By Camille A. Aguinaldo
FOREIGN AFFAIRS Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano on Thursday said most of the suggestions made by Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio and other personalities on how the Philippines should respond to China’ actions in South China Sea — especially on the incident in Scarborough shoal — were not feasible, while some were already being done by the government.
“All the suggestions of Justice Carpio and Congressman (Gary C.) Alejano, 60 (to) 70% are not feasible. On the 30% that they are saying, we are already doing it. And I had briefed them, specifically Congressman Alejano. We’re doing it,” he said at a press briefing in Taguig City.
Mr. Carpio said last week the Philippines may file another case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague, Netherlands, over the Chinese Coast Guard’s reported harassment of Filipino fishermen in the waters of Scarborough Shoal.
In a television interview on Thursday, Mr. Carpio also reiterated that the Philippines should have gone to the United Nations General Assembly after the 2016 arbitral ruling was issued in order to sponsor a resolution urging China’s compliance.
“I think we will get majority of the members of the UN to support that, and we do that every year and I think we will get more support every year. But we haven’t done that because the Duterte administration has decided to borrow money from China,” Mr. Carpio said.
He also said the country should also return to the tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands, to demand damages from China for its alleged destruction of corals in Scarborough Shoal.
“So the tribunal already ruled that is a violation of the obligation of China to preserve and protect the marine environment when China failed to prevent its fishermen from harvesting the giant clams which are endangered species and by destroying the corals. But we did not ask for damages because at that time we were concentrating on declaring the nine-dash line invalid. Since China is continuing to do it, we should go back to the tribunal and demand damages now because that’s what was missing during the first arbitration,” he said.
However, Mr. Cayetano pointed out that the 2016 arbitration ruling on the South China Sea did not contain any enforcement mechanism. He said filing another case before the PCA would not push China to follow another arbitral ruling.
Sa arbitral award, there is no enforcement mechanism. So if we file again there and stop talking to China, are we willing to sacrifice our tourism industry, our trade, our agriculture just so that on paper, we know what we already know? We already know that we are right. So we don’t need (an) arbitration court telling us,” he said.
He also raised the lack of enforcement mechanism issue on another option which was for the Philippines to appeal to the UN.
“The general assembly’s resolution, assuming we can get a majority, is recommendatory. So it will be recommended and shown to China, who would enforce?” he said.
Mr. Cayetano also mentioned that going to the UN Security Council would not be feasible as well since China is among its permanent members. He said China in the international council would not give its permission on the Philippines’ appeal.
“Then the last option that I know, I’m sure there (are) more, is ICJ (International Court of Justice). But in ICJ, both states have to give their consent. And just with the arbitration award, China did not give its consent,” he further said.
Mr. Cayetano said the strategy of the Duterte administration was to deal with the issue bilaterally as was initially proposed by China.
“Right now, we’re dealing with it in a bilateral and multilateral way, because in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), we have statements. We have ASEAN-related summits where we discuss this,” he said.
“China has a clear stand: to talk bilaterally. Everything can be discussed. But if we internationalize it, megaphone diplomacy, can we force them? ‘Hey let’s shout at each other so you will listen to us?’ We cannot,” he added.
He also reiterated that the Duterte administration shares the same goals with the past administration to secure the country’s national territory and sovereign rights, but he maintained that it would not publicize every action on the matter as was previously done in the past.
“In diplomacy, there are many things you are not allowed to disclose. It’s like a military operation where you announce it after, then you can scrutinize if the operation is successful or not…. If you look at other peace deals in the world, there is always give-and-take and a little bit of secrecy. It’s not lack of transparency, it’s the need to get a certain objective stand,” he said.