BONGABONG, Oriental Mindoro—President Benigno Aquino III is not about to be flustered by the fiery language of Chinese officials.
The President said Sunday he did not think China would go to war with the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal.
Mr. Aquino was asked by reporters during a visit here to comment on a Chinese general’s call for China to take decisive actions against the Philippines to resolve the territorial dispute in the area which Filipino officials alternatively call Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc.
He replied that there were more “severe” headlines in the official Chinese newspaper People’s Daily, pointing to one that said, “Prepare to hear the sounds of canons.” He said that the Chinese were fond of speaking in “metaphors.”
“We don’t think that at this point in time that they will engage in any military activities,” the President said. He said that since the impasse began three weeks ago, he had taken actions “geared toward deescalating the situation.”
“It’s clear it is to nobody’s benefit, and there are a lot of repercussions, if any military force happens to be employed here. So we think that is more a statement that lacks substance. It’s not indicative of the real intentions,” he said.
He added that the general “did not command policy in the People’s Republic.”
The President said the government had been documenting developments at Scarborough Shoal as possible evidence against China before an appropriate international body.
He also said that the Department of Justice was consulting with various departments “to really define the basis of all the rules and regulations and which local and international laws that we subscribe to are currently in operation.”
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario left on Saturday for Washington for talks with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday. Joining the discussions that will include the Scarborough impasse will be Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and his US counterpart, Leon Panatta.
He told reporters that the talks would center on increasing “our capacity for territorial defense and maritime security” under the Mutual Defense Treaty. He said this year US defense assistance would reach $144.66 million.
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said in an interview over dzBB that China might be inadvertently “invading” the Philippines with its presence in Scarborough Shoal.
Santiago, an expert in international law who has been elected to the International Criminal Court, advocated a “binding regional code of conduct” among claimant-nations to force China to talk peace.
She said the diplomatic protest lodged by Manila against Beijing since the April 10 standoff “will be useful when we meet before an international court that … It will be evidentiary proof, among many other pieces of evidence, that we’re being consistent and have been practicing international public customary law.”
“The Senate should pass a resolution proclaiming our territorial sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal and explaining what is the basis, and referring it to the Department of Foreign Affairs for referral to China. That’s how it will play out,” Santiago said.
“We’re repeating this over and over again because that is one of the requirements of the international customary law, repetition, so we must repeatedly assert that it is ours,” she said.
Philanthropist Loida Nicolas-Lewis has called on the government to “show courage” by hitting back at China for “bullying” small countries like the Philippines and violating the country’s territorial sovereignty.
“China is a bully … She must be hit with moves like trade tariff. Let the Philippine Congress show its courage by passing a law that would impose tariff on all Chinese goods,” Lewis told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Saturday.
“If China files a case against us before the World Trade Organization for violation of the free trade agreement, then we could pursue our plan to bring the Scarborough Shoal case to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (based in Hamburg, Germany),” said Lewis, chair of the New York-based US Pinoys for Good Governance. With reports from Michael Lim Ubac and Jerry E. Esplanada