BY ARLYN DELA CRUZ
News Director, Radyo Inquirer, Correspondent At Large,
Philippine Daily Inquirer Columnist, Bandera, July 10, 2015
1. You said that the Philippine government’s position of ownership in the West Philippine Sea is justified. What exactly, from your understanding and knowledge of the issue, did China violate?
JMS: The Philippines has sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and is entitled to its extended continental shelf (ECS) under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). By illegally claiming 90 per cent of the South China Sea, China is grabbing 80 per cent of the EEZ and 100 per cent of the ECS of the Philippines.
2. The ownership and claim issue was something that was already in the shadow of international relations between the Philippines and China in the 1960s to the 1970s and the path taken then was through diplomatic channels and cooperation. What went wrong with the past approaches that could have probably led to the aggressive position of China in the West Philippine Sea?
JMS: When the bilateral approach was used by the Gloria M. Arroyo regime and a joint exploration agreement was made with China, China used the agreement to discover the rich natural resources in the West Philippine Sea and coveted these for itself. In bilateral relations with the Philippines as well as multilateral relations with ASEAN, China has arrogantly asserted that it has “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea and owns everything within its so-called 9-dash line or 90 per cent of the South China Sea, far beyond China’s legitimate EEZ and ECS.
3. The interest of China was never pronounced in the past even with the reality that it was already a powerful country some five decades ago. What changed in the geo-political spectrum that brought them to an assertive course of ownership claiming historical basis?
JMS: The Chinese political, economic and social system has radically changed since 1976 from being socialist under Mao to being a bureaucrat monopoly capitalist one under the Dengist counterrevolutionaries. It has become an imperialist power committing acts of aggression in violation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and other relevant international laws. China has its own imperialist impulses aside from competing and collaborating with the US in a geopolitical game of gaining hegemony at the expense of countries like the Philippines.
4. Let us simplify the controversy at the West Philippine Sea. What is the real core of the issue? What is the bottom line?
JMS: The Philippines is entitled to its EEZ and ECS under the UNCLOS. China should comply with UNCLOS which it has signed.
5. What should the Philippine government do at this stage? What if the UN Arbitration Commission does not take cognizance of the issue because of lack of jurisdiction? What is the next course of action left for the Philippine government?
JMS: The best thing that the Philippines can do at this stage is, as it has done, to file a case before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea in Hamburg. But if the Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague rules that it has no jurisdiction, it will practically sabotage the UNCLOS and unleash the rule of might over right. Even then the Philippines can still continue to assert its rights under the UNCLOS, campaign against China’s acts of aggression, demand other possible forms of litigation (which China will not agree to), enforce nationalization measures against the Chinese enterprises in the Philippines and carry out a policy of national industrialization to really develop the social economy and defense capabilities of the Philippines.
6. Joma Sison before becoming founding leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines is a Filipino–is the West Philippine controversy, the kind of fight that every Filipino must support? Why is this a fight for the Filipinos?
JMS: The fight for Philippine national sovereignty, territorial integrity and sovereign rights over the EEZ and ECS is a crucial fight of, by and for all Filipinos, whether communist or non-communists. Giving up on sovereign rights will make impossible a better kind of social system in the Philippines. It would allow foreign exploiters and oppressors now and in the future to grab things from us as they please.
7. In speaking about the issue on the WPS, in the process , criticizing China, many were surprised but at the same time, pleased with the statement. Would you say you are one with the Philippine government or one with the Filipino people in fighting for sovereignty on the issue on the WPS?
JMS: Yes, I am one with the Philippine government and the Filipino people in fighting for Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea.
8. Will the WPS statement lead to the re opening or resumption of talks with the Philippine Government?
JMS: It is a matter of principle that all patriotic and progressive forces and the entire Filipino people uphold and defend Philippine national sovereignty, territorial integrity and all related sovereign rights. The common position between the Philippine government and the NDFP should be helpful towards resuming the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations.
9. Hypothetical… If Joma Sison will argue the case of the Philippines before the UN Arbitration Commission at The Hague, what would you say? Say…an opening remark that would best defend the position of the Philippines.
JMS: You can cull my hypothetical opening remark from the answers that I have made in this interview. At any rate, here it is: Your Honors, you have the obligation and jurisdiction to rule that the Philippines has its EEZ and ECS under the UNCLOS.
10. What China should do at this stage of the controversy and tension at the west Philippine sea?
JMS: China should cool it and withdraw from Scarborough (Panatag Shoal) and from its reclamations in the Spratlys (Kalayaan). It should cease and desist from grabbing what belongs to the Philippines and stop generating tension over the West Philippine Sea.###