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China ‘our friend’? By what logic?

President Duterte, in his latest pronouncements, has magnanimously decided that he would allow Chinese fisherfolk to fish in disputed Philippine waters because they are “our friends.” Let us parse this statement—in the sense of examining or analyzing it minutely—starting with these last two words, and going backward.

  1. “Our friends”: China is our friend? By what logic does he come to that conclusion? If China is our friend, we don’t need any more enemies.
  1. Does a friend betray us? China did. We had a standoff with China on Panatag Shoal in 2012, and the United States brokered an agreement that required both parties to leave the shoal. The Philippines did, but China stayed and brought in warships and now acts like it owns it.
  1. The Philippines filed a case with the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which ruled in our favor in 2016, declaring China’s nine-dash line (the basis of its claim over the South China sea) to be without legal or historical basis. But China is still in possession of seized islands, and is even harvesting giant clams and jeopardizing our natural resources. That’s friendship?
  1. Does a friend lie to us? China has. The most recent in-your-face example is the hit-and-run incident in the Recto Bank, which is, like Panatag, within our exclusive economic zone. China’s version of the hit-and-run is ridiculous and belied by evidence that China cannot refute—satellite pictures of the area at the time, which showed that China’s fishing boat was not “besieged “ by eight Filipino fishing boats. Worse, our fisherfolk were abandoned. No help. Friends?
  1. Does a friend diss us? China did, ignoring the diplomatic passport the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) gave to former ambassador Albert Del Rosario, and deporting him from Hong Kong out of hand (proof that Hong Kong officialdom are puppets of China).

What has been the Duterte administration’s response to this betrayal, this ignoring of a judgment by an international body, this lying, this dissing by China? Complete brownnosing on our part. China is exculpated, she is still our friend, and we were apparently at fault.

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Example: Salvador Panelo saying there is no evidence of a US-brokered agreement in 2012, and even if there was, Del Rosario was naïve. And Del Rosario is at fault again, because he should not have used a diplomatic passport to which he was not entitled.

The DFA then canceled all courtesy diplomatic passports. As if that were the solution. And when Vice President Leni Robredo opined that that was beside the point, that we should be defending our citizens rather than blaming them (and canceling their passports), she was excoriated as being “boba.”

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In sum, China may be your personal friend, Mr. President, but in no way can you say that she is a friend of the Philippines.

  1. “Disputed Philippine waters.” I’m sorry, President Duterte, but the issue has already been resolved by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016. Recto Bank and Panatag Shoal have been declared part of the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines (see B, above). Only China has been “disputing,” and she has no legal basis for doing so. That you make so little of our country’s victory in The Hague, instead of making an international issue of it—isn’t that a betrayal of public trust?
  1. “Allow Chinese fisherfolk to fish.” That’s not your call, Mr. President. As Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has pointed out, the Constitution is very clear: “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” (Article XII “National Economy and Patrimony,” Section 2).

What part of “exclusive” don’t you understand, Mr. President?

You said early in your presidency that the Constitution was just a piece of paper, but you did take an oath to “preserve and defend” it. That you now ignore this provision is not only a betrayal of public trust, it is also a culpable violation of the Constitution. Both impeachable offenses.

Mr. President, the Filipino people have held you in the highest trust and confidence. Please live up to that trust and confidence.

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TAGS: China, friends, Rodrigo Duterte
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