The problem with the Opposition is they keep on making false claims. Joel Ruiz Butuyan, in his Inquirer piece “China and our next president”, writes; “We need to know what every candidate intends to do with the international Arbitral Award that our country won against China. Will our candidate continue the path of the Duterte administration in setting aside the award, or will he or she choose an entirely different path?” Butuyan’s position, as expected, is one of fear of that continuity that his camp are bent on blocking…
The Duterte administration has either closed its eyes or has played along with China’s insistence on a diplomatic solution, even when China has forcibly occupied or imposed control on an area over which we have exclusive rights. Even when our fishermen have repeatedly complained of China’s bullying maneuvers, our government has chosen to sweep the complaints under the rug, repeatedly touting instead the supposed benefits we gain from Chinese loans and investments.
One only need recall our earlier article detailing discussions Antonio Trillanes had with a group of Ateneo professors about what really happened during the Scarborough standoff. There was a glaring disconnect about the Presidential proclamation for the West Philippine Sea signed by then President Aquino. If there is a West, shouldn’t there be an East as well? China has the East China and South China Seas clearly defined in maps. The real story could not have been more different to Butuyan’s preferred narrative…
Duterte has done away with his predecessor’s belligerent policy towards the regional military and economic giant that is China. His policy of rapprochement has led to warmer ties and a de-escalation of the tension-filled relations during the administration for former President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III when there was a travel ban in place and Philippine banana exports were subject to quarantine before being allowed entry. This was the offshoot of the Luneta hostage-taking incident over which Aquino refused to apologise to the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Worse, Aquino also did not speak on the telephone to Donald Tsang, which added insult to the injury and death of the Chinese nationals who were taken hostage.
Butuyan is also either misinformed or lying when he writes; “About the same time that China was intimidating our poor fishermen, we experienced shortages in our country’s supply of galunggong and we began importing the fish from China.” The importation of frozen fish products began as early as the 90s. As a marine products trader, I pioneered the sale of Dole Seafood round scad or galunggong export rejects in the mid-90s. Round scad was caught in volume by fishing companies based in General Santos. The good size and quality were exported to Japan for use as bait of the long-line tuna boats the Japanese deployed to fish for tuna in the Pacific Ocean. There was also the mackerel caught by Taiwanese clipper boats which had onboard processing and freezing equipment imported by the Navotas and Malabon fishing magnates. Our lack of supply stems from the non-development of our fishing industry and the lack of post-catch facilities in the region along with poor supply chain and logistics infrastructure.
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It’s been also made clear by no less former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban that enforcement of the arbitral award is a tedious process. We are better off negotiating with China bilaterally. He also misrepresents Sen. Ping Lacson’s statement about his stand on foreign policy if ever he wins the Presidency writing that he plans to “align ourselves with foreign powers who share our interest in stopping China’s aggression”. Lacson made it clear during his participation in the Kamuning Bakery’s Pandesal Forum that he would continue with the independent foreign policy as defined in the Constitution. He didn’t mention alignment with country’s which can help enforce the arbitral ruling.
Butuyan doesn’t even bring up the more serious implications of the Quad alliance in relation to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its major trading partners made up of China, Japan and South Korea. Butuyan is making it a Philippines-versus-China issue when it is not that simple. As it is, Joe Biden has been taking a beating on US foreign policy as well. Just last week, the State Department was caught off-guard by his categorical statement that the US would defend Taiwan in case China made moves to take back what it considers a renegade province. The US still has to recover its foreign policy bearings after Afghanistan, which again is on the brink of collapse. Butuyan is just trying to rouse public opinion in favor of Leni Robredo who can’t even pronounce sovereignty correctly.
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