La Salle profs to Duterte: Show resolve in defending West PH Sea


Posted at Apr 26 2021 05:08 PM | Updated as of Apr 26 2021 06:35 PM

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte "must genuinely show the resolve he promised" in asserting the Philippines' rights in the West Philippine Sea during the 2016 presidential campaign, several faculty members from the De La Salle University said Monday.

Putting into action his commitment five years ago is in fulfillment of his "constitutional duty," educators from La Salle's international studies and political science departments said in a joint statement after Duterte reiterated his view that recovering Chinese-occupied features in the West Philippine Sea entails war.

"We re-assert that appeasement emboldens the aggressor, peace without dignity is subjugation, and asserting our rights is not a declaration of war," the teachers said.

"The President should disabuse himself from the simplistic notion that the only other option is to antagonize China and risk war."

As a presidential candidate, Duterte said in April 2016 that if Beijing refuses to honor an arbitration ruling on the South China Sea and continues to occupy features there, he will go to an airport built by China on reclaimed land in the Spratlys to plant the Philippine flag.

"Matagal ko nang ambisyon na maging hero ako. Kung pinatay nila ako dun, bahala na kayo umiyak dito sa Pilipinas," he said then.

(It has been my ambition to become a hero. If they kill me there, you can mourn here in the country.)

In a televised public briefing last week, Duterte said war would break out if the Philippines asserts its rights in areas being claimed illegally by China in the West Philippine Sea.

China continues to claim almost the entire South China Sea, of which the West Philippine Sea is a part, despite having no legal basis, as adjudged by the UN-backed arbitration court in The Hague. The sea is major global trade route that is also believed to hold valuable oil and gas deposits.

Early last month, hundreds of Chinese ships were found moored near the Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef) off Palawan province. Several of these ships remained there until this month, while others were found in other parts of the West Philippine Sea, even as Philippine officials have formally told Beijing to withdraw.

A retired Philippine Supreme Court judge warned that the presence of the Chinese ships at the Julian Felipe Reef may be a prelude to occupation and building of military base, as China did on Mischief Reef, also in Philippine waters, in 1995.

"We are equally appalled by the failure of our own government to effectively secure the sovereignty of our country... We must seriously strengthen our maritime security capacity," the DLSU teachers said.

"We must stand against those who think that might is right. It is high time that our government values our nation's patrimony," they added.

The teachers said "there are multilateral solutions that could be explored."

A number of countries, including the United States and Japan, have condemned China's activities in the South China Sea, describing those as threat to peace and stability in the region.

But the Philippines must take the lead in protecting the West Philippine Sea from China so that the US, at least, can lend its support, Manila's ambassador to Washington Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez said Monday.

The Philippines and United States are bound by a 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.


In condemning China's continuing intrusions, the DLSU teachers said, "The acts of the Chinese government jeopardize the welfare of our fisherfolk and the sustainability of aquatic resources in the area."

It also "causes tension in the area given the increased militarization," they said.

Distancing from the United States, Duterte forged closer ties with China when he assumed power in 2016, setting aside the maritime disputes in favor of economic aid and investments.

Duterte's spokesman, Harry Roque, said last week there is a status quo on the maritime disputes with China because the Philippines has no military power to take back the seized features, including some artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea.

"Modus vivendi na lang po tayo ‘no, na nakaukit naman sa papel kung ano iyong ating karapatan. At bagama’t hindi natin napapatupad ito ay hindi naman mabubura ng Tsina iyan," said Roque.

(It's modus vivendi for us. But our rights are already assured on paper. But while we cannot enforce those, China cannot erase the same.)

"It’s not the Philippines saying, we cannot enforce it. It’s just the nature of international law sa ngayon na wala tayong (now that there is no) enforcement mechanism when it comes to arbitral awards," he added.


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