Government must listen to its people: Primacy in our waters
Albert Del Rosario (The Philippine Star) - July 17, 2019 - 12:00am

(Opening remarks at Stratbase ADR Institute Forum, 12 July 2019.)


II. Inviting more questions

If there is an agreement with China to fish in our EEZ, either written or unwritten, we believe this raises the following vital questions:

1. Is this to be viewed as a successful Chinese invasion without a shot being fired?

2. Is this now a Philippine policy?

3. Is this not a clear violation of our Constitution that mandates our President and our military to defend what is ours?

4. To what extent will this adversely diminish or nullify what we had won in our arbitral tribunal victory?

5. To what extent will this embolden the Chinese militia vessels to further bully our fishermen? And what is to happen to our poor fishermen?  Will our Filipino fishermen be continually persecuted or prevented from fishing in our West Philippine Sea?

6. Can we be assured that our lawful rights to oil and gas within our EEZ are being fully protected?

7. With China’s artificial island building, the massive destruction of the marine environment and now this, how much faster will it take to exhaust the fish resources?

8. And when will we stop giving our northern neighbor primacy over that of our own people?  When will Filipinos be FIRST and not LAST, in our own country?

III. Government must listen to its people

I think the Filipino people deserve answers to these questions.

The Government must listen to its people.  Ninety-three (93) percent of Filipinos – [according to a recent Social Weather Stations/SWS survey] – think it is important for the Philippines to regain control of the artificial islands built by China in the West Philippine Sea. This 93% is four points higher than the December 2018 survey result, and steadily has been increasing.

Similarly, 92% of Filipinos think it is right to strengthen the Philippines’ military capability, especially the Navy, and 83% of Filipinos support bringing these issues to the United Nations, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or other international organization. 

In contrast, the same survey found that 80% of Filipinos were satisfied with President Duterte’s performance.

IV. Exacting accountability

Given the current administration’s decision to shelve the  Award, former Ombudswoman Conchita Carpio-Morales and I took the initiative of filing a communication before the International Criminal Court on March 15, 2019 for the wrongful acts of Chinese officials not only against Filipinos, but also against our neighbors in the South China Sea. This ICC Communication is a means of enforcing the Award because it is meant to exact accountability for the actions committed by Chinese President Xi and others, already found unlawful by the Award.

Given the unfortunate decision to shelve the Award, it falls on us ordinary Filipinos to find creative and viable means to enforce the Award, so we may be able to defend and preserve our national patrimony – including our West Philippine Sea, not only for ourselves, but for our children and those yet unborn.

V. Threats of war

Finally, To the deep dismay of our people, however, our government has persisted in allowing China to deprive our citizens of what is ours by continuing to shelve the tribunal outcome. We are still succumbing to threats of force including a threat of war. Surprising as it may sound, according to Professor Amitav Acharya of the American University, war is not even a good option for China.

Its economy is heavily reliant on global trade, including its fuel supply, which needs open shipping lanes such as the Malacca Strait and the Indian Ocean which are dominated by US naval power.

With the recent clearer security guarantee definition provided by the US, it may not be necessary therefore to shrink to China’s threat of war.

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