PH refusal to protest reef dev’t assailed


A maritime law expert on Thursday slammed the Duterte administration’s refusal to confront China in the South China Sea, saying the Philippines had already lost much because of the government’s cop-out.

Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said that by saying he did not want to go to a war he could not win, President Duterte was just justifying his inaction on China’s encroachments on Philippine territory in the South China Sea.

“I think people are realizing the fallacy of the administration’s position that asking for respect for our legal rights would elicit war as a response from China or that the assertion of rights won in a legal case requires the Philippines to go to war,” Batongbacal said, referring to a 2016 arbitral court ruling that invalidated China’s claim to nearly all of the South China Sea and upheld the Philippines’ sovereignty in its territory in the strategic waterway.

“The fallacy is proven by the fact that both Vietnam and Indonesia insist . . . and act on their legal rights, and yet China has not responded with the use of force,” he said.

Sharp contrast

Unlike the Philippines, Vietnam has asked China to stop its illegal activities on Vietnamese territory in the South China Sea, respect its sovereignty, and cease activities that raise tensions in the region.

In contrast, the Duterte administration has played down China’s landing of military planes and deployment of antiship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on Philippine-claimed reefs in the Spratly archipelago, saying the missiles were not aimed at the Philippines and that it saw no threat because of the “newfound friendship” between the two countries.

“The administration’s tepid and ambivalent response to developments in the West Philippine Sea, including its apparent inability to even file a diplomatic protest, is evidence of its policy of submission to and fear of China,” Batongbacal said.