When did the dispute between the Philippines and China REALLY begin?

Here we go again. Retired former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio writes yet again in his latest piece “China does not possess the [West Philippine Sea]” published on the Inquirer. He continues to assert ad nauseum that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is “sending a message to oil and gas companies with Service Contracts from the Philippine government that China is in possession of the areas covered by their service contracts” and, as a result, “these companies assume the risk of being fired upon by Chinese coast guard vessels under China’s new coast guard law.”

It’s obvious that Carpio is lawyering and not acting as a patriot as the Opposition claims he is. Former Ambassador Bobi Tiglao proved this point in his Manila Times column “Revealed: The crux of our SCS dispute — natural gas” the other week when he detailed which companies stood to gain the most drilling for natural gas deposits in the South China Sea. It is interesting that Carpio again points out, “Since Malampaya will run out of gas in the next two to three years, we will have to import expensive liquified natural gas to feed our gas-fired plants in Batangas which provide 40 percent of the energy requirement of Luzon. This will result in higher electricity cost to consumers and businesses.” Then again, Tiglao writes…

President Rodrigo Duterte seems to be aware of the huge loss Malampaya will be and has floated the idea of commissioning the Bataan Nuclear Plant.

The easier source of energy would be Reed Bank, specifically its so-called Sampaguita Gas Field, which could well be the “new Malampaya” — if we rush now to explore and develop it. But this could be undertaken only with a joint agreement with China.

The Sampaguita Field was estimated in 2012 as having 4.7 trillion cubic feet of gas deposits, nearly twice that that of Malampaya’s 2.6 trillion cubic feet when it when it was discovered in 1992. This notion is bolstered by the fact that the Malampaya Gas Field is just 250 kilometers away from it, roughly in the area off Palawan where we have had our oil wells, such as the Nido, Masinloc and Galoc.

…but that “the Yellows and especially the three stooges of the South China Sea issue — as a cover to implement the US agenda to demonize China — will have absolutely none of this, and have kept repeating the infantile slogan ‘What is ours is ours’.”

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More importantly, the question not asked is this: When did the dispute between the Philippines and China begin?

The loss of Mischief Reef during the administration of former President Fidel Ramos didn’t trigger a diplomatic incident or crisis on the same level as the Scarborough stand-off. Philippine-China relations got off to a rocky start after Noynoy Aquino won the Presidency in 2010. The Luneta Hostage incident took place on August 23, 2010. This was the first major crisis under the Aquino administration and it didn’t end well. After the bungled assault on the tourist bus, eight Chinese nationals were dead. Thirteen suffered injuries from gunshot wounds. Aquino refused to take the call of Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang. There was no formal apology made to the victim’s families. The Philippines was placed on the Chinese travel blacklist. This was the lowest point ever in the history of Philippine-China diplomatic relations. Aquino formed an investigative body to determine culpability among the officials present at the incident led by Justice Secretary Leila De Lima. Administrative charges were recommended but none were ever filed. The Hong Kong government’s demand for compensation for the victims fell on deaf ears. It wasn’t until Joseph Estrada won the Mayoralty race in Manila that a compromise agreement was reached with the victims families and an undisclosed amount was paid as settlement.

On September 05, 2012, Aquino signed Administrative Order No. 29 designating the Philippines exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea as the “West Philippine Sea”. Carpio again accuses Duterte of defeatism in his column but the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard continue to conduct patrols and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teddy Locsin hasn’t stopped sending diplomatic protests to his counterpart. Carpio doesn’t respect the presidential prerogative on foreign policy as explained by former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile. The question that should be asked Carpio is why is he being more than assiduous now on the issue considering he had the duty to recommend a course of action to then President Ramos when he was Chief Presidential Legal Counsel.

Amid unconfirmed reports that tycoon Manny Pangilinan (MVP) and the Lopez family are set to back the presidential bid of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, it is clear that there is more than meets the eye on the issue considering MVP’s Forum Energy has a service contract from the Department of Energy for the Recto Bank area and the Lopez’s First Philippine Holdings is building a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Batangas for its gas fired power plants which supplies power to Pangilinan’s Meralco. It appears now that Carpio’s patriotism is a matter of convenience and will result in monetary and other benefits for him should Moreno win the Presidency in 2022.

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