Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano admits the Duterte Administration has not proposed funding for the assertion of the Philippine claims over the West Philippine Sea in the 2018 National budget now being discussed in Congress.
Cayetano was being interpellated by Albay 1st Rep. Edcel Lagman, who belongs to the independent bloc.
In particular, Lagman asked the DFA chief about the amount in the agency’s allocation earmarked specifically for the assertion and defense of Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippines Sea (WPS) “consistent with the arbitral decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).”
“If you give us a few days, we’ll give a specific proposal,” Cayetano replied.
This prompted House Appropriations Committee Chairman Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles’s promise to study a forthcoming proposal from Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano regarding a dedicated budget for “West Philippine Sea (WPS) concerns.”
“There is more than meets the eye regarding the geopolitical terrain in the WPS and we trust Secretary Cayetano to come up with a sensible and ultimately advantageous plan to address the current issues there,” Nograles said after hearing the former senator’s manifestations during the panel discussions on the DFA’s proposed P19.57-billion budget for 2018.
“We will do our job whether you add a peso or not. Of course the more resources you give us, the more we can assert not only our rights but develop the institutional memory and institutional strength in fighting for our claims,” Cayetano told the Appropriations panel.
At that time, Nograles said: “We will carefully study the DFA’s upcoming proposal with the goal of continuing the gains achieved through President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘friend to all, enemy to no one’ packaging of the Philippines in Asia and beyond.”
“The Duterte administration has already assured that it would defend the country’s sovereignty, so the important thing right now is to give the DFA the resources to perform its mandate,” Nograles stressed.
On July 12, 2016, the Philippine government won a landmark arbitration case against China before The Hague-based PCA regarding its territorial claims in the WPS. Rendered invalid by the ruling was China’s nine-dash-line claim on the entire South China Sea, which encompasses the WPS.
Cayetano explained that the DFA simply doesn’t have that much access to funds like before.
“From 2014 to the present, basically we’ve been stripped of certain funds, certain memberships. For example, the DFA used to be a member of NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority). At that time we weren’t really doing economic diplomacy.
“Then in 2014 the intelligence functions were removed, so the intelligence funds were removed. I’ve been told now that the intelligence funds are purely for military so we didn’t appeal that anymore,” he narrated.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano says reports on the alleged incursion of Chinese ships off Pag-asa island have been “resolved.”
Maintaining that the Philippines will not cede “an inch of our territory,” disputed reports that there was an invasion of Philippine sandbars. “one of them was saying may invasion of the sandbar sa pag-asa. what does invasion mean? it means inaagaw mo o kaya tinatayuan ng ibang country thats not true as i said NSA Sec esperon ahs also come out to deny that happened.”
While being sparse on details, Cayetano said there is no longer any problem in the area. “so let me assure you wala nang prublema doon sa area na yun kung nagkaprublema man it was resolved diplomatically its not true that there was an attempt na iinvade or agawin”
Cayetano added, “let me put it this way the mere presence per se although we were informed and of course we needed to talk about it the mere presence of chinese ships under the UNCLOS doesnt mean anything”
Cayetano explained, “ siguro yung confusion kasi ganito those who are claimants say theres no freedom of navigation theres no right of innocent passage freedom of navigation sa highe sees innocent passage yun ang question sa loob ng 12 mile territorial sea…thats where it gets confusion thats the territorial claims. the mere fact na meron doon does not mean na mayroong violation.”
Cayetano maintains even China has freedom of navigation in disputed waters. “you cant on one hand argue for UNCLOS on the other hand say di okay ang UNCLOS kasi sa UNCLOS lahat may freedom of navigation including the chinese di natin pwede sabihin k lang pag amerikano australyano or eu will pass there kasi freedom of navigation pero pag chinese sandali lang di kayo pwede. UNCLOS applies to everyone”
Cayetano also added that right now, the top security threat in the region is the Korean peninsula, over which the Philippines plays a key role as ASEAN chair this year. ”Remember despite the calming down and number one security threat pa rin ‘yung KOrean peninsula. Sa katayuan natin sa Pilipinas na tayo ang chair ng ASEAN, tayo ang chief diplomat. Tayo ang taga-bati. tayo ang taga-build ng bridges. Kung may gulo din dito sa West PHilippine SEa, paano tayo makakatulong na i-resolve yung Korean Peninsula and other Intra-REgional Issues that we have to take care of.
Cayetano was also dismissive over the pronouncements of thinktank CSIS which claimed that the chinese ships could not have exercised the right of innocent passage.
“First there’s a difference between innocent passage and freedom of navigation. Number two, as to fishermen, ano ba nakalagay sa, yun nga sinasabi ko, hindi tayo pwedeng maging inconsistent. what do I say about CSIS? It’s a good think tank, its transparency project does a lot to help but let’s not forget that it’s also an American think tank na American interest di ba? So the US has a strategy for Asia. China has a strategy for Asia, Japan has a strategy for ASia, we don’t want to follow any of their strategies. WE want to have a Philippine strategy for Asia. So the CSIS did not tell us anything we did not already know di ba? “
Cayetano tells CSIS that the Philippines is dealing with the situation. “So message ko sa CSIS, we’re dealing with it. We’re dealing with it but from the point of view of PHilippine interest. When our interest coincides with America, then you will have us there. When our interests diverge, then we will follow Philippine interest. But let’s make no doubt there is no identical interest with the Chinese, with the Japanese, with the Australians,with the US, with the EU. “
addressing lawmakers at his agency’s budget hearing at House Approproaions, Cayetano also reiterated that they are proceeding with the idea of joint exploration in the west Philippine Sea.
Cayetano adds that they were advised by Chinese counterparts to separate territorial claims from other issues to avoid complications. Cayetano assured the lawmakers that they are working on a framework that will not violate the constitution. Cayetano says that based on estimates, there is enough natural gas in the area that will address the country’s energy requirements for 100 years.