A shame on ‘Bataan’
We strongly support Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio’s “call to specific actions” in reaction to China’s announcement that it would build a “monitoring or radar station” on Panatag (Scarborough Shoal) this year.
President Duterte’s “puzzling” reaction and statements assume that the only choices to China’s incursions are war (which we cannot win) or surrender (which the Inquirer calls defeatism).
But Justice Carpio mentioned a whole array of alternatives involving the use of diplomacy in the exercise of the constitutional mandate of the President, as commander in chief, to defend the national territory:
- The least that can be done, lodge a formal protest against any foreign construction on Panatag.
- Send back the Philippine Navy to patrol Panatag. In an agreement in 2012, both China and the Philippines agreed to withdraw their forces until the sovereignty issue shall have been settled. The Philippines withdrew but China did not, so the Philippines has every right to return to Panatag.
- Solicit the help of the United States under the terms of the 1951 Mutual Defense Agreement, should Philippine Navy ships be attacked. Unfortunately the President has tied his own hands by taking an anti-American stance and suspending joint Philippine-American patrols in the West Philippine Sea. He has yet to appoint an ambassador to Washington.
- Follow Japan’s lead in getting the United States to recognize Panatag as part of the Philippine territory covered by the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) of 1951, similar to the US-Japan MDT coverage of the Senkaku Islands.
Not mentioned by Justice Carpio is the possibility of an MDT between the Philippines and Japan, and joint Philippine-Japanese patrols in the West Philippine Sea.
A Philippine built lighthouse on Panatag could be reoccupied.
None of these intermediate steps is a declaration of war, but all these involve an active exercise of diplomacy in defense of our territorial integrity.
The Inquirer also advocates mobilizing the consensus of Asean, whose chairmanship the Philippines holds this year.
We must avoid the inept defeatism that has characterized this country’s attitude so far, a shame on the 75th anniversary of that shining beacon of Philippine valor, Bataan.
BENITO LEGARDA JR.,[email protected]
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