by Roy Mabasa
If the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) gave the whole picture of what is happening in the disputed areas in the South China Sea, all claimant countries would be protesting against one another, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said over the weekend.
Cayetano said the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), part of CSIS, reported recently that China has built new military facilities on islands in the South China Sea, particularly on Fiery Cross (Kagitingan, to the Philippines), Mischief (Panganiban), and Subi (Zamora) Reefs in the West Philippine Sea, about 230 miles southwest of Palawan and therefore well within the Philippines’ 300-mile Exclusive Economic Zone.
This latest CSIS report has prompted Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to call on the Philippine government to protest China’s moves.
Cayetano, however, said the CSIS report should be “seasoned” – taken with a grain of salt – to adjust for certain biases.
“CSIS is a very good organization – their transparency program,” he said, “but they are an American think tank, they are for American interests, not necessarily Filipino interest. Sometimes they go into Filipino interests; sometimes not.”
Cayetano said CSIS is not giving the entire picture of the current situation in the South China Sea. “If they show that, everyone will be protesting against each other, because it’s not only China who’s building,” Cayetano said.
It’s normal for countries to keep filing protests since this is part of diplomacy, he said, but the Philippines cannot allow that to affect everything else.
“If we do, our conflict will not only be with China. It will also be with Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, and, to a certain extent, Taiwan,” he said.
Cayetano added that the disputes under the Law of the Sea are not like land disputes, where, if a concerned party does not protest, the claim of the other party could “mature.”
“Even if the claim has been there for 30 years and no one protests, if it’s not theirs, it’s not theirs, it will not mature into ownership,” he said. “If there are mistakes that have been made over the last 30 to 40 years, and there were some who protested every day and some who did not protest every day, don’t worry. That will not affect our claims per se.”