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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Carpio pushes for tripartite pact on Scarborough

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Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said Friday that the Philippines, China, and Vietnam could reach an agreement over what to do about the rich fishing grounds in Scarborough Shoal, noting that a UN tribunal had ruled the area a common fishing ground for the three countries.

“The one thing that’s lacking is there’s no common agreement between these three nations,” he told CNN in an interview.

“They should sit down and discuss the rules of fishing within that shoal because we have to preserve the fish… so there will be sustainable fishing. But the Chinese don’t want to discuss that with us,” he said.

Carpio said reports that members of the Chinese Coast Guard were bullying Filipino fishermen were disturbing.

“For me, it’s harassment. It’s even theft because they’re taking it against the will of Filipino fishermen. We should protest at the very least,” he said.

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Meanwhile, former Foreign Affairs secretary Alberto del Rosario disputed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s statement that the previous administration had mismanaged relations with China.

“We believe that Secretary Lorenzana is a very good man with the highest credibility in the Cabinet,” the former senior diplomat said. “[W]e feel deeply sad because it appears that he is being used as a propagandist precisely since he has the reputation of being straight as an arrow.”

He said he was saddened to hear Lorenzana declare that President Rodrigo Duterte was handling the country’s maritime dispute in the South China Sea “very well,” in contrast to the previous administration where “everything was chaotic.”

He said that Lorenzana has no basis of comparison on the quality of management in the disputed sea, and said the Aquino government defended the Philippines’ territorial claims while Duterte opted to shelve Manila’s victory in arbitration against Beijing’s excessive claims.

“One government had defended what is ours by resorting to political and diplomatic means while utilizing both bilateral and multilateral approaches to seek a peaceful resolution,” Del Rosario said.

“Another [Duterte] government, after being awarded this invaluable victory at The Hague, immediately announced the shelving of this most important outcome, thus avoiding for itself the task of managing what had been handed down,” Del Rosario said.

Del Rosario also disputed Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano’s account of what happened after the standoff between China and the Philippines in Scarborough Shoal in 2012.

At the time, Del Rosario said, the US-brokered an arrangement where China and the Philippines agreed to a simultaneous withdrawal of ships from the shoal—but China never pulled out their ships.

“We therefore agreed. At the appointed time, we withdrew, whereas China did not—in violation of our agreement,” Del Rosario said.

Del Rosario said the Aquino government dealt with a powerful China whose declarations were often inconsistent with the facts on the ground.

“Other nations, we began to discover, had the same difficulty in dealing with our northern neighbor…if this is being deemed as chaos, so be it,” Del Rosario said.

Also on Friday, Cayetano said there was nothing irregular about the Chinese military plane landing in Davao City on June 8.

“It’s nothing irregular, there’s nothing fishy about it, it’s something that countries do with each other,” Cayetano said in a CNN Philippines interview, referring to plane landings provided protocols are followed.

He pointed out there are more than a hundred similar requests coming from other countries to the Philippines every year.

“We are just not accustomed to have a Chinese plane landing, but there have been 243 of this kind of applications from United States planes granted, 33 from Korean planes, and many others, and so far, only two or three Chinese planes, but all of these went through proper channels, including the military,” he said in a mix of Filipino and English.

Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go initially confirmed that a People’s Liberation Army Air Force Ilyushin-76 turbofan strategic airlifter landed in Davao City, but only for a technical stop.

Lorenzana earlier admitted he had no prior knowledge of the plane’s landing but later dismissed it as nothing unusual.

Cayetano, for his part, defended Lorenzana, saying the procedure is already a routine, and such requests now usually fall under the assistant secretaries or concerned generals.

“You have about 300 to 500 applications in a year at least, it goes to our assistant secretaries or to certain generals then we’ll just sign,” he said.

Meanwhile, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Friday urged the government to invest more in scientific research for the conservation and protection of the world’s coral reefs.

“We recognize that science is pivotal in shaping plans, policies, and programs for coral reefs and associated ecosystems. It is thus imperative that we continue to support scientists and provide investment to generate more relevant researches,” he said.

Speaking before the closing of the recent 4th Asia-Pacific Coral Reef Symposium in Cebu City, Cimatu stressed the need to create a regional platform not just for sharing of ideas, but a “community bound with a common vision and passion for the environment and for the ocean.”

The symposium brought together around 600 scientists and researchers from 34 countries that championed coral reef research and conservation in the Asia-Pacific region. With Rio N. Araja, PNA

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