WritingsinterviewsJoma Sison backs PH legal battle vs China over...

Joma Sison backs PH legal battle vs China over sea dispute

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http://globalnation.inquirer.net/125866/joma-sison-backs-ph-legal-battle-vs-china-over-sea-dispute

LUCENA CITY, Philippines—Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison on Thursday declared his support to the legal struggle of the Philippine government against the “aggressive acts” of China in the West Philippine Sea.

“The [Philippine government] has good reason to demonstrate the seriousness of the [Philippine] position,” Sison told the Inquirer in an online interview.

Sison said he and his wife, Julie de Lima-Sison, signed the “Joint manifesto of Filipinos and friends of the Filipino people in the Netherlands” supporting the Philippine government’s fight for national sovereignty and maritime rights in the West Philippine Sea “against the aggressive acts of China.”

The West Philippine Sea is part of the South China Sea within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ) recognized under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

Although it ratified the Unclos, China refuses to recognize the Philippines’ EEZ, seizing reefs in the West Philippine Sea and transforming them into artificial islands from which, its rivals for territory in the South China Sea fear, it would project its military might in the region.

China’s actions also appear to contravene its former leaders’ stand against superpower aggression. In Maoist lingo, the current Chinese leadership is carrying out a wrong line in foreign policy.

Deng’s pronouncement

In 1976, then China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping told the UN General Assembly: “A superpower is an imperialist country which everywhere subjects other countries to its aggression, interference, control, subversion or plunder and strives for world hegemony…. If one day China should change her color and turn into a superpower, if she too would play the tyrant in the world, and everywhere subject others to her bullying, aggression and exploitation, the people of the world should identify her as social imperialist, expose it, oppose it and work with the Chinese people to overthrow it.”

Sison, who lives in exile in the Netherlands, is also a political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the political arm of the CPP.

On Tuesday, a small group of Filipinos living in the Netherlands staged a rally at the United Nations International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (Itlos) at The Hague as an arbitral tribunal opened oral arguments on the Philippines’ challenge to China’s claim to 90 percent of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea.

“I was not able to join the picket because I had to do my monthly reporting to immigration police,” Sison said.

‘Junket’

When asked if he shared the observation of University of the Philippines professor Harry Roque that the 35-member government delegation now in The Hague for the oral arguments is on a “junket,” Sison replied: “I leave to the fiscal experts the evaluation of the expenses whether within budgetary limits and whether worthwhile in relation to other needs.”

Roque, who is director of the Institute of International Legal Studies at the UP Law Center, questioned the government’s decision to send a 35-member delegation to The Hague when only two of its members would argue the Philippine case before the tribunal.

Roque argued that the money spent by the Philippine delegation should have been used to help fishermen displaced from Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) when China seized it in 2012.

Sison said Roque had a “good patriotic reason to be critical of the size of the delegation.”

He said he had not yet met any member of the Philippine delegation.

Opposing Marcos

Sison rebutted the argument of Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that the Philippine government wasted the opportunity to peacefully settle the dispute when it rejected China’s invitation for bilateral talks.

“How can the Philippines negotiate with China, which always declares ‘ab initio’ (from the beginning) that it has indisputable sovereignty over 90 percent of the entire South China Sea and that in effect the Philippines has no rights over its EEZ and ECS (extended continental shelf)?” Sison said.

The Philippines has asked the arbitral tribunal to nullify China’s claim to nearly the whole South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, as it is a violation of Unclos.

Manila is trying to convince the tribunal that it has jurisdiction over the case, as it involves Unclos, whose integrity, it says, is at stake in the proceedings.

Declaration of support

The statement of Filipinos in the Netherlands that the Sisons signed said: “We, Filipinos and friends of the Filipino people in the Netherlands, stand together in upholding the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of our Motherland, and in defending the Filipino people’s sovereign rights over their exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf in the West Philippine Sea, now being illegally claimed and encroached upon by China.”

The group observed that in the last few years, China had been committing “blatant acts of aggression by imposing its baseless and arrogant claim of owning 90 [percent] of the South China Sea, grabbing the Philippines’ entire extended continental shelf and 80 [percent] of our exclusive economic zone.”

“It has occupied the shoals off Masinloc, and is doing intensive reclamation work on reefs, shoals and islets in the [Spratly archipelago],” the group said.

“China has thus robbed the Filipino people of bountiful fishing grounds and vast amounts of mineral wealth, and gravely damaged the marine environment. We denounce in the strongest terms these aggressive incursions of China! These crimes violate Philippine sovereignty, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, conventions on the environment, and the freedom of navigation in the high seas,” it said.

US exploiting sea row

But the group also alleged that the US government had been exploiting the territorial dispute in order to increase its military presence in the Philippines and the entire Asia-Pacific region.

On June 23, Sison noted on his Facebook page that US officials, including Republican Sen. John McCain, were the first to declare that US naval vessels must keep a 22-km distance from the Chinese reclamations, conceding that these belonged to China.

“Since then, the US has been pressing the Philippines to accept the reclamations to keep US-China military cooperation and allow the US to have military bases in the Philippines under the pretext of protecting the Philippines from China,” Sison said.

The group statement said that even with increased US military presence in the area, the American military had only stood by and allowed China to commit the acts of aggression against the Filipino people and their territories.

“This shows that the US military presence in the Philippines is maintained and deployed not for the defense of Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the group said.

It claimed that the United States “has its own imperialist interests to protect” against the Philippines and China.

Dangerous game

The group said the United States and China were just using Philippine territory “as an arena for their dangerous game of imperialist aggrandizement, pursuing their own military, economic and political agenda of competition and collusion.”

“The casualty is the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Filipino nation,” it said.

“We call on our compatriots to denounce and resist China’s aggression and all forms of foreign intervention. We are for a truly independent foreign policy that neither bows to China’s aggression nor kowtows to US dictates,” the group said.

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