Malacañang said Saturday there was no need for President Rodrigo Duterte to convene the National Security Council to discuss the ramming incident in Recto Bank and the presence of foreign vessels in waters within the country’s exclusive economic zone.
This was the response of Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo to Senator Richard Gordon who suggested that Duterte should talk to the NSC over the abandonment of the 22 Filipino fishermen by a Chinese vessel.
The Palace spokesperson said the NSC should only be convened if the country was facing a crisis, saying there was no imminent danger to the country’s security.
In a related development, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio also refuted Duterte’s statement that the provision in the 1987 Constitution on protecting the country’s exclusive economic zone was “thoughtless and senseless.”
“This exclusivity is not a ‘thoughtless and senseless’ provision in our Constitution as President Rodrigo Duterte has unfortunately characterized,” Carpio said in his speech during the graduation rights of the University of the Philippines-College of Social Sciences and Philosophy.
His speech came after Duterte reiterated his stance that the Philippines could not risk waging war against China as Chinese President Xi Jinping warned of “trouble” if the Philippines would push ahead with drilling oil in a disputed part of South China Sea.
The arbitral tribunal decision in 2016, however, clarified the Philippines' sovereign rights over its 200-mile EEZ to access offshore oil and gas fields.
The boat of 22 fishermen was rammed by the Chinese vessel which immediately fled and abandoned the Filipino fishermen and were later rescued by a Vietnamese vessel.
“You only convene the NSC if there is a crisis. There’s no crisis. But that’s what the critics want,” he said.
“Because by pursuing their line of aggressive isolationist policy, we will really have a crisis. But for now, there’s none,” Panelo said.
He also gave assurances the relationship between the Philippines and China was in good terms.
“We have good agreements. We have good trade relations with them, we can deal with them through diplomatic channels,” Panelo added.
According to Carpio, “it is clear the specter of war is being raised only to intimidate the Filipino people into submitting to China’s encroachment of our EEZ.”
He added: “Of course, we also know that if we go to war with China to enforce the arbitral ruling, we will lose and lose badly. Only a fool will go to war with China.
“The correct recourse is to protect our territorial integrity through the rule of law.
“That is why when China seized Scarborough Shoal in 2012, we did not send the Philippine marines to retake Scarborough Shoal. We sent our lawyers to The Hague to protect our territorial integrity by invalidating China’s nine-dashed line before an arbitral tribunal under UNCLOS.”
Carpio noted that the area of the Philippines’ EEZ in the West Philippine Sea, as affirmed with finality by the arbitral tribunal at The Hague, was larger than the total land area of all our islands put together.
He said: “All the fish, oil, gas and other mineral resources in this huge maritime area belong exclusively to the Filipino people.”
READ: PH-China joint probe avoids poaching issue
READ: Joint probe gets Rody's go-ahead
READ: Palace, DFA clash over joint probe of boat ramming
READ: China broaches joint probe on boat ramming