Wednesday, June 17, 2009



By Erick San Juan

I was requested by my radio listeners to write about last week’s collision course between USS John S. McCain, a destroyer with an underwater sonar array towed and a Chinese (PROC) submarine off the coast of the Subic Bay in Zambales. There were several versions of the encounter, coming from CNN saying it’s near the Philippines while the Pentagon said it’s off Subic Bay and the Chinese media reported that it’s near the Scarborough Shoal.

Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo, Navy’s spokesman is partly right when he said that the mishap occurred in international waters and outside the country’s jurisdiction. This is true by following the recently concluded Philippine baseline law. The new questionable law saved us from humility?

What went wrong was when Defense Assistant Secretary Alberto Valezuela made his own analysis of the incident, where it happened closer to China. He said that it was 125 nautical miles off Subic, near the Scarborough Shoal, which is 123 nautical miles from Subic.

I’m inclined to believe the analysis of our friend, Malaya columnist Ellen Tordesillas when she said, “From the three versions of the location of the collision, it can be concluded that it is in the Philippine territory. This can be likened to two quarreling bullies bringing their fight into the front yard of a third party, the Philippines.”

I don’t want to elaborate more on the baseline law, the UNCLOS (United Nations Commission on the Law of the Sea) treaty which our government was a signatory.

What worries me is the loose lips statement of Valenzuela that there’s nothing to be concerned about because the incident occurred inside the country’s 200 mile exclusive economic zone but outside the country’s 12 nautical mile territorial waters. Then he made a rejoinder of concern that we must be sure that no foreign vessels enter our territorial waters without authority. We cannot prohibit them from passing through in economic zones.

Col. Edward Arevalo exposed the double talk of Valenzuela when he said that there was no request for the U.S. for its warship to enter the Philippine waters and that there was no RP-US military exercise that would justify its entry there.

This Valenzuela seems to be more American than a Filipino Government official when he made an "alibi" that the U.S. ship actually came from military exercise between the U.S. and the Philippines and passed by Subic to refuel and for other logistic needs before sailing out of the Philippine territorial waters. This was confirmed by Ellen’s article (Malaya, June 17, 2009).

Some of our government functionaries have forgotten Mutual Respect 101. With high technology being used by the U.S. and China warships, it is just one press of the button away to tell our authorities ahead of time that they will pass the “free zone” areas near the Philippines. Where’s the courtesy? What are sonar radars and control tower for? In such times of crisis, a lot of common sense is needed. Hence, we’re not prepared for a disaster like “Pearl Harbor” in the offing!

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