Government using threat of war with China as 'scare tactic,' say ex-officials

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 12 2019 10:34 AM | Updated as of Jul 12 2019 06:49 PM

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario: "The problem that we face today is that the award we won has been shelved resulting in more unlawful acts of intimidating and bullying in the South China Sea." Photo by Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Raising the possibility of a losing war with China only serves to "scare" the Philippines, advocates of Manila's interests in the South China Sea said Friday.

China can be held liable before the International Criminal Court if it launches a "war of aggression," thus, "it is obvious that raising the specter of war is to scare the Filipino people to submit to China," said Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

The Philippines has been "succumbing to threats of force including a threat of war" even when experts had said that war was not a good option for China, said former Foreign Affairs Sec. Albert del Rosario.

"With the recent clearer security guarantee definition provided by the US, it may not be necessary therefore to shrink to China’s threat of war," he said.

Carpio and Del Rosario spoke at a forum to mark Philippines' victory 3 years ago, when the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague upheld Manila’s sovereign rights to its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), rejecting Beijing’s historic claim to resources in the South China Sea using its nine-dash line doctrine.

"The claim that enforcing the arbitral award means going to war with China, a war that the Philippines will surely lose, is an utterly false claim designed to intimidate the Filipino people so [they will] submit to the will of China," Carpio said.

"It is also against international law to go to war to enforce the arbitral award," he said.

Carpio also explained that it was unconstitutional for the Philippine government to go to war.
 

Carpio: "The only purpose of raising the specter of war is to scare the Filipino people to submit to China." Photo by Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Dr. Jay Batongbacal, director of UP’s Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea said "fear of going to war is going to direct each and every decision (of the Philippine government).” 

He said such belief will not only affect issues related to the West Philippine Sea but also land ownership, doing business and other concerns when dealing with China.

Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who was also a speaker at the event said Filipinos should show bravery.

“Let us not be cowed into fear. Let us not be scared of all the propaganda we hear,” she said. 

"The West Philippine Sea belongs to Filipinos, not Duterte, not to China. Thus as Filipinos we need to find creative and viable ways to enforce the award because our leadership refuse to do so,” Carpio-Morales said. 

CHINESE INVASION?

Del Rosario said the recent comments of President Rodrigo Duterte allowing China to fish within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone raises several important questions.

“Is this to be viewed as a successful Chinese invasion without a shot being fired?” he asked. “Is this not a clear violation of our Constitution that mandates our President and our military to defend what is ours?”

Del Rosario said such comments from the president raises the question, “to what extent will this embolden the Chinese militia vessels to further bully our fishermen?”

Carpio pointed out that “the Chinese can fish in an area 59 times larger than Scarborough shoal” and that China has over 220,000 motorized vessels.

“The Chinese fishing fleet can rapidly deplete the fish in Reed Bank and even the entire WPS,” he said.

“In contrast, Filipino fishermen operate wooden boats without riggers and these wooden boats are dwarfed by the huge Chinese trawlers.”

Carpio said Filipinos should speak out against Duterte’s verbal fishing agreement.

“I hope we can stop the president from formalizing it (allowing China to fish in PH EEZ) in the SONA,” he later said during the panel discussion.

Meanwhile, Del Rosario said Duterte needs to listen to the Filipino people, especially after the release of the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showing that 93 percent of Filipinos think it’s important for the Philippines to regain control of artificial islands built by China in the West Philippine Sea.