Why Philippines should protest vs China bombers in Paracels

MANILA, Philippines – Saying this will galvanize international support, former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario stressed that the Philippines should protest against China's bombers on Woody Island, part of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. 

This is contrary to the stance of his successor, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, who said the Philippines cannot file a protest over these Chinese bombers because these aircraft landed outside Philippine territory.

In a statement Monday evening, June 4, Del Rosario explained, "Granted that there is a divergence of views on responding to the developments in South China Sea, the landing of bombers on Woody Island serves, at the very least, to raise tensions and destabilize our region." 

"It is in our interest to file a protest as we should be endeavoring to galvanize the support of countries that, like the Philippines, are strongly opposed to the militarization of the South China Sea," Del Rosario added. 

In a separate statement on May 21, Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio also urged the Philippine government to file a diplomatic protest against the landing of Chinese bombers in the Paracels. Del Rosario back then supported Carpio's position.

Carpio said, "Failure to formally protest means the Philippines is acquiescing or consenting to the militarization, and worse, to the claim of China that all the islands, waters, and resources within the 9-dash line form part of Chinese territory."

Cayetano's argument

The Paracels refer to a group of islands that China seized from Vietnam in 1974.

The Philippines has no claim over the Paracels, but the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) said that "nearly all of the Philippines falls within the radius" of the bombers that recently landed there.

Cayetano argued on Friday, June 1: "Sinasabi nila, kasi 'yung radius nu'ng bombers, abot tayo. Pero du'n pinalipad at nag-land sa hindi natin territory. So paano tayo magpo-protest sa hindi natin territory?"

(They're saying the radius of the bombers covers the Philippines. But it was flown over and it landed outside our territory. So how can we protest about something beyond our territory?)

Cayetano claimed it is "quite ridiculous" to file a protest about something beyond Philippine shores.

The Philippines, however, earlier condemned moves by other nations beyond Philippine shores, such as North Korea's missile tests alarming the region. Even if the missile tests happened beyond Philippine territory, Cayetano repeatedly slammed North Korea on his own.

The Philippines has refused to publicize any diplomatic protest against China. Manila, which is seeking economic benefits, prefers quiet talks with Beijing– Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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