Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fish in Troubled Waters

Fish in Troubled Waters
By Erick San Juan

The three-day visit of our Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to Beijing is said to be fruitful because the two countries reaffirmed their commitment to respect and abide by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea signed by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2002.

In a joint statement, DFA Sec. del Rosario and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi “agreed to further strengthen the bonds and friendship and cooperation between the two countries and to fully implement the Joint Action Plan.” (Aurea Calica, Phil. Star 7/10/11)

This is a welcome development amidst the growing tensions in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea and a positive sign before the state visit of PNoy to China sometime in August or early September. Actually, it is the main intention of Sec. del Rosario’s visit to China – to resolve the Spratly issue.

The Philippines, through the efforts of PNoy’s administration, adheres to peaceful means of finding solutions to the SCS’ disputes that will be beneficial to all.

But then again, pundits and observers from different camps are trying to find ways of reaching the attention of PNoy, specifically Uncle Sam’s “intervention” in solving the SCS disputes.

To quote, at the 113th anniversary of the Department of Foreign Affairs as reported by Johanna Paola D. Poblete - “However, the President clarified that foreign policy for the Philippines -- even in accepting or providing help to treaty ally United States -- is still geared towards what is advantageous to the Philippines."

“We chart our own foreign policy. It so happen that in this particular case, there was a convergence between the Americans and ours with regard to the West Philippine Sea. There’s a convergence of objectives by both sovereign countries."

“So it does not sit well with me when somebody says that we closely align, meaning we abrogate our charting of our own foreign policies to that of another country. That is not permissible. Now we will chart our foreign policy based on the interest of the Philippines,” said President Aquino.

Very well said but action is better than mere words or rhetoric, Mr. President.

This country needs concrete actions geared towards what is beneficial to all of us as a sovereign nation. We can never be called an independent country if we are always perceived to be just another “loyal ally” in the region.

PNoy’s administration has to prove once and for all that we don’t just kowtow to the “big brother’s whim”. Precious lives are at stake here. When it comes to foreign policy, we have to play our cards well. Yes, we admit the fact that US is our long-term partner and in any partnership, but it should be a two-way street – no more, no less. We must be persistent to remind our “partner” that they should give what is due us. Historically, we have come a long way in this “international partnership” and must be wary this time not to be shortchange, again.

If US President Barack Obama is true to his words in describing “the Philippines as a key voice in the region that is well-positioned to lead efforts to address such challenges as climate change, global pandemics, and non-proliferation," and that ----

“The Philippines has a vital role in “ensuring that the region’s evolving architecture advances peace, security, and economic opportunity." (This message was relayed to Philippine Ambassador to the US, Jose Cuisia Jr., who presented his credentials to the US President at the White House last Friday as reported by JE and GMA News.) It is but proper for the US government to treat us well and be consistent in their commitment to support us in times that we need them.

In these very interesting times, we can never be sure of what will happen next. Despite the efforts of our neighbors in the region to avoid an impending regional conflict, there are rhetorics and irritants which could lead to a shooting war. At the Manila Conference on the South China Sea organized by the DFA, NDCP, Foreign Service Institute and the DA of Vietnam, Dr. Shen Hong Fang reiterated the warning of Chinese vice Foreign Minister Cui Tian-kai that the "U.S. is not the South China Sea claim sovereign country, so it has to stay away from these disputes and don't play with fire." We must all be wary and vigilant for a possible clash between two elephants because we could possibly be “a fish in troubled waters” in the process.

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