|Columnist Ortigoza getting the thoughts of former Philippines House Speaker de Venecia on the Spratlys's problems|
Political columnist Mortz Ortigoza sat again with the Philippines five-time House Speaker Joe de Venecia, Jr., an eminent global expert, to get his thoughts on the brewing issues on the West Philippines Sea that are disputed primordially by the saber-rattling and powerful Mainland China. Excerpts:
MORTZ C. ORTIGOZA (MCO): How strategic is the Spratlys for the Philippines, Mr. Speaker?
JOSE DE VENECIA, JR (JDV): Why should we sail to China (Sea to the Arab Gulf) all the way to that when we had oil and gas in our own front yard and our backyard? If we could only use (chuckled) our “coconut” (common sense).
MCO: Political and military spectators say that to discourage the incessant intrusions of China in the West Philippine Seas we have to invite our ally the Americans for a joint exploration of oil there.
JDV: The Americans will not drill for oil in the China Sea because who will invite them to drill there?
MCO: The Philippines government.
JDV: The Philippines? We are courting war with China, courting war with Vietnam.
MCO: Adm. Mike Mullen, the chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said recently at the start of his four-day visit to China that the U.S vowed to maintain her presence in the resource-rich waters. What is really the interest of the Americans in Spratlys?
JDV: The interest of the Americans is economics. So they could have a free and untrammeled navigation for being a Pacific power. Secondly, because that is one way of telling China na dahan-dahan naman kayo kasi nandito kami (you should be careful because of our presence here in the West Philippines Sea).
Thirdly, they have to show some semblance of support to the Philippines. Although as the Americans have pointed out while (other countries) threatening their allies they will go to war. (But it is different in the China Sea unless there is authorization by the U.S Congress. Because unlike the NATO agreement, an attack in England is considered as an automatic attack against the U.S, an attack on France is the same. An attack on the Philippines is an attack on the U.S. But it does not mean an immediate attack- response by the U.S. They have to consult their constitutional process first - it means to say their hall of congress.
MCO:Can’t we not use the Libyan Model when President Barrack Obama declared war against Muammar Gaddafi and support the Libyan rebels?
JDV: Well, you know in the case of Libya, there was an authorization from the Security Council of the United Nation but even the Security Council of the UN was abused and being abused by the European Power like France and Britain. Because the decision of the Security Council was really to prevent Gadafi on harming the Libyans who want to bring down their government.
MCO: Some political kibitzers question your formula of consortium among claimant countries in the Spratly because it does not resolve first the issue of sovereignty? What’s your take on that?
JDV: Well, (former paramount leader of Mainland China) Deng Xiaoping proposed that we shall not (discuss) sovereignty for the meantime. Because if the Philippine insists sovereignty, China insists on sovereignty, Vietnam insists on sovereignty, well there will be war. So the practical step is to shelve the issue of sovereignty, and agree on one common development on the Spratly so that Vietnam, China and the Philippines that claims for oil and gas and hydrocarbons under an equity of 1/3, 1/3,1/3 profit sharing formula that eventually would have to bring in Malaysia, Brunei, whose acreage or whose claim, in the Spratlys are smaller than that of the three. We should also invite them as part of this drilling coalition.
MCO: Does this consortium thing have something to do with our armed forces?
JDV: The weakest of these line states is the Philippines. We have no air force, we have no navy.
China has a large armed forces, Vietnam now has large armed forces, a large air force, a large navy.
MCO: Were major claimants China and Vietnam telegraphed already their intention that they were amenable to your proposal?
JDV: No, no. Yes, because I’m talking to them directly.
MCO: Were they amenable?
MCO: Is there a precedent model of your consortium’s formula?
JDV: Just like that in the North Sea after World War II, England is here (as he lifted the empty coffee cup and the sandwich of the interviewee to put on the other parts of the table to emphasize his point). This is England; the oil field is here in Ecofisk in the North Sea. They took a median line partition so the oil flows to Stavanger in Norway. The oil is in Teesside in England. And the natural gas goes to Crimea, German. I landed here in the Ecofisk which is above 20 stories high. The platforms from the sea, very stormy seas but (they were composed of) hundreds of oil wells! And siguro mga (Just like) several stories high buildings and platforms from the sea.
MCO: So nobody own these areas? The consortium owns them?
JDV: They have agreed. This part belongs to Norway! (Lifting again the sandwich and coffee cup of the interviewer by putting them to another part of the table to emphasize his point)This part belongs to England! This part belongs to Germany! In the meantime we jointly developed.
MCO: Is the North Sea’s model the only model the claimants in the Spratly’s can replicate?
JDV: Puwedi nating gawin ito( We can copy it). This is one model. The other model is that we will drill together and the profit we split. You see? So we shelve the issue of sovereignty.
This is the formula that will solve the problems of China, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Therefore that will solve the problem between China and Vietnam in the Paracel. This (in) the Spratly claim, Vietnam went to war over there a dozen years ago. This is the same formula that should be used because (by) Japan in Diaoyu Strait, what the Chinese call the Senkaku Strait.
This is the third formula that could be used on the Sea of Japan and the East Sea, between Japan and South Korea.
MCO: Taiwan has a claim there, too. Is it because of her being Mainland China once upon a time?
JDV: It is her being a China then. The Taiwanese claim will be jointly discuss with the two Chinas - China and Taiwan.
MCO: Some Spratlys’s watchers told me the Philippines should have the least claim than China on the disputed islets because the places there have been owned by China since the 17th Century?
JDV: Well, more than a thousand years ago, you know the Philippines do not exist on that area ruled by certain datus (tribal chiefs). We were not a nation. China was already an ancient civilization, the bigger kingdom. And so they have maps of the area, for example the Spratlys were discovered by my friend Tomas Cloma. He called it Freedom Land in 1957.
MCO: Some proposed that we amend the Constitution for the U.S to have their military bases again in the Philippines for them to guard our aerial and sea domain thus deterring the Chinese’s encroachments.
JDV: It would only put us in deep trouble. Americans are in deep trouble in Afghanistan and Iraq. What we all have to do is sit down with China and Vietnam, pag-usapan na natin ito at mag drill na. Hati-hati na lang tayo. Tapos na!(We discussed the problems with them and eventually drill oil for the equal benefits of all thus we solve the problem). The most practical and the most pragmatic!
(Mortz C. Ortigoza used to teach political science in Dagupan City and Manila, Philippines)