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Opinion

Yasay must avoid mistakes of P-Noy, Trillanes ‘treason’

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

China reneged on leaving Scarborough Shoal. That’s Noynoy Aquino’s alibi for losing the traditional Filipino fishing ground to the militarist neighbor in June 2012. Supposedly the United States had brokered a simultaneous withdrawal of Chinese and Philippine armed vessels. But after the Philippines dutifully departed, China stayed, and that’s that.

Five accusers think otherwise. In a treason rap they implead P-Noy for sending Sen. Antonio Trillanes as backchannel to Beijing. Evidence indicates that Trillanes gave vital information that emboldened China to grab the shoal. Too, that the senator belittled the US-inspired deal, overruled knowledgeable Philippine diplomats, and did things on his own without telling P-Noy. (See Gotcha, 25 May 2016, http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2016/05/25/1586768/treason-raps-filed-vs-sen.-trillanes)

“What should we have done there?” P-Noy now says about the standoff between one Philippine vessel accosting and six Chinese ships defending Hainanese poachers inside the horseshoe-shaped shoal. “If we engage in hostilities, can we win? Obviously not. But even in that aspect, are we endangering lives unnecessarily?”

P-Noy makes no mention of Trillanes’ backchanneling. Why? Answers may lie in the document.

Cited in the treason charge is “Brady Notes: Aug. 17, 2012,” named after then-Philippine Ambassador to Beijing, Sonia Brady. The document implies that P-Noy amateurishly had sidelined his own foreign secretary, thus letting a megalomaniac with a sinister agenda give away Scarborough.

The “Brady Notes” state that Trillanes believed “there was never any negotiation between the Chinese and the Americans, just a meeting with Kurt Campbell.” For him, Campbell, the US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, “was not a negotiator.”

Trillanes believed he was the sole negotiator. The document states: “The arrangement being looked at by the senator was one side would leave first then the other side then the next, etc. They were talking about the manner of evacuating the Scarborough. He then received a call from P-Noy, saying why are the Chinese still there when there was an agreement for simultaneous withdrawal.”

It so happened that the Chinese ships stayed to claim Scarborough as theirs. Occupation, as they say, is 90 percent of any territorial claim. (See full text in http://www.rappler.com/nation/12700-enrile,-trillanes-fight-over-china)

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In the aftermath of China’s invasion, Manila filed an arbitration case before the United Nations. The Philippines is seeking a ruling that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea gives it rights over Scarborough. The shoal is 123 miles from Luzon, within the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone, but 900 miles from China’s southernmost Hainan island-province. China claims the shoal by “historic right,” which the UNCLOS forbids. The arbitral tribunal in The Hague is expected to decide in a few weeks in favor of the Philippines.

Incoming foreign secretary Perfecto Yasay expects China to ignore the ruling. He says there would be no other option but bilateral talks.

If that’s his view, then he had better beware. The Philippines has tried bilateral talks with China many times before, to no avail. Beijing’s communist leaders use bilateral talks only to divert attention from militarist designs.

Yasay humbly says he has yet to study the history of the South China Sea dispute. That is the best approach, instead of naiveté or power trip.

He would find out that China as far back as 1989 had planned to grab the entire South China Sea. The then-vice chief of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy unveiled a defense strategy of building a virtual Great Wall along the Pacific Ocean. That defense perimeter consists of two “island chains.” The first extends west of Japan in the East China Sea down to western Philippines in the South China Sea. The second is from the southern tip of Japan down to Papua New Guinea, east of the Philippines.

Based on that plan China in 1995 grabbed Mischief Reef, off Palawan, also within the Philippine EEZ and far away from Hainan. Manila tried bilateral talks to make Beijing stop building supposed “fishermen’s shelters against typhoons.” Beijing protracted the talks over the monsoon season, when Philippine Navy ships couldn’t patrol the reef. When the weather cleared, what emerged on Mischief were concrete fortifications, artillery pieces, military communications facilities, a heliport, and a naval base. From there China has since been attempting to grab Sabina Shoal, closer to Palawan.

Yasay also must understand the nuances of China’s system. The Communist Party is above the state. It first installs a secretary general, then makes him President of the People’s Republic, and ultimately the chairman of the mighty Central Military Commission. That way the communists control the People’s Liberation Army directly as well as through the government.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs is a communist apparatchik from the elite Politburo. But unlike high military commissars, he is not a member of the Standing Committee, much more the seven-man Executive Committee. In effect, Chinese diplomacy is subordinate to the military. For China bilateral talks can serve as military tactics.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ, (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA

E-mail: [email protected]

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