Where’s the law for Phl to get even?

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

Is there a peaceful way to retaliate against China’s attacks in the West Philippine Sea? Yes, says international maritime lawyer Jay Batongbacal, PhD.

With the Maritime Zones Act, the Philippines can demand diplomatic parity. Here’s how, says Batongbacal:

• If China assaults our resupplies and fishing in Ayungin and Panatag Shoals, then we can forbid Chinese passage through our internal waters.

• Reciprocally, if China respects our right to our own exclusive economic zone, then we will let them through.

Recall the June 17th atrocity. Five speedboats of more than 40 Chinese coastguards rammed a Philippine Navy rubber craft beside BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin. Eight Filipino sailors were about to unload food, water and equipment.

The enemy boarded, knifed and axed the rubber boat, fired lasers and looted supplies. They barred medivac of one Filipino whose thumb was severed by the ramming. All this was videoed.

China’s barbarism was well planned. Propaganda was ready. Within an hour its embassy disinformed that the Filipinos did the ramming and provoking.

On June 19th four People’s Liberation Army-Navy warships entered Philippine internal waters on “innocent passage.” Philippine Coast Watch monitored them.

Destroyer Luyang III (DDG168) and frigate Jiangkai II (FFG570) entered Balabac Strait between Palawan and Mindanao at 1:49 p.m. Destroyer Renhai (CG105) and replenishment oiler Fuchi (AOR907) followed at 3:56 p.m.

All sailed the international sea lane in our inner waters for hours then exited Surigao Strait to Pacific Ocean.

It’s impossible that the PLA-Navy didn’t know what its coastguards had done two days prior. They all report to the China Communist Party-Central Military Commission.

With the Maritime Zones Act we can bar any more Chinese naval pass through. No longer may it cross to and from South China Sea and Pacific Ocean via:

(1) Balintang and Babuyan Channels between Batanes and mainland Luzon;

(2) Balabac and Mindoro Straits on the west through Sulu Sea to Surigao Strait on the east and

(3) Sibutu Strait 16 nautical miles wide between Tawi-Tawi and Sabah onto Celebes Sea.

Chinese coastguards ganged up on Filipino sailors, June 17

Without Balintang and Babuyan passage, China warships will have to sail farther north via Bashi Channel between Batanes and southern Taiwan. Or between northern Taiwan and Okinawa.

Without Mindoro, Balabac and Sibutu passage, China warships will have to veer far west between Singapore and Borneo, turn south at the Indian Ocean, then east to Celebes Sea onto the Pacific.

PLA-Navy sail times will prolong, costs will rise, operations will be hampered. As Sun Tzu said, “Begin by seizing something your opponent holds dear, then he will be amenable to your will.”

But where’s that Maritime Zones Act (MZA)? Where’s that potent legal weapon against China?

The Senate unanimously ratified the bicameral conference committee report on March 18th and the House also unanimously on March 19th. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. should have signed it or it should have lapsed into law by now.

It has been reverted to the bicam, principal Senate author Francis Tolentino told Gotcha Monday. Why that procedural breach? Because of an apparent oversight.

“We need to reconcile the legal definitions of internal and archipelagic seas,” Tolentino said. “Since Congress is in recess, the bicam can’t muster a quorum, so we’ll have to wait ‘til July resumption.” Principal House author Rufus Rodriguez was askance: “I am puzzled why the bill has not yet been sent to the President for signature despite bicam approval last March.”
Sources blamed the Office of the Solicitor General. It belatedly questioned the constitutionality of the proviso on internal and archipelagic waters, they said. That’s strange, because the Senate and House consulted OSG lawyers every step of the way.

Queried, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra texted: “I’m not at liberty to comment on the bill. Final version is pending with Congress.”

Marcos is raring to sign the Philippine MZA, he told the Shangri-La Dialogue on global security, Singapore, May 31st. That will have to wait ‘til after his July 22nd State of the Nation.

The MZA rankles Beijing. It bad mouthed the bill for months. On April 21st the China Communist Party English-language organ Global Times lengthily quoted ex-president Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque bashing the MZA.

In December 2021 then-Senate president Tito Sotto urged Malacañang to certify the bill as urgent. Pro-Beijing, Duterte declined.

A Philippine MZA will blunt China’s expansionism. Other Asia-Pacific states might follow suit. Only 22 states are archipelagic.

We must do whatever the enemy doesn’t want. “A great soldier fights on his own terms,” Sun Tzu also said.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., dwIZ (882-AM). Follow me on Facebook: https://tinyurl.com/Jarius-Bondoc

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