A MILITANT party-list legislator on Saturday pointed out red flags in the joint Philippines-China statement, saying that it may compromise the country’s claims at the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago of Kabataan noted that, while several points in the joint statement mention the settling of territorial disputes through “friendly consultations” by “sovereign states directly concerned” and “in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [Unclos], the statement left out the landmark decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration [PCA] at The Hague that favored the Philippines.”
In its 21-page ruling rendered in July, PCA decided that China’s claims in the South China Sea (SCS) had no historical or legal basis, thus puncturing a big hole on the nine-dash claim that the Kuomintang regime in China propounded in 1947.
Chairman Mao Zedong of the Communist Party of China (CPC) did not give any credence to the Kuomintang claim and opposed any expansionism that President Xi Jinping of China is advocating now.
Worse, the 11-dash line that China is now propagating extends beyond Philippine territory to include some Pacific islands, proving to one and all the imperial designs of Xi.
“The joint statement may sound good at first reading, especially parts that describe the bilateral relations with Beijing as ‘founded on mutual respect, sincerity, equality and mutual benefit.’ However, we must contextualize certain points. For example, what will be the implication of the document’s insistence on the resolution of territorial disputes through bilateral means? What is the implication of leaving out the decision of the PCA in July in the text of the joint statement? These are red flags, and it poses serious concerns on our rightful claim on the WPS,” Elago said.
The “bilateral” resolution of disputes might prove to be disadvantageous for the Philippines in the long run, as it will be entering negotiations in the future without the upper hand, especially if future bilateral discussions on the WPS issue will not be grounded on the decision of the PCA that favors the Philippines.
Worse, the legal victory of the Philippines will be set aside by the Duterte administration, as it thinks that China will splurge billions of dollars out of generosity, noting that the $9 billion in loans to be extended by Beijing would come from private banks that do not charge “fraternal” rates.
“The text of the joint statement might also preclude the Philippines from rallying fellow claimants in the SCS, and other nations, to aid in drumbeating our rightful claim in the sea dispute,” Elago added.
She stressed the joint statement’s strong preference for a “bilateral consultation mechanism” simply means a big nation like China would not treat a small nation as the Philippines as an equal.
Unless Duterte is not listening, China had emphasized for years that its sovereignty over a clump of outcrops in the middle of the sea is “nonnegotiable” and the Philippines, under Duterte, would only plead to be allowed to fish in its traditional fishing area in Panatag Shoal, which is more than 1,000 kilometers from China and within the country’s exclusive economic zone.
The implication is that the PCA verdict is meaningless and that from hereon, China would be a big brother to Duterte.
“Our worry is that the $24 billion in trade deals brought home by President Duterte from his state visit in China might come at the cost of our sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Elago also said.