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Drop the humbug, focus on national and strategic interest

June 24, 2019

THE nation will find a resolution of the Recto (Reed) Bank incident faster if it drops much of the posturing and humbug that some of our countrymen are spewing nonstop, and focus its attention instead on national and strategic interest.

The high-minded badgering of president Duterte is particularly distracting.

First, Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio hurtled from his niche in the Supreme Court to disclose his inside information that a Chinese militia vessel rammed a Filipino fishing vessel at the Recto Bank.

He mused gravely that the incident could be the start of a more aggressive campaign by Beijing to drive away Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), waters within the country’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

As is his wont these days, Carpio took the opportunity to remind the nation about the arbitral ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration that rejected China’s claim of sovereign and historic rights over the disputed sea region in the South China Sea. The ruling also upheld the Philippines’ exclusive rights over formations within the 330-kilometer EEZ, but which China also claims as part of its territory.

Second, Sen. Panfilo Lacson rose from out of the blue to declare that because of the Recto Bank incident, the Philippines should invoke its Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States to allow the Seventh Fleet to patrol the areas of conflict and prevent China’s bullying of its neighbors. He argued that the presence of the US military will maintain balance of power in the area.

Third, Vice President Leni Robredo suddenly stepped into the picture to gain some media exposure. She voiced her opposition to a joint or tripartite investigation of the Recto Bank incident. She contended that a joint probe would derogate the country’s sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone in the SCS.

This is too much hemming and hawing about the Recto Bank incident. It is better to get to the point quickly. This is why our immediate filing of a diplomatic protest with China over the incident is of great significance.

It is more important for our government to approach this case in the light of national and strategic interest.

An issue is a vital interest if it implicates the survival and safety of the nation. This means usually the physical security of national territory, the safety of our citizens, the economic well-being of our society, and the protection of our critical infrastructures.

Strategic interest implies something slightly different.

The word “strategy” denotes the nation’s comprehensive plan in pursuing its political goals, including the threat or actual use of force.

Strategy is important because the resources available to achieve these goals are usually limited. Strategy generally involves setting goals, determining actions to achieve the goals, and mobilizing resources to execute the actions.

From this perspective, it is a stretch to claim that the Recto Bank incident implicates or endangers the national and strategic interest of the Philippines.

You need better and incontrovertible facts to make this claim.

Some among us are bent on pushing our government to adopt a more skeptical or wary attitude toward China and to restore to favored-country status our relation with the United States.

Today, it is in the Philippines’ national and strategic interest to nurture and develop good and close relations with both China and the United States, which today are active in their rivalry in the economic and security spheres.

Our relations with China are moving forward confidently on the strength of real agreements and harmonious goals and objectives.

On the other hand, our relations with the United States have receded because of its adoption of an America First foreign policy, and its retreat from interventionism in the affairs of other nations.

There is an active lobby to promote friendly ties between China and the Philippines. There is no parallel lobby to bring the Philippines and America closer together.

It is, sad to say, only the Amboys and Amgirls who keep telling us that we will be better off tied to America’s protection and largesse.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net


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