Cayetano: Prove Philippines lost an island to China and I will quit

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Cayetano: Prove Philippines lost an island to China and I will quit
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano speaks during a flag-raising ceremony at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City.
DFA / MJ Roldan

MANILA, Philippines — Stressing that the country has not lost a single inch of territory to China, the Philippines' top diplomat said that he is willing to quit public service if proven otherwise.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday challenged his critics to prove which features in the South China Sea were "lost" during the Duterte administration.

"I challenge anyone of them. Whatever their professions are — justice, politician, newsman, journalist — if we lost a single island during Duterte's time, I will pack my bags, go home and I will not serve the public in any elected or appointed position," Cayetano said during the flag-raising ceremony at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The secretary made this statement in response to a column published by The STAR titled "How many islands does Philippines still have?"

In the article published Sunday, columnist Federico Pascual Jr. said the "smart answer to the question 'How many islands comprise the Philippines?' used to be: 'Depends on whether it's low or high tide.' Not anymore — now the cautious reply is: 'Before or after Duterte?'"

"Are you willing to face this administration, and show us which island feature or inch, square-inch we lost during Duterte’s time? I’m willing to show you what we lost in the last administration," Cayetano said.

Cayetano, however, clarified that he is not blaming the Aquino administration for "losing" control of the Scarborough or Panatag Shoal.

He pointed out that before the arbitral award and before Chinese ships blockaded Scarborough Shoal, the Philippine government had been arresting Chinese and Vietnamese fishermen in Philippine waters.

The July 2016 arbitral ruling concluded that Scarborough Shoal is a traditional fishing froing of the Chinese, Filipino and Vietnamese.

"And I'm not blaming the last administration. Ano yan eh, it's dynamics; There were things that happened then," Cayetano said.

Meanwhile, China has deployed missile systems on Fiery Cross Reef, Mischief Reef and Subi Reef.

Tribunal ruling

The landmark ruling of the United Nations-backed tribunal clarified that Fiery Cross Reef is a rock, Mischief Reef is part of the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines and Subi Reef is a low-tide elevation.

The arbitral tribunal also ruled that China's occupation of and construction activities on Mischief Reef violate UN Convention on the Law of the Sea provisions concerning artificial islands and structures.

The arbitral ruling itself acknowledged that Beijing has occupied Mischief Reef, a low-tide elevation not capable of appropriation as a territory. China's reclamation of Mischief Reef without authorization from the Philippines breached the UNCLOS.

China has been insisting "indisputable sovereignty" over the Spratly Islands and has downplayed its deployment of missile systems in the area as it "targets no one."

Beijing's claim of sovereignty over Philippine-claimed islands is a clear indication that Manila has lost control over these features, which is contrary to Cayetano's claims.







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