Cabinet gagged on China; ex-generals claim the rights of the sea
• Only Roque, who wrongly declared Julian Felipe Reef to be outside Philippine jurisdiction, can continue to speak on maritime issues.
• Retired AFP and department heads are mobilizing for unity against the Chinese threat.
President Duterte on Monday banned his cabinet from talking about maritime disputes amid months of growing inroads from China. “It is my order now to Cabinet, and to all who speak for the government, to refrain from discussing the Philippine Sea with anyone,” he said on a late taped TV show. in the night. “If we speak, we speak, but only among ourselves.” Only his spokesperson Harry Roque can speak on the matter, added the president.
Since March, the foreign and defense offices have berated the growing number of China’s maritime militia ships entering the WPS. First, 220 trawlers “invaded” and “threatened” Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef. Reinforced by a dozen others, they then spread to poach in other reefs of Pagkakaisa Bank and in the municipality of the Kalayaan Islands in Palawan. Last week, the National Task Force-WPS reported that at least 330 were still there, plus Recto (Reed) Bank. The WPS, the part of the South China Sea within the Philippines’ 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, is rich in fisheries, oil and gas.
After telling the intruders to leave to defuse the tensions, Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana has been criticized by the Chinese Embassy. Diplomatic protests are filed every day until their departure, according to Foreign Sec. Teodoro Locsin Jr.
Last week, Roque incorrectly said Julian Felipe was outside the Philippine EEZ. It is assumed that critics are fighting to attack Duterte’s appeasement policy towards Beijing. The National Task Force corrected it: Julian Felipe, 175 miles from Palawan, is not just in the EEZ; it is also within the 20 km territorial waters of McKennan (Hughes) and Rurok (Sin Cowe) islands of Kalayaan. Locsin reminded Roque that declarations on international relations are the “exclusive competence” of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Also on Monday, National Interest Defenders (ANI) called on Filipinos to “unite to assert our rights in the WPS”. Composed of retired generals who have taken on other government and private positions, the ANI said that “China’s rampant aggression must be stopped (but) war is not the only option.
ANI consists, among others, of Amb. Ramon Farolan, Former Defense Chief Renato de Villa, Former Senator Rodolfo Biazon, Former Congressmen Plaridel Abaya and Ashley Acedillo, Commo. Plaridel Garcia, Colonel Niceto Festin, Former SSS Administrator Renato Valencia, Police General Recaredo Sarmiento, Colonel Guillermo Cunanan, Colonel Mariano Santiago, General Melchor Rosales, Colonel Alejandro Flores, Brig. General Eliseo Rio Jr., Vice Admiral Emilio Marayag Jr., General Alexander Yano, General Eduardo Oban, General Emmanuel Bautista and Lieutenant General Edilberto Adan (president).
Excerpts: “As our nation prepares to celebrate Independence Day, let us remember how we Filipinos over a century ago stood up to challenge a much more powerful power to be free from subjugation and intimidation. Realizing the vital need to be united as a people, we have zealously guarded and preserved our freedom and independence.
“Today we face a real threat to the security of our nation. China’s transgression of the sovereignty and sovereign rights of the Philippines in the FPS, in violation of international law, jeopardizes our future. The vast resources of the WPS hold the promise of deliverance for our people. But China is taking that away from us.
“ANI strongly advocates for a rules-based international order and peaceful conflict resolution. We thank the international community for its unequivocal support for this principle.
“Despite our peaceful overtures, China uses coercion and intimidation to expand and maintain its illegal presence in the WPS as seen in Julian Felipe Reef, Ayungin Shoal, Panganiban Reef and Bajo de Masinloc. China’s rampant aggression must be stopped.
“Using ‘gray area’ tactics without armed attack, China uses powerful diplomacy, political intervention, legal warfare, coercive informational, financial and economic tools to protect its interests. It seeks to undermine our will to resist and to separate us from our traditional allies and friends.
“The time has come to unite again as a people. We must put aside any partisan political agenda and parochial interests. This conflict with China must serve to unify us rather than divide us. The protection and defense of our sovereignty and our territory is a national obligation.
“Our people should know that an information war is underway that uses psychological, propaganda and media tools to make us believe their illegal actions in the WPS are justified – the Chinese narrative. Let us take the side of the Filipino people.
“War is not the only option left to defend our sovereignty and sovereign rights. We are not alone. There is a range of diplomatic, legal, information or soft power tools that can be used with skill. We have allies, partners and friends ready to share the burden of maintaining safe, stable and smooth trade across the South China Sea. “
* * *
Paperback copies of “Gotcha: An Exposé on the Philippine Government” can be delivered to you through 8Letters Bookstore and Publishing. Order: https://shopee.ph/GOTCHA-by-Jarius-Bondoc-i.264837039.3870254862