Noy to Pinoys: We can never win war against China

Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - May 27, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino yesterday reminded the public that the Philippines can never win a war against China, defending his administration’s decision to hale Beijing before the International Arbitral Tribunal over the maritime territorial row.

“Engage in hostilities? If we engage in hostilities there, can we win? Obviously not. But even in that aspect, are we endangering lives unnecessarily?” he asked.  

For a country to engage another in an armed conflict – one with military might at that – it should at least have a fighting chance, he said.

“It has a moral dimension, I think it was like Saint Thomas Aquinas who talked about just war. And part of his treatise was: if you engage in war, there has to be that possibility of winning…

“If there was guarantee that you cannot win, that was one of the tenets, then exhaustion of all means,” Aquino told reporters shortly after the launching of the Balog-Balog Multipurpose Project in Tarlac.

Aquino earlier told an audience during a campaign sortie in Caloocan City that it would be foolish of Manila to even think it can match Beijing’s superior weaponry and engage in a military confrontation against a giant like China.

Aquino said this was the reason the Philippine government had to bring the maritime issue with China to the international tribunal.

This, he said, is where the Philippines has a better case against Beijing because the arbitral tribunal adheres to the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS).

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the decision of the Philippine government to bring its case before UNCLOS is anchored on international law.

“The Philippines’ decision to seek arbitration as regards its maritime entitlements in the South China Sea is a clear manifestation of having international law being the anchor of a state’s actions,” Gazmin said.

He stressed that actions of states should be consistent with their policy pronouncements promoting regional peace and stability.

While the Philippines stressed that parties signatory to the UNCLOS are bound by the ruling of the arbitral tribunal, China conveyed that it will not abide by the court’s decision.

China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas, its claims overlapping with those of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

China has implemented a massive reclamation program in Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi), Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Kennan (Chigua),  Mabini (Johnson South), Burgos (Gaven) and Calderon (Cuarteron) Reefs, areas also being claimed by the Philippines.

Security officials said China is building artificial islands with airstrips, radar systems and military barracks on the reefs.

China also seized Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal from the Philippines in 2012. Panatag Shoal is located just 124 nautical miles from the nearest base point in Zambales province.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Rene Almendras clarified the Philippines still owns Panatag Shoal.

Incoming president Rodrigo Duterte earlier said someone should answer for the loss of  Scarborough Shoal to China, referring to Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV whom he accused of treason in his backchannel talks with Chinese officials over the claims.

The ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on the Philippines’ case against China is due to come out anytime and the decision will also affect maritime disputes, including islands in Africa and the Atlantic.

“The Hague decision will help the new administration in possible talks with China,” Almendras said in an interview on ANC.

He explained the maritime dispute cannot be bilateral because five countries claim portions of the territory.

The Philippines is the first country to question China’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

“We wanted to show the territories in question have been ours for the longest time,” he said.

The Aquino administration, Almendras said, did not start anything but the Philippines just reacted when China started to shoo away Filipino fishermen from the shoal.

“Foreign policy under the Aquino administration was based on principles. No president should surrender sovereignty to other nations,” Almendras emphasized.

He said history and official records will prove that there have been attempts to talk with China. – With Pia Lee-Brago, Cecille Suerte Felipe







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