Nagging questions on China
Question: What is the similarity between China and the Caloocan police?
Answer: China claimed that it had stopped reclamation work on the disputed islands in the South China Sea since 2015 (Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano supported the claim); the Caloocan police claimed that Kian delos Santos was shot and killed because he shot at them first. Both claims were belied by pictures: In China’s case, satellite images showed its reclamation activities in late 2016; in the Caloocan case, CCTV footage showed the policemen dragging Kian off…
In short, both are bare-faced liars, caught red-handed by modern-day technology.
Q: How far do Filipinos trust China vs. America?
A: The Social Weather Stations survey in September 2016 showed that Filipinos trusted America the most (+66) and China the least (-33), among the countries surveyed. The SWS also reported that since 1994, when the question was first asked, America has always showed positive ratings, its lowest being +18 and its highest +82; China has showed positive trust ratings only 7 times out of 40, and its highest trust rating was +17 (lower than America’s lowest), while its lowest was -46.
In short, Filipinos don’t trust China any further than they can throw it (and China, a giant, can’t be thrown very far).
Q: So why does President Duterte trust China so much and distrust America?
A: No hard evidence on which to base an answer. Communications Secretary Martin Andanar told me in an interview (you can catch it on Monday) that the President “listens.” Well, yes, he “listened” to the outraged cry against Kian’s murder, but he obviously hasn’t “listened” to the Filipino distrust of China (Filipinos have dealt with Chinese since pre-Hispanic times).
All these make up background for the current issue relating to China’s bare-faced lies or its treachery vis-à-vis the Philippines, which are well-documented in Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s book, “The South China Sea Disputes” (downloadable, free).
While vowing eternal friendship with us and offering billions of dollars in “aid” (we should look that gift horse in the mouth, given the offerer’s predilection for mendacity), China has sent two frigates (warships), a coast guard vessel and two militia maritime fishing boats, to guard Sandy Cay (which is Philippine territory, being within 12 nautical miles from Pagasa). Moreover, it has prevented a Philippine government vessel from approaching.
Q: Why should Filipinos be worried?
A: Because it is the same strategy that China employed to gain control of Scarborough Shoal (Panacot, Bajo de Masinloc) off Zambales in 2012. More, after the United States brokered a deal under which Chinese and Philippine ships were to leave the area, China reneged on what it had agreed to; the Philippines left, in good faith. Nadenggoy tayo. Which is why we went to The Hague, and won our case.
The effect of Sandy Cay’s occupation by China is enormous, according to Justice Carpio. It will reduce Pagasa’s territorial sea by a third or more, and it will prevent us from claiming Subi Reef. “By any yardstick, this is a seizure of Philippine territory.” And he demanded that the Philippines take active diplomatic and legal measures on record.
Q: What is the Duterte administration doing about it?
A: The reaction is such that one would think it was lawyering for China. To wit: 1) What ships? (It denied their existence, although they were caught on satellite); 2) The ships are just exercising the right of innocent passage. (Carpio: Innocent passage requires no stopping, or loitering. The ships have been there since Aug. 12—again caught on satellite); 3) AMTI-CSIS, the think tank that provided the pictures, is American, therefore it is there to promote US interests. (Me: What? Do we think they photoshopped the whole thing?); 4) We are not going to war over a sandbar. (Me: Nobody suggested going to war. Moreover, that sandbar, since it has high-tide elevation, is entitled to a 12-nautical-mile territorial sea around it, more than twice the land area of Metro Manila).
And lastly, Q: This issue is one where we need the best and brightest to decide on strategy. Why isn’t Justice Carpio in the loop?
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.