With China acting with impunity, both in words and deeds, in the South China Sea, and for that matter in the West Philippine Sea, one can’t help but ask the Filipino conscience who is the greater evil now – the Chinese or the American troops who were booted out from the bases in 1991?
Over issues of national sovereignty, the public’s perception that the American troops were above the law, especially during allegations of rape and human right abuses, and even the compensation package offered by the US for the uses of the bases, 12 senators, then dubbed as the “Magnificent 12″, were instrumental in abrogating the Philippine-US Bases Treaty in 1991.
Hailed as heroes at that time were former senators Agapito “Butz” Aquino, Joseph Estrada, Teofisto Guingona Jr, Sotero Laurel II, Ernesto Maceda Jr, Orlando Mercado, Aquilino Pimentel Jr, Rene Saguisag, Jovito Salonga, Wigberto Tañada, Victor Ziga, and currently detained Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.
Except for Laurel, who is dead, some are sickly already, but most are still up and about – only that they seem to have lost their “tongues” in criticizing the brazen military expansionism conducted by the Chinese government in the South China Sea and even in our territorial waters.
China’s established hegemony in the contested waters is not only shameless and bold by creating military facilities out of atolls/reefs, but China, in claiming almost all of the South China Sea based on idiotic historical grounds, has now become even more adventurous by declaring air defense zones in the area.
On the pretext that what China is doing in the area is for the benefit of search and rescue missions, disaster prevention and mitigation, meteorological observation, ecological conservation, navigation safety and fishery services, are these good enough reasons why they are making massive reclamation of land and building airstrips?
Whom are they fooling?
We have seen how the Chinese have treated and bullied Filipino and Vietnamese fishermen and they want the world to believe that their presence is for fishery services?
Their presence and the structures they built/constructed are no doubt for their own dominion and interest in the area.
The question now is: Could China’s aggressive expansion in the South China Sea, which is getting to be a potential for conflict in the region, have happened if the Philippine-US Bases Treaty was not abrogated?
Without the American troops manning the bases strategically located in the region, surely China took advantage of it and one sees now how China is dominating this part of the world to the consternation of the weak and smaller nations in the area.
Was it lack of foresight or was it simply for political grandstanding and gratification among the “Magnificent 12?”
So who is the greater evil now?
Who is more a threat to our sovereignty and territorial integrity?
How I wish some of the living members of the “Magnificant 12” could come forward and make a statement about what they did and if they have foreseen that their action would adversely affect the lives of some of our fisher folks over two decades after.
We haven’t seen the worst yet, but for as long as China continues its massive development in the South China Sea, our part of the world will be disadvantaged and in peril.