Aquino men pounce on Yasay’s Asean fib

Outgoing Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr. and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario chastised what both claimed as frail efforts of Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. in pushing for the inclusion of arbitration ruling against China in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' (Asean) joint communique during the foreign ministers meeting last week.

The landmark ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration last July 12 dismissed Beijing's nine-dash line that claimed 90 percent of the region as illegal.

In a Makati forum, Cuisia expressed his disappointment at having the PCA award favoring the Philippines omitted in the ASEAN communique.

"It seems our interest is not really being very strongly protected," Cuisia said.

"I think he should (have) of course encouraged the Asean countries to come up with a statement (that included the PCA award), because what we are asking is to respect international law, to respect the ruling that is recognized by many other nations."

He added that while he respected the stance that "we should not flaunt it (PCA award)", he said it was a "ruling that all parties including China should respect."

In a text message, Yasay said that he would only respond to Cuisia if he himself confirms such sentiment directly to him.

In the same venue, Del Rosario supported Cuisia's view saying "ideally we should have stood strongly in promoting the arbitration ruling as being part of the final statement."

Del Rosario also did not encourage bilateral negotiations with China.

"Maybe they should experience first (seeking a) bilateral with China. My experience with China was not very productive," he said.

In Yasay's recent press conference, he reiterated that he "vigorously pushed for the inclusion" of the PCA award but defended his relenting on the final statement omitting mention of the tribunal's ruling saying that it was not the object of the 49th ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting.

"The arbitral award is a matter between the China and the Philippines that we will continue to resolve in a peaceful manner," Yasay clarified.

"What is wrong with saying we welcome this decision and we hope that we can work together in ASEAN in trying to get China to come up with a reasonable stance on this South China Sea issue?" Cuisia asked.

He said in seeking bilateral talks with Beijing, the Philippines must "not set aside the ruling."

"China has been bullying us for so many years, harassing our fishermen, intimidating our patrol aircraft and navy," and has been the ones "who have acted in a provocative manner. They have bullied nations like the Philippines and Vietnam," he said.

"With the historic ruling, we would have been able to use it as leverage, no single country should be allowed to jeopardize peace and security in the region," he pointed out.

"We should stand by the ruling, we should be magnanimous in our talks with China but at the same time we should be very firm," he said.

Del Rosario added "the discussion (between China and the Philippines) should be based on how we stand by the ruling that the Philippines should be proud of."

FVR talks with Beijing on tap

Yasay said informal talks between the Philippines and China regarding the maritime dispute will soon push through after the recent acceptance of former President Fidel V. Ramos who President Duterter appointed as special envoy to China.

He said instructions and guidance from Duterte concerning Ramos' mission "is now being sought."

Yasay said the issues on the peristent problem of Filipino fisherme in the disputed areas will be the agenda in the planned meeting with China.

"We are still being chased away, so what we are doing is we're trying to work out our claims with China at this point," Yasay said.

"In the meantime, before we even sit down for bilateral, I hope they will allow our fishermen to go back already," Yasay said.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Spokesman Charles Jose said the agenda for the meetings are being finalized and as of now there is "no specific dates yet."

Yasay had said China has asked the Philippines to hold bilateral talks outside the context of the PCA award referring to his meeting with Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) forum in Mongolia.

Yasay claimed he rejected Beijing's offer saying China's proposed term is not consistent with the Philippine Constitution.

"They said that if you will insist on the ruling and discuss it along those lines, then we might be headed for a confrontation but I really feel that this is something that they had to make on a public basis," he had said.

Outgoing US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said the ruling is legally binding and therefore should be used in diplomatic talks.

He said, however, that while the PCA decision is legally binding, it "is the time to exercise restraint, to think the way to move forward, how to best engage in diplomacy and to make sure that the impact of the decision is also reflected in future discussion."

Goldberg stressed that the U.S. has always supported the Philippines in bringing this case and now that the arbitral award established, freedom of navigation is even further solidified.

China to RP: Bare arbitration costs

China through state news agency Xinhua said "the great expenses for the South China Sea arbitration unilaterally initiated by the former Philippine government should be made public, as some Filipinos are already questioning the source of the money."

In 2013, the Aquino administration unilaterally filed a case on the South China Sea dispute between the Philippines and China. China said the ad hoc arbitral tribunal set up at Manila's request issued a highly controversial and biased award on July 12, denying China's long-standing historic rights in the South China Sea.

"Questions about how much money has been spent on the arbitration, paid by whom and to whom, have not only sparked hot debates in the Philippines, but also drawn attention worldwide," it said.

It had cost Manila $30 million to merely pay off legal fees and expenses of lawyers in the case against China, the Xinhua article stated quoting Rigoberto Tiglao, former ambassador and spokesman of former President Gloria Arroyo, in his column published in mid-July.

"Looking back, The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) charged the arbitral tribunal for the South China Sea case 2.85 million euros (3.16 million dollars ) for the secretarial service," Xinhua said.

This was a sum all paid by Manila, including the share supposed to have been borne by Beijing, which had insisted on a stance of non-acceptance of and non-participation in the arbitration, it added.

This cost is supposed to cover human labor and rents for office and office equipment, as well as possible payments to the five members of the arbitral tribunal, said Wang Hanling, a Chinese maritime law expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

A gross sum of partial expenses can be traced on the basis of open data, Wang said. For instance, charges of secretarial service include openly-priced human labor, a single payment of 2,000 euros (2,218 dollars) for registration, and daily rent of office equipment at 1,750 euros (1,940 dollars), among other things, and the hearings room is charged at 1,000 euros (1,109 dollars) per day.

"Such estimations can lead to a conclusion that the arbitrators pocketed largely the money Manila paid," Wang wrote in an article published on July 28 in China's Global Times newspaper.

The PCA charges are the only part made public of the expenses of the arbitration case, Wang said.

Wang believes that certain countries such as the United States and Japan, and some organizations, probably have invested a great deal of money and resources in the South China Sea arbitration case, citing the first payment by some U.S. institutions.

However, what Manila finally gained from the arbitration case is nothing but a scrap of paper, instead of benefits, he said.

In this regard, it is necessary for Manila to open the records of expenses for the arbitration, so as to respond to the questions raise by the Philippine people and address the concerns of the international community, Wang concluded.

Source: Tribune