Flag protocol breach seen in Xi Jinping's Philippine visit

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Flag protocol breach seen in Xi Jinping's Philippine visit
China's President Xi Jinping (R) and Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte inspect the honour guard during a welcoming ceremony at the Malacanang palace grounds in Manila on November 20, 2018. Chinese President Xi Jinping called his visit on November 20 to long-time US ally the Philippines a "milestone", as he aimed to boost blossoming ties on the promise of billions of dollars in backing for mega-projects.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — The Duterte administration appears to have broken protocol during the two-day state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Philippines.

President Rodrigo Duterte received his Chinese counterpart at Malacañan Palace Tuesday afternoon for an official welcome ceremony, followed by a bilateral meeting where 29 agreements were signed.

During Duterte and Xi's meeting, the arrangement of Philippine and Chinese flags were reversed, violating Republic Act 8941 or "The Code of the National Flag, Anthem, Motto, Coat-of-Arms and Other Heraldic Items and Devices of the Philippines."

Section 18 of RA 8941 states that, "When displayed in a row or in a parade with flags of other countries, the National Flag shall be on the left (observer's point of view) of other flags."

Behind Xi, the Chinese flag was placed on the left while the Philippine flag is on its right when they issued a joint statement after a bilateral meeting.

Historical researcher Eufemio Agbayani III pointed this out on Twitter, noting that the Philippine flag should be to the left of the observer to acknowledge the precedence of the country's flag in Philippine soil.

The same arrangement of flags, where the Chinese flag was to the left of the observer, was also noticed at the gates of Malacañan Palace and during the bilateral meeting between Philippine and Chinese officials.

Another breach in protocol was noticed during the inspection of troops during the welcome ceremony for the Chinese leader.

Instead of the Presidential Flag as dictated by Philippine protocol, the Chinese flag was carried when the two leaders inspected the troops in Malacañang.

Pointing out that the presidential standard carried as the president reviews troops symbolizes his authority as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, former Presidential Communications Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III noted that presidents can break traditions.

"It can be a dramatic statement with deep meaning, without having to say anything. In that sense 2018 is a year that marks discarding a tradition dating back to 1935," Quezon said on Twitter.

Quezon added that no president "ever breaks protocol" but they make "exciting modifications" or "dramatically dispense with protocol."

Agbayani, on the other hand, noted that this would not be the first time that the arrangement of flags would be wrong. The Chinese flags were also raised at the left side when a ranking Chinese official visited the House of Representatives.

"Our [government] seems too concerned with pleasing the [Chinese] guests that they'd rather follow [Chinese] protocol over [Philippine] protocol which we have followed ever since our independence was recognized in 1946, and perhaps even earlier," Agbayani said.

This would not also be the first time under the Duterte administration breaks flag protocol when a foreign leader visits the country.

During the state visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Japanese flag was also placed on the left while the Philippine flag was to its right.

Agbayani further noted that the last time the Philippine flag was placed on the right of a foreign flag was during the administration of former President Manuel Quezon, when the Philippines was a Commonwealth of the United States.

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: November 22, 2018 - 7:38pm

Former Deputy Speaker Lorenzo "Erin" Tañada calls on Filipinos to "help the administration be alert and protect the national interest" ahead of the scheduled visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping this week.

"This is an 'All Hands on Deck' situation, because our sovereignty is on the line. There are issues on Filipino jobs, public debt, and national territory to be agreed on that will affect us all for generations to come," Tañada says in a statement.

Xi is set to visit from Tuesday, November 20, to Wednesday, November 21. His visit signals 13 years since the last state visit of a Chinese president during the Arroyo administration.

"We know that the Chinese heads of state are shrewd negotiators and they will not waste this visit without closing key agreements. The last time we had a visit from China—President Hu Jintao in 2005—they were able to extract the highly questionable Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) from President Arroyo. We do not want a repeat of that or give up more of our sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea," the Liberal Party senatorial candidate says.

Tañada, who is a senatorial aspirant, says he himself will be watching for any agreements relating to loans and the protection of Filipino jobs, "in view of information that while 6 million Filipinos are unemployed, the government also permitted the entry of more than 3 million Chinese workers in the last two years."

November 22, 2018 - 7:38pm

Chinese President Xi Jinping has written President Rodrigo Duterte to extend his gratitude for the friendship and hospitality extended to him during his state visit to Manila.

"During my visit, I had talks with you, and held meetings with House Speaker Gloria Arroyo and Senate President Vicente Sotto III. We had in-depth exchange of views, reached important agreement on our bilateral relations and issues of shared interest, and witness the signing of a series of cooperation documents. I am truly pleased with the fruitful outcomes of this visit," he says in a letter released by the Chinese Embassy.

"During the visit, I was once again deeply touched by your sincerity and determination to grow our bilateral relations and by the friendly sentiment of the Philippine people toward the Chinese people. I am also deeply impressed by your insight into China-Philippines relations and the current international situation, which proves once again that China and the Philippines are partners in a common journey toward peace and development," Xi also says in his letter.

"I set great store by China-Philippines relations and value my personal friendship with you, Mr. President. I will work with you to strengthen political mutual trust and deepen practical cooperation in all fields so that the tree of China-Philippines friendship will grow more luxuriant and bear more fruits."

November 20, 2018 - 2:36pm

The camp of Sen. Antonio Trillanes releases a copy of the supposed China draft of the framework for the joint oil exploration deal with the Philippines.

The draft says that the two countries have agreed to conduct joint explorations for oil and gas in the South China Sea "[in] accordance with the principles of mutual respect, fairness and mutual benefit, flexibility and pragmatism and consensus."

The draft also states that the joint deal "shall not affect" the position on sovereignty and maritime rights and interests of the two countries in the disputed sea.

China claims it has historic rights over virtually the entire resource-rich South China Sea based on the "nine-dash line," which was invalidated in 2016 in the winning case of the Philippines against the Asian giant before an international tribunal in the Hague. 

This proposed framework, however, is likely to face a legal hurdle in the Philippines due to questions on sovereignty and its implications on the Hague ruling. 

Under Article XII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution, the "exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the [Philippine] State."

November 20, 2018 - 12:07pm

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

November 20, 2018 - 9:10am

Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay says President Rodrigo Duterte has rolled out the red carpet for China’s rule over the West Philippine Sea with Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to the Philippines.

He adds that the proposed joint exploration deal between the Philippines and China is illegal and unconstitutional. The terms for a joint exploration deal with China and the proposed lifting of the oil exploration ban in the disputed waters are expected to be discussed during Xi's visit.

"Our victory meant we could uphold our economic sovereignty and have full control over the resources in that area which, according to the 2016 Hague ruling, is not shared with China. Under our Constitution, it constitutes part of our national territory.  But a joint agreement with China is essentially a waiver of the decision in Philippines v. China. For Duterte to bargain this away and let China have their own way over our natural resources is a complete betrayal of the trust that the Filipino people gave him in May 2016," the former solicitor general added. ##

As the main agent in the 2013 case against China's claim over virtually the entire South China Sea, it was Hilbay's task to convince the tribunal that it has jurisdiction under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to hear the sea dispute.

The Philippines won the case against China in 2016.

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