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Editorial

Resist the lies

/ 05:08 AM August 27, 2020

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana blasted China this week for its outrageous claim that the Philippines had been conducting “illegal provocative activities” in the West Philippine Sea. In a statement Sunday, Lorenzana hit the contention of Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian that the Philippines had infringed on China’s sovereignty and security when it sent military aircraft to Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, and that the Philippines should “immediately stop illegal provocations.”

“Illegal provocations? That area is within our EEZ (exclusive economic zone). Their (China’s) so-called historical rights over an area enclosed by their nine-dash line doesn’t exist except in their imaginations,” said Lorenzana.

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“They (China) are the ones who have been doing provocations by illegally occupying some features within our EEZ. Hence they have no right to claim they are enforcing their laws,” he added.

There, that’s how to do it: Push back every time at China’s lies. Fight its falsehoods with the truth.

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Zhao was reacting to the diplomatic protest filed last week by the Department of Foreign Affairs over China’s illegal confiscation back in May of Filipino fishermen’s equipment in Scarborough Shoal. The DFA also said it “resolutely objected to China’s continuing illicit issuances of radio challenges [to] Philippine aircraft conducting legitimate regular maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea.”

China seized Scarborough from the Philippines in 2012 following a tense standoff, which then led to the filing of a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. In 2016, the Philippines won the arbitration award, which invalidated China’s claims of historical ownership over much of the South China Sea and upheld the Philippines’ territorial claims.

However, evidently subscribing to the dictum that a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth, China has rejected the ruling and continues to insist on its so-called nine-dash-line claim to the region, which no country in the world recognizes. On the contrary, Indonesia, Vietnam, the United States, Australia and other countries have all formally cited the Philippines’ landmark award as the starting point for any honest-to-goodness discussion of the South China Sea dispute based on international law, specifically the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to which Beijing is a signatory, and which was the basis of The Hague ruling.

Zhao’s baseless claims are breathtaking for their arrogance and willful denial of such facts. The Philippines’ act of patrolling its own waters “infringes on China’s sovereignty and security,” he charged, and that “it is beyond reproach for China Coast Guard to conduct law enforcement in Huangyan Dao waters” — Beijing’s name for Scarborough Shoal — “as it is a lawful practice.”

Lies, lies, and more lies. Failing to debunk such untruths only encourages China to spout more of the same, hence it is imperative for the Philippines and other claimant countries to assert their rights vigorously and resist China’s spurious rhetoric every time.

That goes as well for acts, no matter how small, that condition Filipinos to think that subservience to the bully in the neighborhood is somehow the right response to keep the peace. Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso’s

immediate action last week, for example, against a product that bore the startling label “Manila Province, P.R. [People’s Republic of] China” was absolutely the right call. Domagoso shut down four establishments of Elegant Fumes Beauty Products Inc., a Binondo-based cosmetics company, for its outrageously mislabeled hair care products, sought the deportation of its two Chinese owners, and warned that such insults against Philippine sovereignty should not be taken lightly.

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“No way na harap-harapan niyong aalipustahin ang aming lungsod,” Domagoso declared. There could be a more insidious reason to the erroneous label, he pointed out: “Baka mina-mindset na tayo ng mga ’yan. Magulat na lang tayo, kung sino-sino na ang nasa bakuran natin. Magulat na lang tayo, iba na ang sagot ng mga bata sa Araling Panlipunan.”

A valid fear, one would think, given China’s increasing inroads into the country, both through hard power—the seizing and militarization of Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea — and soft means — the entry of Chinese state firms into strategic sectors of the Philippine economy and the influx of Chinese workers, many of them undocumented.

But if Domagoso and the public were scandalized by the “Manila Province, P.R. China” claim, Malacañang was unperturbed. “Kalokohan lang po ’yan,” said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque. Then again, who was it who did suggest to an audience of Chinese businessmen and the Chinese ambassador, even if only as a “joke”: “Kung gusto ’nyo, gawin ’nyo na lang kaming province, parang Fujian… Province of Philippines, Republic of China”?

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TAGS: Delfin Lorenzana, Editorial, Maritime Dispute, PH-China relations, South China Sea, West Philippine Sea
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