MALACAÑANG has officially taken the wait-and-see stance, as enunciated by presidential spokesman Harry Roque. We refer to the now-controversial adoption by China of its new Coast Guard Law, which is generally seen by pundits in the Philippines as coming in strong.
Roque said the Palace will see first how China will implement this fresh piece of marine legislation before making whatever steps in the diplomatic field that would merit the circumstances. This means the Duterte government will not be stampeded into taking any rash decision on this issue — beyond what Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin has already made, which is to file a diplomatic protest to China that just mentioned our collective concern.
The fact that no untoward incident has happened between the Chinese coast guard and the seacraft of neighboring Asean countries in the South China Sea, up to this third day of implementation of the new law, necessarily clears the air of rumors, innuendos and fake news. We note with guarded optimism the professional conduct of the Chinese authorities manning their waters.
‘… those who want entertainment may follow the publicity stunt of Roque and Locsin, about who has the greater knowledge and experience in international law and diplomacy.’
It is good that the Chinese Embassy in Manila, headed by Ambassador Huang Xilian, issued a statement that should further contribute to the understanding of the discourse. It said the formulation of the Coast Guard Law is a normal domestic legislative activity of China and the law conforms to international conventions and practices of the community of nations.
The embassy affirms that the new law does not specifically target any certain country, and that its enactment does not indicate any change in China’s maritime policy. “China has always been committed to managing differences with countries including the Philippines through dialogue and consultations and upholding peace and stability in the South China Sea,” the statement said.
Roque, the international law professor, likes to perorate on this point, saying: “When you assail the validity of a law, there has to be someone na (who is a) proper party, ang kanyang karapatan ay nalabag. Wala pa naman pong ganoon (and his rights are violated.
Nothing like that has happened so far),” he said.
The presidential spokesman rejects the notion, as touted by retired Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, that this new Chinese legislation means the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China have been painstakingly working on is “already dead.”
Many countries are still looking forward and talking about it, especially the countries that have their claim in the West Philippine Sea, said Roque, and with that statement, we now have a glimpse of the path our foreign policy will take at least in the remainder of President Duterte’s term.
Meanwhile, those who want entertainment may follow the publicity stunt of Roque and Locsin, about who has the greater knowledge and experience in international law and diplomacy. The Tagalogs have an idiom for this — “pataasan ng ihi.”