No such thing as 'appeasement policy': Defense chief

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

July 15, 2019, 12:42 pm

<p>Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana <em>(PNA file photo)</em></p>

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (PNA file photo)

MANILA -- Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana rejected observations the Philippines is adopting an appeasement policy towards China at the cost of its territorial integrity in the West Philippine Sea.

"No, the appeasement word is coming from you and the others, it's not appeasement," he told reporters during the reception of the French National Day in Makati City on Sunday.

The remark came days after the third anniversary of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling that invalidated China's nine-dash line claim over the West Philippine Sea.

Three years since the decision was released, Lorenzana emphasized that the country, under the Duterte administration, continued to assert its rights in the area, but from the beginning, China was firm in rejecting the ruling.

"Hindi naman tayo takot sa kanila, hindi naman tayo takot... 'yon lang nga because they are there already (We don't fear them, we're not scared, it's just that China is already there). We've been asserting our rights there in the West Philippine Sea and they're listening to us but as they said they do not honor the arbitral ruling so what will you do?" he said.

Two of eleven

According to a comprehensive report by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, a United States-based think tank, China is in compliance with just two of 11 parts of the ruling.

One aspect of the decision it has complied with was allowing Filipino fishermen to Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing grounds off Zambales which China blocked during a standoff with the Philippine Navy in 2012.

The other was Beijing's discontinuation of destroying the marine environment in the South China Sea with its island-building campaign.

"It could be argued that some of China’s ongoing activities, for instance, the installation of monitoring stations on reefs in the Paracels, are still illegally damaging marine habitat without proper environmental impact assessments. But having run out of space for new landfill, China is now technically in compliance with the bulk of this section of the ruling," the AMTI report read.

"That could change, however, should China launch new dredging or landfill work at Scarborough Shoal or elsewhere," it added.

Of the 11 rulings, China maintains its "historic rights" claim in the region through its nine-dash line beyond the territorial seas, exclusive economic zones (EEZ), and continental shelves permitted by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

It also continues to occupy the Mischief Reef, the Second Thomas Shoal and the waters around it which are part of the EEZ and continental shelf of the Philippines.

Legally binding

In a press conference over the weekend, China reiterated it would not accept nor recognize the PCA decision, adding the arbitral tribunal "willfully expanded its power to exercise jurisdiction and make an award, which is null and void."

In the same week, Washington contradicted this position, saying the ruling is "legally binding."

“The tribunal’s decision is final and legally binding on both parties subject to this arbitration, China and the Philippines,” State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a press briefing on Thursday.

"By advancing the peaceful settlement of these disputes, the decision is a victory for the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific. It is in the shared interest of the United States and other countries across the region to sustain the rules-based order so that each nation can reach its potential without sacrificing its national interest or its autonomy," she added. (PNA)