A verbal agreement between President Duterte and President Xi is what it is – a verbal agreement. Is that verbal agreement already part of our national policy? Is it being carried out? It is my humble view that it is not. Why? There is no showing that the Department of Foreign Affairs as well as the Department of National Defense are implementing that so-called verbal agreement.
In fact, on occasion, the two frontline agencies have expressed different views. Having said that, we will be better off to just leave it at that.
Maybe our problem is, we have a spokesman who talks more than he should. He telegraphs every move and every plan that the executive has on issues that need a little diligence and study.
The 2016 Hague ruling expressly states that Recto Bank is part of the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and therefore cannot be claimed by China. Having said that, allowing a joint investigation with China and a third party may be interpreted as a waiver of our sovereign rights over Recto Bank.
While the intention of this administration may be laudable in trying to preserve our country’s bilateral relations with China, presumably for political and economic reasons in order to uplift the living standards of our people, we should also consider the more important issue of sovereign rights as expressed in the arbitral ruling.
At the very least, that must be clearly addressed during the conduct of the joint investigation.
In an interview on CNN Philippines, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
– President Duterte’s take on the ‘hit-and-run’ at the West Philippine Sea
– newly discovered irregularity involving the PhilHealth board
It is disappointing to say the least, not much by his insulting remark but his self-limiting course of action which disregards an effective ‘weapon’ in our arsenal. It is found in the Mutual Defense Treaty.
No less than US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said as much very recently – that the US and the Philippines have an obligation under such treaty to respond accordingly if a vessel belonging to either party, military or civilian is attacked in the West Philippine Sea which according to him is within the area of the Pacific.
As I said in my tweet, I am not praying for World War III, but at least a strong presence of the US Pacific fleet in the WPS can make China feel the balance of power in that area.
On Claims that the Mutual Defense Treaty Requires an Armed Attack for the US/PH to Act
Nevertheless, as a result of the Reed Bank incident, the Mutual Defense Treaty can be used as a proactive and preemptive measure to justify US presence in order to avert whatever possible armed hostilities that could take place in the West Philippine Sea.
As I said earlier, the incident last week has already happened. But it serves as an eye opener for possible armed confrontation between our Armed Forces of the Philippines or Coast Guard and the Chinese military.
Hence, the presence of US military in the West Philippine Sea can still accomplish the balance of power that I am talking about.
That kind of backward thinking by Sec. Nograles and Mr. Panelo is why we are in this situation. We should not wait for an armed aggression against our vessels to occur before we invoke the treaty.
Proactive thinking by way of increased US presence in the area is logical because of the prevailing situation in the West Philippine Sea. As I said, what we are trying to accomplish is balance of power.
We don’t treat our friends like that and we don’t expect to be treated that way either.
Nothing short of a hard and serious punitive action by the Chinese leadership against the Chinese crew responsible for the cowardly act against our fishermen could assuage the majority of our countrymen’s strong apprehension about the sincerity of China towards us.
This incident calls for a leader-to-leader talk. As I said, nothing short of a serious punitive action by the Chinese government against those responsible can convince us of a real friendly relationship between our peoples.