The lawmakers from the minority bloc led by Senators Franklin Drilon and Risa Hontiveros made the call to Cayetano, saying they are skeptical of his claim that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has filed 50 to 100 protests against China’s aggressive maritime claims.
Edd Gumban
DFA urged to bare 100 protests filed vs China
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - June 14, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers yesterday called on Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano to make public the so-called hundreds of diplomatic protests filed by the government against China for its violations of Philippine sovereignty.

The lawmakers from the minority bloc led by Senators Franklin Drilon and Risa Hontiveros made the call to Cayetano, saying they are skeptical of his claim that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has filed 50 to 100 protests against China’s aggressive maritime claims.

They said Cayetano’s disclosure of protests would temper the growing public indignation over the apparent lax and subservient attitude of the Duterte administration toward China.

“I didn’t know that we’ve been assertive of our rights. Maybe I’m not reading newspapers enough or listening to the radio but I was surprised that we’ve filed 100 protests, which I find hard to believe,” Drilon said.

Drilon and Hontiveros also pressed the Duterte administration to file a diplomatic protest against China following the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal incident where the Chinese coast guard seized the catch of Filipino fishermen.

“Maybe just a little more courage is needed and I’m requesting Secretary Cayetano to file a protest. We must protect our right over that area, especially given the favorable ruling that we had,” Drilon said, referring to the 2016 ruling of the UN arbitral tribunal.

Hontiveros renewed her call for an “audit” of the administration’s foreign policy by the Senate to include the listing of all protests filed by the DFA.

Robbery and piracy

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the arbitral ruling had declared Panatag Shoal as a rock that generates no exclusive economic zone and therefore officially a free fishing area among the claimant countries.

“The acts perpetrated by the Chinese coast guard crew are nothing but crimes of robbery or piracy,” Lacson said.

But since the Philippines has reportedly lodged a diplomatic protest and China in turn committed to investigate and punish those liable, Lacson called on critics to wait for the outcome.

“I think it is an overreaction by the critics of the administration who want no less than putting our country on war footing with China over something that does not merit such response,” Lacson said.

“It may be prudent to await the feedback of the Chinese government on the outcome of their investigation and the corresponding disciplinary action they would take against the concerned coast guard personnel,” he said.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque had said the incident was in violation of an agreement between China and the Philippines allowing Filipino fishermen at the shoal.

The Chinese foreign ministry, however, said it is allowing Filipinos to fish in Panatag Shoal “out of goodwill.”

Nonetheless, Chinese officials gave assurance an investigation is underway over the incident.

But to Vice President Leni Robredo, such gesture is a virtual slap in the face.

“To me when you say you’re allowing it ‘out of goodwill’ is a big slap in our face, a big insult to all of us,” Robredo said.

Robredo said the Duterte administration is “too soft” when it comes to handling the incursions into Philippine-claimed territories.

“We need to make our voice strong, we need to strengthen our protest. If we indeed filed a protest, it should be in strongest terms for it to be noticed,” she said.

Robredo said the Philippine government should assert its maritime rights by strengthening its presence in the West Philippine Sea.

“Some were saying that the government pulled out (the military) patrolling the West Philippine Sea but the government has denied it. But whatever it is, we need to strengthen our presence in the West Philippine Sea,” she said.

For his part, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said the incident broke out due to the absence of maritime patrols on the part of the Philippine Navy or Coast Guard (PCG).

Trillanes said maritime patrols were done regularly even before the present administration.

Trillanes claimed the information that he and Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano received about the order to stop the maritime patrols came from several senior officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Based on the information they received, Trillanes said the order to stop the patrols came as early as last year.

He said there are no exclusive economic zone (EEZ) patrols whatsoever at Panatag Shoal in spite of the fact that the country now has new vessels precisely for this purpose.

If the PCG cannot conduct these patrols, then Trillanes said the Navy could do this since they are deputized by the PCG.

Trillanes, a former Navy officer, recalled how Panatag Shoal was part of the areas he and his colleagues regularly patrolled because there was no prohibition to do this.

He pointed out the Panatag Shoal is a common fishing ground and maritime sanctuary so fishermen from any nation are free to fish there.

Whenever vessels are caught in the middle of bad weather in the open seas, then they could also take shelter there without any problem, Trillanes said. – Marvin Sy, Helen Flores, Jaime Laude

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