THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has the basic right to protest or to time its communications. But some of its people have to be consistent in their recognition of actual facts, the truth, in proper timing and context — otherwise it misleads and even endangers the gains made possible by the hardwork of many of our diplomats accrued over 124 years. Shouldn’t the DFA focus more on building bridges and relations rather than provoking? Building economic and social capacities, protesting with the right level of seriousness, recognizing that disputes are part of life but to be managed for continued productive relations on the net for most parties?
Government agencies and we ordinary people alike need periodic feedback, mirrors to gauge how we are conducting ourselves. We are not here to provoke anger, but to provide perspective to help improve the lives of our Filipinos and maintain the peace we are all beneficiaries of.
If we are mistaken in our presentations, we welcome the DFA to point out which of the facts, histories, and reasoning that were brought up are “malicious and groundless.” Meanwhile to help assess the grounds raised for consideration, more questions to help policymaking than to criticize:
Is it not true that even Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the US passes through our waters without permission, and this is accepted? Did the Americans not point guns at Filipinos in Tubbataha, not water cannons or radar guns of China? Did not the US ignore warnings not to go in that area, and disallowed Filipino coast guard to board the US ship? Are not US submarines regularly sighted in Philippine waters, having already done their mapping of the Philippine deep, even our very streets through Google and Waze? What information did we get from their research? Is it not true that the Vietnamese have the most incursions into Philippine waters and hold multiple more islands? That Malaysians fund and train the Mindanao rebellions? That Indonesians have blown up dozens of Philippine fishermen’s vessels, and Malaysia regularly arrests and even physically punishes some of our fishermen? Yes, there are issues with the Chinese, but we don’t see public media or Twitter complaints by DFA against these other countries.
Why were several issues with the Chinese reported months later, blown up in the media and timed with when there are friendship building exercises with China? Why are contexts and histories not explained during these occasions, e.g., it isn’t explained that tying boats together is not unusual in rough seas, or why did media make it appear Chinese expanded occupation into Julian Felipe Reef when the Chinese and Vietnamese have been there decades ago before the Filipinos? Why did the DFA never raise issues with the Vietnamese occupations?
Many of our problems in the South China Sea were created by blindly trusting the Americans. Did the Permanent Court of Arbitration increase or decrease Philippine control of its area of interest? Was it really an arbitration or a UN court? As the late Ambassador Encomienda, who was our foremost mind in Ocean Affairs and served the DFA for decades, reminded us: “The SCS was always a sea of peace until the Westerners came and installed boundaries.”
The US pressured the Philippines to join the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos). From former secretary of foreign affairs Arturo Tolentino’s book: The Voice of Dissent. Because of Unclos, the Treaty of Paris has since been ignored. In the Treaty of Paris, the entire Philippines is inside vertical rectangular lines, all the seas inside it are considered as the Philippines’ territorial seas — sovereignty, not just sovereign rights. The US did not join Unclos, but the US is only acknowledging the Unclos, not the Treaty of Paris, which the US actually signed in 1898. US’ military assets, submarines, etc. are able to go in and out of Philippine territory without asking for our permission. When the Treaty of Paris was in effect and Unclos did not exist yet, America was legally required to ask for permission first to the Philippines.
Did not then Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario abdicate negotiations for Chinese withdrawal from Scarborough to the Americans, without even being there? Yet he blames China for having reneged, on what agreement? On what basis were Philippine boat withdrawal instructions for Scarborough given by del Rosario, since President Noynoy claims the instructions didn’t come from him?
Why are issues with the US with far more potentially damaging effects covered up or played down? US spy planes caught illegally and dangerously using Philippine civilian planes hex code to spy on China or US military assets flying over the Philippines… Why is the DFA allowing such risks and not reporting them to the media? Why do the Philippine armed forces or the President have to ask permission to inspect EDCA bases? Does this not make the Philippines a suspect in case of war? Was there a diplomatic protest made against the US Embassy calling Sabah part of Malaysia? The US supported Malaysia in claiming Sabah, which is far bigger, and land rather than water, than our South China Sea claim. Does anyone in the public know the DFA position on this, was there a F*&King protest filed? The US recently declared that the Philippine President may enter the US “because of diplomatic immunity”?
Why did Locsin join a vote with Aukus which is an expanded nuclear military alliance against China, when China helped us in our fight versus Isis, in the pandemic when the US blocked vaccine deliveries around the world, in billions in development donations and assistance? Why did we condemn Russia along with “US minions” when Russia helped us in the Marawi Crisis when the US blocked arms deliveries to the Philippines?
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. says the “US is a guarantor of world freedom.” Where does the Twitter fan get his history? Even former US president Jimmy Carter said that “China has not wasted a single penny on war [since the 1980s]… while the US is the most warlike nation in the history of the world, spending over $3 trillion in wars, military attacks and military occupations.” Some estimate about $8 trillion.
The US confiscated the foreign reserves of Iraq, Venezuela and Afghanistan, whose citizens die of hunger and disease, killed over 2 million in its Middle East invasions and occupations (many on PROVEN INVENTED fake news like weapons of mass destruction), and caused the world financial meltdown in 2008 that pushed several countries to collapse.
Who benefits from the blind loyalty to one country, while antagonizing our neighbor beyond what is necessary or practicable, at the expense of massive prospects of mutual progress, at the cost of making ourselves the frontline battleground in proxy war, just like what is happening to Ukraine? While there are disputes with China, we have to act with proportionality and practicality.
We must remain vigilant and protect what is ours. Flames of nationalist sentiments, pushed further by political and geopolitical interests, may pressure governments for hasty, less studied instead of stronger responses. Leaders should have the prudence and foresight to speak and act accordingly, understanding that such incidents constitute only one aspect of our deep and broad ties with neighbors.
The fuse to a powder keg is beside us, the US hot to light that fuse, and the DFA or the Philippines should not be the match or the frontline.
Dr. Mario Ferdinand Pasion is director of Phil-BRICS Strategic Studies and the chairman of Nationalist Filipinos Against Foreign Intervention.
Also published in Manila Times. We welcome logical feedback and possibly working together with compatible frameworks. (email@example.com)