I have refrained from political posts on my Facebook account in deference to my friends who are on the opposite side of the political fence, so please indulge me on this issue of the San Beda alumni community petition that President Rodrigo Duterte retract his statements on the South China Sea row with China because I cannot let this pass.
As one who has a media background, this interview of former Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chairman Winston Ginez who was among those who signed the petition is cringe-worthy because it is akin to leading the witness in legal parlance. You have an anchor who is trying very hard to speak English with an American accent and a lawyer whose grasp of spoken English is poor. Shame considering he is a Bedan lawyer.
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The issue of the South China Sea dispute is not as simple as the Opposition paints it to be. Any freshman lawyer will tell you arbitration requires two parties who agree to subject themselves to the process. How can it be arbitration when only one party is present?
The historical underpinning of China’s claim cannot be discounted. The Chinese have been in the Philippines long before it became the same under the Spaniards. If you read the history of the islands in the South China Sea, the Spaniards and the French claimed some of them during the time of their colonial outposts in Vietnam and the Philippines. In fact, these were included when Spain sold the Philippines and what is now the Northern Marianas Islands to the United States in 1898 under the Treaty of Paris.
Kalayaan Island off Palawan was first “discovered” by self-proclaimed Admiral Tomas Cloma. Cloma subrogated his claims to the Philippine government which led to then President Ferdinand Marcos issuing a Presidential Decree forming the Kalayaan Island Group and making the same under the jurisdiction of the Provincial Government of Palawan.
The concept of exclusive economic zones (EEZs) originated from the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS. If EEZs were strictly enforced, these would be overlapping. Case in point, Taiwan controls the island of Itu Aba, which is just off Kalayaan. If the Philippines and Taiwan were to enforce the EEZs of each island, there would be a conflict because these would straddle parts of both islands.
During the administration of former President Fidel Ramos, the Philippines lost control of Mischief Reef. The Chinese built “fishermen’s shelters” on the formations. China wasn’t an economic and military power yet during this time but you can now see how they’ve built artificial islands which are actually fixed bases forming a defensive line for the Chinese mainland.
If the Ramos administration and those which came after it had any foresight, budget allocations would have been made for similar formations claimed by the Philippines but none of the sort was done. Case in point is Ayungin Shoal. A Philippine Navy ship was grounded there and serves as the base of Philippine Marines stationed on the ship.
As one who is familiar with marine and fisheries products, I can point out that our country does not have an ocean-going fishing fleet. The Taiwanese have long been poaching in our waters with their clipper boats. These are fishing vessels with on-board processing and freezing lines which process the catch as soon as these aree brought aboard. The catch is destined for both the domestic market in Taiwan and the export market, primarily the Philippines. In the consignacions in Navotas and Malabon, these fish are known as Japayuki. If we want to exploit marine resources in our EEZs then we need to have a fishing fleet to do it with. One reason why the price of fish is high is because of the presence of a number of traders between the fishermen who actually go out to sea and the wholesale and retail markets in Navotas and Malabon.
It is very convenient to blame Duterte for all of the problems of the country at present. Ginez claims he doesn’t have a political agenda. I call bullshit on this. His track record at the LTFRB speaks for itself. He cannot say that he did not owe his appointment to the powers-that-be during former President Noynoy Aquino’s administration. If you want to understand how government works, you should try joining it. I did at the local government unit (LGU) level and I only lasted eleven months. It is difficult to reform a system which is infested by leeches who benefit off it. This is why they are against digitization. It would mean the end of all those rackets off which they make money.
Finally, if we, as Bedans, are to be true to the words of our alma mater hymn, which this “fraternal statement” also cites, we should look at ourselves in the mirror to be sure that there are no hidden agenda or vested interests at play.
This was evident in the interview when the anchor referred to the Talk to the People of the President as a “show” with former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile as a “guest.” The two could’ve discussed the issues among themselves in a room but, no, they just had to air it.
The host probably isn’t aware of the concept of Presidential prerogative. This is what Enrile was emphasizing to the President — that he is the only architect of the country’s foreign policy by virtue of the mandate he received from the people with whom he has a social and moral contract with.
The problem with Filipinos is we can’t decide if we want the rule of law or mob rule to prevail. Any lawyer worth his salt is aware of this. It is part and parcel of the code of professional responsibility which lawyers should strictly adhere to. This is why dura lex, sed lex; the law may be harsh but it is the law.
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