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Editorial

With such friends, who needs enemies?

/ 05:16 AM June 27, 2019

But why shouldn’t the proposed joint inquiry into the June 9 ramming and sinking of the FB Gem-Ver 1 by a Chinese trawler near Recto Bank include the latter’s poaching in the area?

The Chinese trawler’s questionable presence in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is central to the matter, and its poaching, contrary to the position enunciated by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, shouldn’t be deemed a “collateral issue.”

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Why take the absurd stance of excluding such a significant — and long-running — point from the investigation when the ramming and sinking of the Philippine vessel, and the eventual abandonment of its 22-member crew in the icy waters, stemmed from it?

And it’s not as though the Philippines has even begun to address China’s continuous poaching in Philippine waters. Other governments less weak-kneed and weak-willed would take, for example, China’s large-scale harvest of Philippine giant clams as the brazen provocation that it is and express the commensurate indignation — a response that is not and should not necessarily be viewed as an invitation to war.

The “bobo,” like the foreign secretary who mistakes facility in the English language for intellectual heft, would think the taklobo are just “fucking food” unfit for discussion.

In fact, giant clams, now endangered, and raised painstakingly by Filipino scientists, “filter the water, recycle nutrients, and provide food and habitat for other organisms.”

They also serve to help strengthen Philippine reefs, the same reefs destroyed in the course of China’s construction of military structures on the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea. Consider the immense damage China has wrought in that regard.

Only last April, the Palace mouthpiece Salvador Panelo appeared to talk from the other side of his mouth when he was asked to comment on a report that China was again poaching giant clams wholesale at Panatag Shoal. (The report came as hundreds of vessels believed to be part of China’s maritime militia were clustering near the Philippines’ Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea.)

The man bestirred himself and declared that China’s harvest of giant clams at Panatag “is an affront to our territory and to our sovereignty.”

It is not known what happened to the diplomatic protest that the Philippines was said to have filed in that connection, or if it was a ghost protest, along with the protests against China that then Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano rather shamelessly claimed he had filed.

It has been more than two weeks after the near-death experience of 22 Filipino fishermen, courtesy of the captain and crew of the Chinese trawler. The administration’s proposed joint inquiry with China is a ridiculous idea that should forthwith be ditched, being just another manifestation of the Philippines’ timorousness vis-a-vis its giant “friend.”

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After all, administration officials occupied themselves in those two weeks with chipping away at the fishermen’s report of a hit-and-run and with eroding their (the fishermen’s) credibility and self-respect.

And will the joint inquiry amount to much when President Duterte himself quipped — chew on this for a moment — that he didn’t think China would allow its fishermen to be barred from Philippine waters, “because we’re friends”?

The 1987 Constitution is crystal-clear in Article XII, Section 2: “The State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.” Recto Bank, around 148 kilometers northwest of the province of Palawan, is within the Philippines’ 370-km EEZ over which it has sole jurisdiction, according to the 2016 landmark ruling of the Netherlands-based Permanent Court of Arbitration that threw out China’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea.

(Though weary, attentive observers will recall an early signal of the Duterte administration’s stance toward China: then Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay announcing the Philippines’ signal victory in The Hague with a forlorn face, as though he were informing the public of the details of a wake.)

Interpreting the astounding remark of his principal — in his description a “calibrated man” — Panelo let loose with a choice piece of horse manure: First, China will not allow being barred from Philippine waters “because as far as [it is] concerned, [it has] historical rights to that area,” and, second, “we will allow it because we’re friends.”

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TAGS: EEZ, FB Gem-Ver 1, Inquirer editorial, Menardo Guevarra, Recto Bank incident, Reed Bank incident
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