Golez: The Philippines should have been the vanguard in raising in the ASEAN Summit the issue of China's reclamation projects and militarization of the South China Sea. The three biggest artificial islands each with a theee kilometer long runway are closest to us. One, Mischief Reef, the biggest at 558 hectares, is inside our EEZ and very close to Palawan. There are reports that each of the three islands will host a squadron of twenty four (24) J-11 flankers whose combined range can cover the entire Philippines, Vietnam and Borneo. A J-11 was already spotted on Woody Island in the Paracels.
Instead of raising the issue, it is the Philippines that reportedly worked to delete mentioning it as reported in this Reuters news story published by Japan Times and many other media outlets..
Once militarized and I have no doubt they will soon be militarized, the artificial islands will be a clear and present danger to the Philippines and the other countries in the South China Sea area and beyond. That's why I can understand the concern of Vietnam and Indonesia that reportedly wanted a stronger statement mentioning the "land reclamations and militarization) in the South China Sea.
I understand why the President does not want to disrupt the country's improving diplomatic and economic relations with China which has already generated benefits for the country with the $24 Billion economic package announced last year with more expected.
However, I believe we should balance economic interests with security and territorial interests, always be cautious of the continuing threat of China's excessive claims on our Exclusive Economic Zone. China claims 90% of our West Philippine Sea which the Constitution mandates the State must protect (Article XII, Section 2): “The State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”
I am concerned also that the Philippines, as host, has missed out on the opportunity to use the rare opportunity to generate more support for the Hague ruling that favors the Philippines, as well as Vietnam and the other coastal states with the repudiation of China's nine dash line. The international forum, the global audience is our best chance to strengthen our chance to eventually win by peaceful and diplomatic means following the Rule of Law our EEZ cause as warded by the Hague ruling.
A strong ASEAN statement would have been a good follow through of the recent Joint Communique of G-7 as follows (Philippine Star, April 19, 2017):
"The foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies reiterated its opposition to the militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea.
"The ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States maintained their commitment to maintaining a rules-based maritime order based on international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
"We consider the July 12, 2016 award rendered by the Arbitral Tribunal under the UNCLOS as a useful basis for further efforts to peacefully resolve disputes in the South China Sea," the G7 joint communique read.”
I quote the Reuters story:
"A final statement of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which was not made available until Sunday, dropped the references to “land reclamation and militarization” included in the text issued at last year’s meeting in Laos and an earlier, unpublished version seen Saturday.
"The outcome follows what two ASEAN diplomats said were efforts by Chinese Foreign Ministry and embassy officials in Manila to pressure ASEAN chair the Philippines to keep Beijing’s contentious activities in the strategic waterway off ASEAN’s official agenda.
"It also indicates four ASEAN members who the diplomats said had wanted a firmer position had agreed to the more conciliatory tone in the statement.
"China is not a member of ASEAN and was not attending the summit but is extremely sensitive about the content of its statements and considers it a barometer of the bloc’s dissent over its artificial islands in disputed waters.
"China’s embassy in Manila could not be reached and its Foreign Ministry did not respond to request for comment Saturday."