MANILA (April 16, 2012) - Sen. Joker Arroyo yesterday called
on President Aquino to launch a “diplomatic offensive”
in the region by tapping the support of the United States and
its allies in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
in the latest conflict with China.
Arroyo said he wants a collective stand against the apparent intrusion
of China into Philippine shores through Scarborough Shoal.
Arroyo said ASEAN failed to issue even a “resolution of
concern or sympathy” during the standoff with China over
Scarborough, which the Philippines calls Panatag Shoal.
He noted that the Philippines did not even get any commitment
from other ASEAN states during the recent summit in Cambodia when
President Aquino pushed for a common stand on maritime disputes
in the region.
In the case of the US, Arroyo said it should at least come out
with a categorical statement on the dispute “even if we
know that they will not likely go to war with China for us.”
He said the Scarborough incident “showed we don’t
have reliable allies at all.”
Arroyo described as “embarrassing” the country’s
deployment of the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a retired ship donated
by the US to the Philippine government without its high-tech equipment.
Arroyo added that Malacañang should start coordinating
with other agencies of the government, including the Senate and
the House of Representatives, to be able to provide a holistic
approach to resolving the issue after consensus is reached among
Arroyo expressed concern that the Philippines might eventually
lose the Spratlys and even Scarborough to China, in the same manner
Sabah was acquired by Malaysia with British backing several decades
Arroyo lamented that the country was unable to get any show of
support from the US, which has been the Philippines’ traditional
ally amid its implementation of the so-called Mutual Defense Treaty
“Ang nakakalungkot dito (What is lamentable), is this: ang
laban (the battle is) Spratlys and Scarborough. In both instances,
at the moment, we are left on our own. Once upon a time, we had
a claim in Sabah… but that was it, we lost it. What if the
situation happens again to China? What would we do?” he
Because of this, Arroyo said Aquino should discuss the matter
with the US government to enable the Philippines to get a commitment
of support over the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal.
He said the US Seventh Fleet is still operating in the region,
and the Philippines can possibly ask the US for help about securing
its economic sea lanes.
“The Philippines should start talking with the Americans.
This is the problem. That is the solution,” said Arroyo,
noting further the US’ silence on the security problem in
Arroyo lamented the US failed to even give a statement of support
for the Philippines in the middle of the standoff over the shoal.
“America will not go to war over Scarborough Shoal and Spratlys.
They are withdrawing from Iraq, even in Pakistan. Even in Syria,
they don’t want to be involved,” he said.
Arroyo also called for a stop in politicking among enemies and
allies of the Aquino administration, saying the more pressing
problems on power rates and the territorial standoff between the
Philippines and China should be given top priority.
Intrusion of China
into Phl shores
On April 8, the Navy monitored eight Chinese fishing vessels anchored
inside the shoal while conducting a security patrol.
The Gregorio del Pilar, the Navy’s largest warship, was
deployed on the same day to protect the country’s sovereignty.
Scarborough, which the Philippines calls Panatag Shoal, is 124
nautical miles from the nearest base point in Zambales. It is
within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic
zone based on the UNCLOS, to which China is a signatory.
The Gregorio del Pilar sent a boarding team on April 10 to inspect
the fishing vessels and collect evidence of their catch. The team
found illegally collected corals, giant clams and live sharks
inside the vessels.
However, two Chinese surveillance ships placed themselves between
the Del Pilar and the fishing vessels, preventing the arrest of
the erring fishermen.
The Del Pilar was “relieved” by Coast Guard ship BRP
Pampanga on April 12 reportedly to allow the warship to load supplies.
On the same day, China sent a third vessel, which the military
said is from the Chinese ministry of agriculture.
On Saturday, China boosted its presence by redeploying a ship
into the shoal that had been thought to have already left the
An aircraft believed to be Chinese was also reported to have buzzed
over BRP Pampanga, the only asset that the Philippines used to
assert its claim in the area.
The DFA said a white or civilian Chinese ship – presumably
the one that returned – harassed a Philippine-registered
vessel with nine French nationals conducting archaeological surveys.
It was also reported on Saturday that all but one of the Chinese
vessels involved in the standoff had left Panatag Shoal.
Seek UN help
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone also urged the Department of Foreign
Affairs (DFA) to seek the help of the United Nations (UN) in resolving
“The UN should step in because what is being violated by
the Chinese is the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS.
The UN should assert that international laws should be respected
and obeyed by the international community,” he said.
Evardone said under UNCLOS, countries that are archipelagoes like
the Philippines could claim waters 200 miles from their shorelines
as their exclusive economic zone.
“Scarborough Shoal is just 124 miles from Zambales and is
clearly within our country’s 200-mile exclusive economic
zone. It is thrice that distance from China,” he said.
Evardone said even just in terms of distance, the Philippines
has more right to claim Scarborough Shoal than China.
Evardone, however, said he is not surprised that the Chinese are
declaring ownership of this group of rock formations off Zambales
since they are also claiming the Spratly group of islets, which
are farther away off Palawan.