By Martin Sadongdong
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana clarified on Wednesday that he was referring to China’s seizure of the Scarborough or Panatag Shoal in 2012 when he called the country a “bully.”
“Ang binabalikan kong parang na-bully tayo ay ‘yong pagkuha nila ng Scarborough noong 2012. Ginamitan tayo ng lakas ng kanilang mga malalaking barko ng Coast Guard saka dumating pa ‘yong kanilang PLA [Peoples’ Liberation Army] Navy so tayo naman ay nagkamali yata tayo na umalis doon. So parang gamitan ng lakas para ‘yong kabila ay matakot at umurong, iyon ang nangyari doon sa Scarborough Shoal, iyon ang tinutukoy kong na-bully tayo,” Lorenzana lengthily explained in a radio interview.
(What I was referring to as a kind of bullying was their [China] seizure of Scarborough in 2012. They used power through their big Coast Guard ships and their PLA Navy also arrived, so we left in the area and that was apparently a wrong move. It’s like they used force so that the other party will be scared and back out, that’s what happened in Scarborough Shoal, that’s what I was referring to when I said we were bullied.)
During a disaster resilience summit in Quezon City on Tuesday, Lorenzana expressed doubts to the sincerity of Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua when the latter said that China is committed to adhere to the policy of peaceful settlement in addressing maritime disputes in South China Sea.
It led him to say that China has been a bully to the Philippines.
However, the Defense Chief noted improvement as he said that China’s treatment to the Filipinos is not the same as before.
“Recently naman ay medyo kumalma naman sila at hindi na sila nambu-bully dahil ‘yong ating mga mangingisda na dati nilang pinipigilang pumunta sa paligid ng Scarborough ay nakakapangisda na (Recently, they are calmer and they stopped bullying our fishermen who they used to prevent from going into the vicinity of Scarborough to fish),” Lorenzana said.
However, he offered an explanation to this.
“Kasi nakuha na nila ‘yong gusto nila kaya pwede na sila sigurong magsabing maging benevolent sila. Pwede na kayong mangisda kaya lang kanila na ‘yong, nagpasahan na doon ng poder ‘yong Scarborough Shoal na matagal nang atin (It’s because they already got what they wanted so they can already be benevolent. You can fish there but they already are in possession of Scarborough Shoal which used to be ours),” he said.
In April 2012, eight Chinese fishing vessels anchored on Scarborough Shoal and carrying illegally collected corals, giant clams and live sharks were spotted by the Philippine Navy.
The Scarborough Shoal was claimed by China, Philippines and Taiwan during that time.
When the PH Navy was about to arrest the crew of the Chinese vessels, they were blocked by Chinese surveillance ships which led to a standoff.
Ultimately, it resulted to the Philippine government filing an international case against China in the United Nations (UN)-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, the Netherlands in 2013.
In 2016, the PCA ruled in favor of the Philippines and dismissed China’s “nine-dash line” basis in claiming almost the entire South China Sea.
The ruling, however, was not honored by China.