By Macon Araneta | FilAm Star Correspondent
Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano slammed Foreign Affairs Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano for “redefining “diplomatic protest” when Cayetano praised the filing of 50-100 diplomatic protests against China in the last two years.
In an attempt to get away from the inaction of the Duterte administration on the disputed West Philippine Sea territorial issue, Alejano said Cayetano is altering the definition of diplomatic protest. He said a diplomatic protest must be in written form.
“If for Sec. Cayetano simple utterances of words are already considered diplomatic protest, then what is its difference to writing on water?” asked Alejano.
He noted that the public urging to file diplomatic protests against China underscores the seriousness of the matter.
“Do you expect China, which has repeatedly violated our rights in our territory, to comply over small talk and lists?” questioned the former Marine officer.
“A diplomatic protest puts on record our stand on a certain matter. It goes without saying that a diplomatic protest must be in written form. A formal written protest will serve as a historical record of how we responded to every violation committed to us by other states. Let us not weaken its value,” said the opposition senator.
He reminded the Foreign Affairs Secretary not to resort to playing with words to justify the Duterte administration’s lack of action on the West Philippine Sea issue.
“The Filipino people deserve better than vague rhetoric and twisted concepts, especially on this matter of sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Alejano said.
Cayetano earlier told lawmakers that any joint oil exploration of the West Philippine Sea by the Philippines and China does not mean the government is giving up the United Nations arbitration ruling favoring Filipinos’ sovereign rights over the disputed sea.
“Just because we are not using the word arbitral award does not mean we are giving up on our rights,” said Cayetano during a briefing by the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) for members of the House special committee on the WPS chaired by Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
Cayetano clarified not all of the “diplomatic protests” came in the form of a note verbale.
He pointed out that a simple objection uttered by the President could already be considered a diplomatic protest.
Cayetano also said the administration is trying to improve a bad situation inherited from the past administration.
“When President Duterte came in, like in a company, you have to stop the bleeding first.
We talked to China, we drew lines. They asked us not to build in uninhabited land; not to extract resources unilaterally. We told them do not build in Scarborough, don’t touch Ayungin, don’t stop resupply of (our) troops, do not extract oil unilaterally,” he said.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. assured the public that the Duterte administration does not and will not abandon the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the South China Sea disputes.
“This is merely set aside in the meantime, in line with the efforts of government at promoting peace, stability, and cordial relations among claimant countries in the region. At the proper time, we will take full advantage of the tribunal ruling, even as China refuses to recognize this, to serve as basis for the country’s exercise of sovereignty and jurisdiction over features that are in the Philippine territorial waters,” said Esperon.
DFA Undersecretary for Strategic Communications Ernesto Abella said there were “very serious engagements going on” between the government and China, after a pre-departure briefing on President Rodrigo Duterte’s official visit to South Korea from June 3 to 5.
He said the government cannot grant the call of the Senate and some critics to reveal “classified details” of the diplomatic actions.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said President Duterte will not sit on the country’s sovereign rights in the WPS.
“The President, who is the chief architect of the nation’s foreign policy, will not sit on our rights and will never give away even an inch of territory,” Roque said in a press statement.
Roque said the Philippines “will resort to all diplomatic initiatives including filing of diplomatic protest when warranted but without fanfare.”
China, the world’s second-largest economy, had reportedly deployed anti-ship cruise missile and surface-to-air missile systems on three artificial islands the Chinese built within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
China’s air force has also reportedly landed a long-range H-6K bomber in Woody Island, the largest of the Paracel Islands being claimed by Vietnam.
China has been claiming nearly the entire of South China Sea using the nine-dash line map which, according to UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration, has no legal basis.
The Hague-based arbitral ruled in favor of the Philippines’ arbitration case against China’s demarcation line in July 2016.
China had refused to recognize the arbitral tribunal’s verdict, claiming it did not participate in the arbitration proceeding.