An opportunity for diplomatic negotiations thrown away
FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - January 25, 2014 - 12:00am

There are always two sides to the question. This is especially true with the recent Chinese reiteration of rules about fishing in the South China Sea. The rules are not new. It has been there for decades but those who were more interested in escalating conflict between the two countries worked overtime to interpret it as an act of aggression and this is the side that has been getting the publicity.

Filipinos have to be more informed rather than take every propaganda trick that aims to aggravate the conflict. The problem is access to mainstream media in the Philippines that does not see public interest as a duty. It demands information and searching questions to shape responsible opinion.

For this, readers (usually without time and patience, all trying to make a living) have to search in less accessible sites either in the Internet or social media to see another perspective.

Philippines Ambassador Alberto Encomienda has made the management of the sea his life-long passion and has much to teach our diplomats. He has organized a website called “Balikbalangay” that could be a center of information for differing opinions. The website includes fishing as part of the management of the sea. It is criticial to the Philippines because of countless Filipino fishermen who make their living from fishing.

To Encomienda, the reiteration of fishing laws by China can be turned around as an opportunity for the two countries to come up with a cooperative agreement.

 Chinese official sources said “the fisheries conservation regulations had been issued and published by China since the 1980s.” There was no reaction from the Philippines then and yet these are the very same rules that are being attacked today.

“The regulations are not about exercise of sovereignty but conservation,” says Encomienda.

He adds that it may have been unilateral at first but when UNCLOS came into force in 1994 it was included to promote cooperation. Because of that inclusion in UNCLOS “the applicable provision in the State Constitution of China would render a bilateral agreement on Fisheries to be of superior standing to domestic laws.“

Therefore, if there were a fisheries agreement with the Philippines, the provisions of this agreement would govern over domestic laws, rules and regulations. Now that UNCLOS is in force, China would be willing to update arrangements according to UNCLOS prescriptions. The two countries should sit down and agree on how to meet their concerns half-way in regard to the current controversies. That is how to protect our fishermen, not through balderdash about going to war. What utter nonsense.

Finding ways for cooperation should be encouraged and nurtured. China has “reiterated its call on the Philippines to meet Beijing halfway to jointly maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.”

“China is committed to resolving disputes with countries directly concerned through negotiation and consultation, implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) together with all parties concerned, and upholding the principle of “shelving disputes and seeking joint development,” spokesperson Hong Lei said in a statement.

Asean Foreign Ministers meeting in Myanmar welcomed the statement from China. The Philippines is a member of Asean. One would think it should welcome the Chinese initiative to resolve disputes through peaceful means as embodied in  Asean’s  Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea.

“The key is that all parties should commit themselves to the full and effective implementation of the DOC and do more to promote mutual trust and cooperation. China hopes that relevant countries could meet China halfway to jointly maintain peace and stability of the South China Sea,” Hong said.

The use of diplomacy for resolving problems in the South China Sea conflict between China and the Philippines has never been as close to being possible with this development. Strangely, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario seems to be only interested in promoting conflict. Apart from dismissing the Chinese fishing regulation in the South China Sea he also pushed for the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).

 He is throwing away an opportunity for peaceful settlement that is in the interest of the country and particularly the livelihood of fishermen. Maybe he should meet with the fishermen, talk to them and listen to what they have to say.

*       *       *

The first thing that came to my mind when the Aquino administration appointed Senator Panfilo Lacson as the “rehabilitation czar” was the Dacer-Corbito murders. What happens to it? The Dacer daughters are now in the US.

Jerry Quibilan emailed: “Flash! Very big news. Based on the evidence, US Federal Court in San Francisco just awarded the Dacer family $4.2 million against Michael Ray Aquino whom the Court concluded was ordered by Estrada and Lacson to kill Dacer. Rodel Rodis is the lead attorney.” We were staunch rebels against the Marcos dictatorship.

“As many of you may know, I filed a federal civil lawsuit against Joseph Estrada, Panfilo Lacson and Michael Ray Aquino (and 4 other defendants) — under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Alien Torture Victims Protection Act for their roles in the torture and execution of Salvador “Bubby” Dacer on Nov. 24, 2000 - on behalf of Dacer’s four daughters who are now US citizens.

While I could not serve the summons and complaint on Estrada and Lacson (the process servers in the Philippines said I couldn’t pay them enough to risk their lives process serving those two), I was able to serve Michael Ray Aquino, Lacson’s henchman, who personally stage managed the abduction, torture and murder of Dacer and his driver, Emmanuel Corbito.

After three long years of litigation in federal court, US District Court Judge William Alsup finally handed down his decision.

*       *       *

Buddy Cunanan, honorary consul of Georgia to the Philippines sent word two Filipinos will make a historic open water swim in Cape Town, South Africa on Feb. 9, 2014 to celebrate Philippine-South African Friendship.

The two swimmers are Betsy Medalla and Julian Valencia. They will swim in shark-infested waters and temperatures from 12 to 15 degrees Celsius and swim 7.2 kilometers from the shores of Robben Island to the suburb of Bloubergstrand in Cape Town. Helping him is Honorary Consul of the Philippines in Cape Town, Steven Chaimowitz.

 This will be the first time Filipinos — or Asians — will make the attempt. Medalla is a 44-year-old mother of two, a former member of the Philippine National Swim Team, and an accomplished tri-athlete swim coach. Secondary swimmer Julian Valencia is 40 years old, an age-group tri-athlete and runner, and a former member of the UP Varsity Swimming Team. 

The swim is to thank South Africans for their help after Super Typhoon Yolanda and to honor the late President Nelson Mandela.


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