June 23, 2020 at 01:20 am
Rey E. Requejo
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Monday rejected the claim of the critics of the Duterte administration that it has adopted a policy of appeasement in dealing with China.
"Appeasement? No. In fact, you are looking at the opposite of appeasement," Locsin told ANC.
He also denied that the reported presence of three US aircraft carriers in the disputed South China Sea was linked to President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to keep a troop-deployment agreement with Washington.
The deployment of the vessels carrying 60 aircraft each was the first US Navy deployment to the Pacific since 2017, according to a CNN report. The dispatch is likely intended to send a message to China that despite the coronavirus pandemic, the US military will maintain a strong presence in the region, according to the analysts quoted by The Japan Times.
Locsin also said the amount of financial compensation for the 22 crew members of the fishing boat Gem-Vir 1, which was rammed and sunk by a Chinese vessel in the West Philippines Sea last year, had yet to be determined by the Department of Justice.
“We did a separate investigation, the two countries, and we had the same conclusion that the Chinese vessel was at fault, and the compensation is still to be determined by the Justice department,” Locsin said.
He says the Department of Foreign Affairs has been filing a diplomatic protest with China each time there is transgression, incursion, and even suspicion of Chinese activity that the agency considers inimical to the Philippines’ interest.
"Every transgression, incursion and even suspicion of Chinese activity, it is immediately reported to me by [National Security Adviser Hermogenes] Esperon and we fire a diplomatic note—every single time, without fail," Locsin said.
He was reacting to the statement last week by retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio that the Duterte administration's appeasement of China had prevented the country from protecting its sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea despite its 2016 victory in a case filed before the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration.
He said he was "grateful" to Carpio and the Aquino administration for suing China before the PCA and eventually winning the case "because the law is on our side."
"They sued China as they should, and all we have is the law. We do not have power," he said.
The arbitral ruling invalidated China's nine-dash line claim over the entire South China Sea and declared the Spratly Islands, Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank as part of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone. It also outlawed China's action of preventing Filipino fishermen access Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, which it deems as a traditional fishing ground for both countries.
But China refused to recognize the PCA ruling.
Locsin recalled that Duterte had brought up The Hague ruling with Chinese President Xi Jinping and that it was not well received.
"The reception was very cold," he said.
Nonetheless, Locsin promised that if China escalated its action, such as establishing an air defense system in Scarborough shoal, he would not think twice about holding China accountable.
"I would appear in the United Nations and blast China," Locsin said.
"We will fire a protest again and again and assert what we won in The Hague tribunal."