RETIRED professor Clarita Carlos said she will address the country’s dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea “with sensitivity” when she assumes office as national security adviser (NSA).
Saying that “no one wants to go war” over the maritime row, Carlos said the best thing the next administration can do is to tread with caution.
She said the 2016 arbitral ruling invalidating Beijing’s claims over the West Philippine Sea, at least for now, is nothing but a piece of paper.
“The arbitral award did not award anything. There is no award. It was simply declared na walang basis ‘yung nine-dash line. ‘Yun lang (It was simply declared that the nine dash line has no basis. That’s all),” Carlos said in a roundtable discussion with the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations (PCFR) in Pasig City Thursday.
“In international politics, if there is no force backing up your claim, it is just a piece of paper, unfortunately,” she said.
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The 76-year-old scholar-scientist said until China renounces its claims on the waterway, the best strategy for the Philippines right now is to deal with the Chinese “in the language that they know and in the language that we know.”
“That is [to] exchange goods and services — services of accountants, environmentalists, etc. That’s what we need to do,” noted Carlos.
“China is a civilization of 5,000 years. It knows what to do. President Xi Jinping is on his way to a third term and yet here we are changing our leaders every few years. You put all those things in the equation. Let us study the Chinese prism of how they deal with the world,” she said.
But it does not mean that the Philippines will be standing idly by or would be willing to take a beating from China, Carlos added.
“If they want to be patient, we will be more patient. They said shared future, shared prosperity, aba, isama nila tayo sa usapan (they must include us in the discussion)… China, if it is not yet a superpower, is threatening to be a superpower. That is the reality on the ground,” she said.
Carlos has previously declared that the Philippines will pursue a policy of “critical engagement” with China by crafting a holistic framework considering political, economic, social, cultural aspects in the bilateral relations instead of merely focusing on diplomatic and defense angles.
“War is not an option. We will continue to talk,” she said.
Carlos also said that while effects of the Russia-Ukraine war are already being felt locally in the form of soaring prices of petroleum products and other commodities, the Philippines will be cushioned by its “robust relations” with Moscow.
“As far as I’m concerned it is not a security threat. Unang-una (First), we have very robust relations with Russia,” she said.
Carlos pointed out that contrary to public perception that the Philippines strengthened its ties with Russia when President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office, it was in fact during the time of President Ferdinand E. Marcos when the country warmed up relations with what was then the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
“One of the things he did was to open diplomatic relations with the USSR, with China, with Libya, etc. And that is one of the major breakthroughs in our foreign policy,” Carlos stated.
Motorists and consumers have been struggling to cope with skyrocketing pump prices since the start of the year due to outside forces, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
High fuel prices have forced the government to provide financial aid to transportation and agriculture workers.
It is also because of the surging petroleum prices that Carlos said she would recommend to President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to accept Russia’s offer to help “satisfy the needs in sources of energy” in the country, as relayed by Ambassador Marat Pavlov to Marcos during their meeting recently.
Russia is one of the world’s largest exporters of petroleum products, and Marcos and Pavlov have agreed to continue the discussion “a little bit further” in the coming days.
“Energy security is human security. One full tank costs around P5,000. Can you just imagine, money spent for gas could have been spent for food,” Carlos said.
“And that’s the reason why I will give the President-elect my comment on the Russian offer for gas and oil,” she said.
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