War with China not an option

 

President Rodrigo Duterte with China President Xi Jinping

Much have been said about whether or not China’s leader, President Xi Jinping, had really warned the Philippine government not to rock the boat over the country’s maritime dispute with them at the West Philippine Sea (WPS) or else  there will be war.

Some politicians and political pundits are saying this is bullying in its highest form to keep us silent, and the best remedy, as they suggested, is to bring the matter up again to the UN tribunal, the same body that declared China’s build-up in the WPS as illegal.

Again I have to ask: what for?

Even Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the Chinese leader’s threat, if true, is a gross violation of the United Nations (UN) charter. Then he cited Article 2, Section 4 of the UN Charter that states “all members shall refrain in their institutional relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purpose of the United Nations.”

While this may serve as basis for another related complaint we will be raising against China before the UN tribunal, what good will it do the country if China do not give a hoot about what the arbitral court says?

Like I said many times before, what China has claimed at the South China Sea is China’s and what belongs to the Philippines at the WPS is still China’s and if the most powerful nation on Earth, the US, was not able to prevent China from its military build-up in the area and the UN tribunal’s decision favoring the Philippine’s claim of its own territory just brazenly and utterly disregarded and disrespected by China, then who are we to think, much less believe, that elevating the war threat against us by China will stop China from doing what they are there for – militarizing the area.

President Rodrigo Duterte knows very well that war with China is not an option, but he is intelligent enough to understand that if he plays his cards well he can make the most out for the country and the Filipino people.

We are in a new geopolitical situation forced upon a third world country and we just have to be thankful that Duterte is one leader who thinks out of the box, has political will and has the support of the people to make things happen for the interest of the country.

Duterte is left with no other alternative but to make deals and pacts with China to benefit the country, like when sought closer ties with Beijing to win billions of dollars of Chinese investments and loans.

Duterte is doing the same thing with Russia now finally putting into practice his serious shift in foreign policy that all these years have been dictated and dominated by the US government.

Duterte’s non-censure of China on SCS dispute hit

 

Long before the Philippines was designated as host for the ASEAN Summit 2017, those instrumental in filing and winning the case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague over the country’s maritime territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea (SCS) were hoping that this could be the right opportunity and venue by which the ASEAN bloc, through its chairman, President Rodrigo Duterte, could express condemnation over China’s aggressive build-up of artificial islands and militarization of the same, which are now viewed as a threat to the peace and security of the region.

What gave these people the confidence that this will be realized is the fact that many of the member-nations are, like the Philippines, contesting China’s claim of its own territorial waters.

Unfortunately, the ruling of the PCA came after Duterte got elected president and as we all know he never considered this favorable arbitral tribunal’s ruling a victory of sort for the country as he continued making deals with China.

In fact one would think that Duterte should have kept distance from China after illegally claiming and occupying parts of our sovereignty, but he instead honored the invitation of China’s president to visit him.

But do we really have to blame Duterte if, as chairman of the 30th ASEAN Summit, he failed to censure China over what it has done with impunity in the SCS?

Throughout the summit Duterte said the Philippines and other nations were helpless to stop the island building, so there was no point discussing it at all.

Duterte was just being practical and realistic for, indeed, the issue in the SCS among claimant nations versus China is no longer about resolving China’s permanent military presence in the area, but rather in trying to manage and make the best out of their presence in the region.

What we and the other ASEAN member-nations are facing now is a developing geopolitical situation which has been arrogantly imposed on us.

This is the price of being an underdeveloped country. Against China we are nothing. If the U.S. was not able to stop China’s military build-up in the SCS, who are we to stop them?

But as people, we just have to make sure that our pride and dignity will not go to the dogs.

We will see how Duterte could protect us and where his independent foreign policy will get us to.

We can’t do nothing but cross our fingers.

Duterte is TIME magazine’s most influential person

 

TIME magazine may have been one of the early international publications that criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s relentless and bloody war on illegal drugs, with a cover article in September titled “Night Falls on the Philippines”, yet the same prestigious magazine will soon be ranking Duterte as its top most influential person for 2017.

Why is this?

Well, TIME has made it clear that its entrants for the annual 100 most influential people selection are recognized for changing the world, regardless of the consequences of their actions. Note that the official TIME 100 lists are chosen by the magazine’s editors.

For one who also landed on the Most Powerful People list of Forbes magazine, Duterte is sure making waves here and abroad.

It simply marks the man’s departure from the conventional style of leadership that Filipinos have been used to – both in words and deeds.

Duterte’s colorful language, his no-nonsense style of governance, his down-to-earth personality and his out-of-the-box thinking and assessment of things, not to mention his fearless show of political will no matter who gets affected for as long as it benefits the country and the greater number of people, is what has endeared him to Filipinos.

Giving Duterte an overwhelming victory during the election was a gamble that made many Filipinos winners, too.

The country has been always plagued with corrupt officials and people thought that this was the single critical reason why we never prosper as a nation.

Until Duterte came along as a candidate promising not only stamping out corruption in government but also waging war against illegal drugs and criminality did we realized how distinctive he was compared to the other presidential candidates.

People trusted Duterte’s persona to deliver his promises and never before have the people been so hopeful of the future. As he was able to make Davao City a livable place for its peace and stability, fingers were crossed that he could do the same to the whole archipelago.

And it looks like things are going the way Duterte has charted the course of the nation’s journey towards growth and respectability.

Duterte’s controversial anti-drug campaign, which according to reports has killed more than 8,000 people already, has caught the attention of international rights groups and foreign governments over alleged human rights violations and extra-judicial killings, but this has not stop him from forging ahead if only to show the whole world how critical and wide-spread the drug menace in the country is, infiltrating even the police, local government officials and the judiciary, among others.

Equally controversial is his show of belligerence towards the US and the EU for meddling in the affairs of a sovereign country and his shift of friendly relations towards China and Russia.

The Philippines may have won the contentious territorial dispute in the South China Sea as decided by the United Nation (UN) Arbitral, stating that China’s “nine-dash line” is invalid, but Duterte is not minding this at all, to the consternation of those lauding the decision, for the reality is that nobody, and nobody, can forcibly drive away/remove China from their formidable man-made islands turned military bases in the area.

While Duterte’s temperament and antics may displease, antagonize and enrage others, to him it really does not matter for he is just being pragmatic and having the interest of the nation and the welfare of his people foremost in his agenda of governance.

Duterte has not completed even a year yet in his presidency, but the things he has done for the country and the Filipino people is something atypical worthy of being chosen TIME magazine’s most influential person.

Duterte orders occupation of SCS islands belonging to the Philippines

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

It was reported that President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to occupy all islands of the Philippines in the South China Sea (SCS) to strengthen the country’s claims to the area.

I would presume these are the islands, reefs, shoals, and other features within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) over which, according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind. The EEZ stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles (370 km) from its coast.

Whether or not this is the new code of conduct for the SCS among claimant nations in the region vis-à-vis China, which has laid claim to almost all of SCS simply because it bears its name, one can only surmise that, indeed, this must have the blessing of China leadership.

Obviously China does not want to appear as a despotic neighbor for as long as the small claimant nations let them be where they are now and whatever else it is going to do in the future.

This seems to be a nascent ‘modus vivendi’ approach of China towards some members of the ASEAN, like the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam, now that they are well entrenched in the area with their seven man-made militarized islands.

What else can the Philippines do except to take advantage of the ‘benevolent act’ of China giving us the situation and occasion to lay emphatic claim of our own with the following statements by Duterte:

“We tried to be friends with everybody but we have to maintain our jurisdiction now, at least the areas under our control. And I have ordered the armed forces to occupy all these.”

“It looks like everybody is making a grab for the islands there, so we better live on those that are still vacant. At least, let us get what is ours now and make a strong point there that it is ours.”

China knows that it has gotten us by the “cojones” (balls) already. Our subservience to them cannot be denied and this was manifested when Duterte hinted that going to war against China is nothing but a suicidal act. It is simply a classic case of the saying: “if you cannot beat them, join them.” And that is what we are doing with China.

But ours in not the first case of having islands, reefs, shoals and other features occupied.

I am sharing with you this link for better appreciation of the subject:

http://thediplomat.com/2016/05/south-china-sea-who-claims-what-in-the-spratlys/.

Benham Rise to Philippine Rise: what is in a name?

It really blows my mind why we have to change the name Benham Rise to Philippine Rise if all these years we know that it is undeniably ours?

Would the 13 million-hectare underwater region, which is deemed to be rich in mineral, oil and gas resources and confirmed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as part of the country’s continental shelf and territory, be more ours by renaming it to Philippine Rise?

What is in a name, anyway, if the same gives inspiration and hope for a better future for the country and the next generation of Filipinos while respectfully remembering and extolling the memory of an American admiral and geologist, Andrew Benham, who made history by discovering it and by some twist of fate made the Philippines its rightful owner? (http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/05/18/1584439/benham-rise-philippiness-new-territory).

We owe it to the man and I don’t see therefore the importance or significance of changing names now or at any other time in the future. Benham Rise is already part of our history and we could not be more fortunate that it belongs to the Philippines.

If changing Benham Rise to Philippine Rise is “to emphasize Philippine sovereignty rights and jurisdiction over the area”, as claimed, how much absurd can we get!

Is the Duterte government directing this stand against China, as if warning the hegemonic giant country to stay away from his part of the country’s territory facing the Pacific Ocean as it has no right whatsoever claiming this part of our sovereignty, as it blatantly did at the South China Sea side of the Philippines?

That is really wishful thinking and that is what I mean.

Whether it is Benham Rise or Philippine Rise, to China it is the same banana for their picking.

China is so deep inside us now both in land and maritime affairs that driving them out of the country and its maritime territorial limits is next to impossible. Doing this can be interpreted as declaring war and this to us can be likened to a suicidal act which we don’t really want to happened.

It’s the familiar sense of déjà vu we are seeing and feeling at Benham Rise.

In the same manner that China showed no respect at UNCLOS when it made reefs into militarized islands even at our own backyards at the South China Sea, this time at Benham Rise, China also showed nothing but insolence even as UNCLOS approved the submission of the Philippines in 2009 with respect to the limits of its continental shelf in the Benham Rise region, saying, “But it does not mean that the Philippines can take it as its own territory”. End of controversy.

It is hard to imagine now the Philippines exploring and developing its own natural resources in and under the sea without China having a part, nay, a greater part of it.

It is bad enough that we are poor and powerless, but it is even worse that President Duterte seemed to have consigned ours and the country’s future and fate to China.

What a lamentable prospect!

 

Panatag Shoal: from fishing ground to solid military ground

 

We all have heard of Panatag Shoal or most commonly known as Scarborough Shoal at the height of the South China Sea (SCS) territorial dispute when China unequivocally closed off the shoal from Filipino fishermen in 2012.

The shoal off the coast of Zambales lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and as such fishermen from this coastal region consider the shoal their fishing ground since time immemorial.

The shoal became even determinedly for the Filipinos when the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) ruled the granting of 200 nautical miles (approximately 370 km) EEZ for island nations, which in reality exceeds the distance compared to where Panatag Shoal is which is only 119 nautical miles (approximately 220 km) west of Zambales.

With the ascendancy , however, of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency, and especially after he made a state visit to China’s President Xi Jinping in October 2016, the strained relationship between the two countries got better and the Filipino fishermen were allowed access to the rich fishing ground again.

We were hoping that this kind of access to the fishing ground was granted for good and for humanitarian reason especially that Duterte did not and has not in any way agreed or concurred with the international arbitral tribunal ruling favoring the Philippines in its maritime case against China.

Suffice to say that Duterte, like the leadership of China, ignored the arbitral ruling and, in fact, supported China’s continued island building and militarization of the area even as it was being built at our own backyard already.

Seemingly doing China a favor Duterte made it known that he wanted China’s patronage in return to jump-start the development of the country, thus, the pouring in of cash from China today.

But what is disheartening now, if not alarming, is that China has decided to convert Panatag Shoal, yes, the rich fishing ground belonging to the Philippines, into a solid military ground, just like the others, where it plans to build environmental monitoring stations, whatever that means.

If this is not a classic case of ‘giving them a hand and they will take an arm’ or ‘giving them an inch and they will take a mile’, I don’t know what is.

But what is worse is that the military build-up, for how else would one describe it, can be found at our turf!

I had been supportive of Duterte and even in his stand that if the most powerful country in the world was not able to stop China from militarizing the SCS, who are we to halt them?

I hope Duterte this time realizes that our generosity, if not our naivete, is being taken advantaged to the hilt by his more calculating, wily and farsighted Chinese counterpart.

What is disturbing and frightening is that when push comes to shove between two powerful contending nations having a stake in this part of the globe, the Philippines is right there included in the cross-hair of China’s enemy.

There is definitely no if and buts about it.

Benham Rise issue – Part III

 

I have no choice but to designate this article as Part III since I have already written about Benham Rise twice some years back which you can read at this links:

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/philippines-pin-hopes-on-benham-rise/

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/thank-god-for-benham-rise-part-ii/

Never had I anticipated writing about it again until I heard the recent alarming and disturbing news that a Chinese survey ship was spotted at the Benham Rise location.

“We are concerned about the presence of a Chinese ship in Benham Rise, which has been recognized by the United Nations as part of the Philippines,” said Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella in a statement on Friday, March 10.

“The Department of National Defense has already notified the Department of Foreign Affairs regarding this matter as we continue to assert our sovereignty over our territory,” he added.

Of course we should, forcefully and explicitly!

The Benham Rise area definitely does not have any stupid Chinese historical claim of any sort like they had been asserting they have at the West Philippine Sea just because it is part of the larger body of water bearing the name South China Sea (SCS).

On the pretext that China was “looking for a place to put submarine”, as Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said was the info he got, the most likely reason would be that they have chosen the area for their oceanographic research because they just want to confirm if indeed the unimaginable wealth and extent in mineral resources and gas deposits found underneath Benham Rise truly exist.

I cannot blame President Rodrigo Duterte for pussyfooting with the Chinese in the West Philippine Sea issue, where even the country’s territorial integrity has been breached with China’s nine- dash line claim.

If the most powerful country and the acclaimed top ‘policeman’ in the world- the US, and the UN, through its agency the UNCLOS, were not able to stop China from expanding and militarizing the SCS, who are we to prevent China’s hegemony of the contested areas?

But what I am just saying here is that we had been hearing Duterte declaring time and again that he will die defending the country and the Filipino people from the enemies that will try to destroy them.

Well this is it!

There has not been and there will never be a greater challenge such as this one in Duterte’s presidency that needs more of his grit, determination and resolve to stand up for his country and people.

Duterte could not afford anymore to be complacent the way he has been pleased and gratified at the financial and technical help China has promised to give for many infrastructure projects for the country.

China may have bamboozled us in the SCS and there was nothing that we can do. In that part of the globe what is China’s is China’s and what is ours is still China’s.

Duterte and those that will follow him should be reminded that at Benham Rise what legally belongs to the Philippines is for the Filipinos and for the generations of Filipinos to come and not to China or any other exploitative country that intends to not only hold us by the balls, but stick it to us as well.