describing Du30’s handling of the issue. “The stunning victory [PCA ruling] became strangely orphaned. The Duterte administration refused to celebrate the ruling even though the ruling legally secured the Philippines a vast maritime zone than the total land area of the Philippines.”
Jay Batongbacal, director of UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea describe the relations between China and the Philippines to be “based on submission and fear.” Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay who led the Philippine team in the arbitral tribunal on the other hand said that “the current administration seems to have adopted a policy of defeatism and a mindset of non-enforcement of the award. Filipinos haven’t seen any forward movement for the Philippines and there have been no push back against China’s continued aggression.”
Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative (Amti), a US think tank, director Greg Poling called “wasted year” the 12 months after the ruling came out. “In exchange for diplomatic niceties and pledged (but not yet realized) investment, China has gotten the Philippines to set aside the arbitral award without needing to modify its claims or slow down its construction of military facilities at all.”
The Du30 administration can only muster a dismal vague response to the criticisms saying the Philippines is a “regional peacemaker.” Such spineless and submissive statement highlights the Du30 administration’s unashamed and unabashed subservience to China.
The territorial integrity of the country must not, cannot and should be compromised and the Du30 sold it not even for thirty pieces of silver but for a bowl of porridge. Before China completely over-run the West Philippine Sea and formally annex Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal, the Filipino people must firmly act and do something to prevent the impending loss of national territory courtesy of a China puppet administration.