by Daniel Long
After the President made the statement that the Ayungin Shoal is
a “gray area”, his historic political enemies Justice Antonio Carpio and Rappler attacked him for being level-headed. BBM even stopped short of calling China a “bully” unlike other grandstanding politicians. Rappler remains the least trusted media in the country for 4 straight years and BBM has already said in September 2022 that they are a “foreign enterprise which is not allowed in our laws”.
The President is right and Carpio is wrong. The situation is not black and white. Under Article 13 of the UNCLOS, (United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea) a low tide elevation is underwater at high tide and “has no territorial sea of its own.” It means that the Ayungin Shoal, since it is a low tide elevation, cannot be subject to a territorial sea claim. It is therefore inaccurate (if we are to be consistent in upholding UNCLOS) to say that Ayungin Shoal is “Philippine territory” or that the Philippines has “sovereignty” over it. Even the “2016 arbitral award” concluded that the Philippines is not entitled to Ayungin Shoal either as a territorial sea, exclusive economic zone, or continental shelf. It doesn’t matter that Ayungin Shoal is within the 200 nautical miles (105nm) of exclusive economic zone granted to the Philippines by UNCLOS. The Aquino regime themselves gave it up when they filed the case at the Hague.
However, some vloggers, who claim to support the President, decided to echo US government educated and seemingly Yellow Philippine Coast Guard Commodore Jay Tarriela’s comment calling those who give a complete picture of the South China Sea issue and dissent from the official narrative “TRAITORS”. This is reminiscent of the cancel culture tactics of the Pinks during the campaign calling people “enablers” and “apologists”. Will these people also call the President a “traitor” and “pro-China” for calling the Ayungin Shoal incident a “gray area” and as recently as June 2023 saying “the Philippines has not shifted in ANY WAY from China”? Will they also join opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros in condemning the President not recognizing the 7th year anniversary of the “2016 arbitral ruling”?
Perhaps they need a reminder that Antonio Carpio is a political propagandist who should not be trusted to talk about the South China Sea dispute. Attorney Larry Gadon, now presidential adviser, once said that serious lawyers laugh at Carpio because he keeps insisting the “2016 arbitral ruling” was a real arbitration when China wasn’t even a participant rendering the decision non-executory. Carpio was also the mastermind behind the fake “tax evasion” disqualification case against BBM. The fact that he would use a decision by a lower regional trial court to try to disqualify the President when it had already been overturned by the higher Court of Appeals should make one question this man’s legal expertise and objectivity. Justice Carpio is nothing but an anti-Marcos zealot.
During President Duterte’s time, he told his cabinet that no one should talk about the South China Sea dispute except him and spokesperson Attorney Harry Roque to centralize the discourse. Senator Chiz Escudero has recommended that President Bongbong Marcos do the same. His subordinates like Philippine Coast Guard Commodore Jay Tarriela are pushing him into a corner and usurping his authority as sole architect of foreign policy. Trust your instincts, Mr. President. It’s time to rein these people in and reject the Yellowfication of our foreign policy. We will support you.