President Duterte’s position on the fishing boat is correct
This will not be the first or last of incidents being used to stoke conflicts on the South China Sea. When the first one involving fishermen happened it was also because the sea is common to them. So when it first broke out in Masinloc I talked to the Filipino fishermen who were involved in the incident. They were perplexed that fishing in the waters should be a cause for conflict because they have been fishing here for many years. It was an undisturbed friendship among the fishermen from coastal areas of countries until today.
I was able to talk to some of them and they said the friendship included sharing catch and having a meal together. We don’t argue on who made the catch (Hindi namin pinagtatalunan kung sino ang nakahuli ng isda) because as far as we are concerned the wide open sea was open to all of us. We were friends.
So I thought I should asked the local authorities in the area to help gather more Filipino fishermen to have a friendly chat with them who know better. The local authority in Masinloc was not interested although he would have been a great help to clarify the incident.
By then there was already a big issue with a never ending attacks on China and the possibility of war with the Philippines. And of course, the Western press was right behind a propaganda war helped by the oligarch owned local press which knew much less on what exactly happened.
I still think that the Deng Xiaoping formula should be used to help relations between the claimant countries and the spectacular rise of modern industrial China.
There is a book written entitled “When China Rules the World” that could help relations between us and them as well as other lesser developed countries in the region.
“When China Rules the World” by Martin Jacques will help us understand how to conduct relations with them. The problem is the competition between China and the US on who should be the number one power in the region. The location of the Philippines is crucial to both countries. We may be a small country but our strategic location is not a mean asset to both of them.
President Rodrigo Duterte understands that so he is very careful on what he says about the boat incident. As some people more knowledgeable about the sea, it has a heavy traffic and subject to collision accidents. He was right to be consistent with his policy of an independent policy for the Philippines in occasions such as this. All other claimants continued their search for better relations for other projects. Vietnam is chief among them. It concluded a bilateral agreement which would lead to supervision of fishing in the South China Sea.
Four important takeaways can be drawn from the incident – need for sobriety, due process, calibrated response and regional cooperation.
“Territorial and maritime disputes are always difficult to resolve. This is especially so if there are more than two parties involved as is the case for the six-way South China Sea row. Hence, for longstanding flashpoints, it is not unusual for parties to settle for the less-ideal but nonetheless feasible and practical dispute management and functional cooperation tracks. This includes: 1) setting up mechanisms for communication and dialogue to address incidents should they surface; 2) regular confidence-building measures and joint exercises to build trust among frontline maritime actors and 3) concerted efforts in conserving regional maritime commons. In the South China Sea, progress, though much incipient, has been made on the first two, but much work remains to be done on the third”. Sourced from 2019 ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore)
At a forum, Alberto Encomienda, executive director of the Center for Archipelagic and Regional Seas Law and Policy Studies, believes that the sea incident will not be an isolated case.
“A fishing boat incident somewhere in the South China Sea is something that is bound to happen all the time because of the nature of the South China Sea,” Encomienda said.
“This will not be an isolated incident and it is bound to happen all the time,” he added.
Encomienda expressed hope that the Recto Bank incident would lead to better relations among countries regarding the sharing of fishery resources in the area.
He mentioned that poaching incidents among fishermen have been happening in the South China Sea for a very long time.
“I’d like this event to awaken the consciousness, not how evil China is because China is not the only country fishing in the South China Sea… but on how to govern the relations of countries in regard to the conservation and preservation of Malayan environment and the share of fishery resources,” Encomienda said.
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