Source: The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – Filipino organizations in the United States will stage demonstrations in front of China embassies and consulates on May 11 to protest Beijing’s recent aggressive encroachment on the Philippines’ Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.
Loida Nicolas-Lewis, national chair of a Filipino-American good governance organization based in New York, yesterday called on Filipinos throughout the world to mount demonstrations.
Among those quick to respond were Filipino organizations in Hong Kong, Canada and Australia.
China considers Panatag Shoal, located 124 nautical miles from the Philippines’ Zambales province, to be its “inherent territory” even though it lies more than 500 nautical miles from the nearest China port of Hainan.
The territorial dispute over Panatag Shoal, which China calls Huangyan Island, has escalated in recent months following these developments:
– Chinese navy ships recently confronted the Philippine navy vessel BRP Gregorio del Pilar, which sought to apprehend Chinese boats illegally fishing in the area. The Chinese fishing boats were found to contain endangered corals, rare fish and live baby sharks, which are considered illegal cargo under Philippine law.
– Chinese navy ships have fired on and harassed unarmed Philippine fishing boats and exploration vessels, forcing them to withdraw.
– Chinese navy ships have dropped steel posts and navigation buoys with Chinese markings in the waters around Panatag Shoal.
China’s Global Times, published by the government’s People’s Daily, reported in its April 25 editorial that China is prepared to engage in a small-scale war at sea with the Philippines: “China should select the most arrogant provocateur, conduct comprehensive strikes, and exert pressure economically, politically and militarily. If the water overwhelms China’s knees, other countries will find their necks in the water.”
To defuse the situation, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario proposed that the two countries bring their territorial dispute to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) but this proposal was immediately rejected by China.
Rodel Rodis, national president of the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG), called on the Global Filipino Diaspora Council (GFDC) representing 12 million Filipinos in 220 countries throughout the world to support the Philippines’ sovereign claim to Panatag Shoal which has been in Philippine maps since 1743.
“A strong showing of support and solidarity by Filipinos in the Diaspora will impress on China that it is not just confronting a small country that it can easily bully, but one that has citizens scattered throughout the world who can mobilize and galvanize public opinion against China,” Rodis said.
Ted Laguatan, USP4GG national spokesman, also “called on all Filipinos and all those others who believe in freedom and the right of every country to control its own destiny to join us in a global demonstration at Chinese embassies and consulates in the United States and around the world at noon on Friday, May 11.”
China: Phl and US will never succeed
As this developed, a commentary in the English newspaper People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of China’s Communist Party, yesterday said that the Philippines will not succeed in getting support from the United States over the recent territorial dispute over Panatag Shoal.
“The Philippines and China have been stuck in a stalemate for many days. The Philippines recently conducted military exercises with the United States and the South China Sea issue has again become the focus of world opinion. The Philippines pretended to be bullied by a big country and hoped to get support from the United States. They will never succeed because it not only violates the principles of International Law but also ignores the historical facts,” the commentary written by Li Xuejiang said.
It said both the Nansha Islands and Xisha Islands originally belong to China and the Philippines’ and Vietnam’s territorial claims of South China Sea Islands is mainly on the basis of the system of exclusive economic zone and continental shelf regulated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The commentary said that the UNCLOS cannot replace other norms of international law.
“The principles of historical rights and international law are the most effective principles to determine the ownership of the territories, namely, the principles of first discovery, first occupation and first exercise of jurisdiction,” it said.
The commentary said that China has had jurisdiction over the South China Sea since the Song and Yuan dynasties.
“Even in modern times, the Republic of China was internationally recognized to take over the South China Sea Islands based on the Cairo Declaration and Potsdam Proclamation after the defeat of Japan,” it said.
The commentary explained that the administrative regions map of the Republic of China had marked the boundary line in the South China Sea in 1947 and the People’s Republic of China also re-declared its territorial sovereignty of the South China Sea Islands in the Declaration of the government of the People’s Republic of China on the Territorial Sea in 1958.
It said that the Philippines and the other claimant countries did not express any opposition to China’s claim over the disputed islands until the 1970s and after the UNCLOS took effect in 1994.
Li said the Philippines and Vietnam’s sovereign claim to the South China Sea Islands is based on the “adjacent geographic location.”
“It is untenable whether it is based on the international law or the reality,” the commentary said.
To support its argument, the commentary cited France’s St. Pierre Island and Miquelon, which are only 20 kilometers away from the coast of Newfoundland of Canada but are thousands of kilometers away from France.
“Denmark’s Greenland is far away from the continent of Europe but is separated with a narrow strip of water from Nunavut in northern Canada. If using geographic proximity as the only criteria to determine the ownership of territories, most coastal and land border lines in the world would have been redrawn,” it added.
The commentary likewise argued that China has the responsibility to defend its territory regardless of size.
“Defending the territorial sovereignty has nothing to do with the size of the country. Every country has responsibility to protect its territory whether it is small or big. China is a big country but it was invaded in the late Qing dynasty,” it said.
The commentary added that the conflict in the South China Sea – which the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea – is associated with China’s rise.
“(It) is just an excuse for Western countries to curb the rise of China. Anyone with discerning eyes can see that the Southeast Asian countries are used by the United States to contain China and service for its strategy of ‘returning to Asia to contain China.’
“Hypocritically, the United States who had refused to sign the UNCLOS now uses the UNCLOS to contain China. Who can believe the so-called fairness and neutrality the United States boasts?” it said.
A time to unite
Meanwhile, a foreign relations expert at the Senate called on everyone to help settle the Phl-China dispute peacefully rather than resort to muscle-flexing in the West Philippine Sea area.
“Can you imagine, there will be a high profile meeting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Del Rosario and Defense Secretary (Voltaire) Gazmin, and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, what will China say now? China will say that we are siding with the United States,” the source told The STAR.
The source reiterated that the best way to solve the crisis in the West Philippine Sea should be through diplomacy.
“Outwardly, they fight each other. But behind their official function, there should be back- channeling. Let’s not go over the brink here. This Scarborough conflict does not even rate worldwide. We are so small here,” the source added.
President Aquino is sending Del Rosario and Gazmin to meet with Clinton and US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to discuss the issue.
He said there should be no cause for alarm amid reports of the conduct of war games between Russia and China, adding that superpowers like the United States and China know very well the capabilities of each other, and that they would think twice before going to war.
He said Aquino should tap business tycoons George Ty, Lucio Tan and even former House speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. in the back-channeling efforts because he still has vast contacts in China.
The source made the recommendation even as President Aquino has yet to appoint an ambassador to China after he did not reappoint businessman Domingo Lee who failed to secure the nod of the Commission on Appointments.
Tan is close to top Chinese officials, which were his contacts in setting up his businesses in Fukien and Xiamen, the source noted.
Ty, who owns the Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co., has also established vast businesses in China.
The source added Aquino can also tap as consultants Eric Macalinao and award-winning journalist Chito Sta. Romana, former Beijing bureau chief for ABC News who stayed in China for 39 years and witnessed the development of China from Mao to the present time. – Mike Frialde, Christina Mendez