China’s interest in Philippine Rise

 

After what happened in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) where China claimed practically the whole of it, including what belongs to us in the context of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), only to convert it into militarized zone by turning reefs, atolls and other protrusions into islands complete with troops, airstrips and armaments of all kinds, would you blame the Filipino people now if most will question China’s interest in the Philippine Rise?

The 13-million-hectare Benham Rise is believed to be rich in maritime resources. The United Nations in 2012 recognized the Philippines’ exclusive economic rights to it as part of its continental shelf.

It is for this reason that I wrote a series of blogs about this new-found wealth of the country, which prompted me to say in one of the pieces, upon knowing that we own it, thus:  ‘I may never see it explored and developed in my generation, but it feels good heading towards the sunset years of my life that the succeeding generations faces a brighter future.’

You can open the following links for more information, if only to have an idea of what I am talking about:

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/

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/benham-rise/

What I am trying to say here now is that after China’s scientific study/exploration in the resource-rich Philippine Rise, which included the giving of Chinese names to some features it has discovered, that it should not further its interest in and of the area.

At most it is very reassuring that President Rodrigo Duterte has calmed the concern and anxiety of the nation by telling the public not to be alarmed over China’s move to name features in the Philippine Rise (Benham Rise), even as he stressed Manila’s sovereign rights over the resource-rich waters.

“Benham Rise belongs to the Filipino. We will claim exclusive ownership of the economic zones — 200 nautical miles,” Duterte said.

“Let me be very clear about this: The Philippine Rise is ours and any insinuation that it is open to everybody should end with this declaration.”

Well said, but does this mean that we have to put our guards down just because it is coupled with the heartening words of Duterte?

I believe in Duterte’s ardor in protecting the interests of the country and the Filipino people, and he could not be corrupted.

But what happens when he is gone and the one succeeding does not have the political will and leadership capability that Duterte has in stopping China’s aggression, especially that the latter is  now at our own backyard in the West Philippine Sea?

This is the price we get for having China as our closest neighbor now, even honoring every which way their presence.

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Trump’s idiotic plan for a military parade

 

US President Donald Trump

For a man feeling so superior and so obsessed with macho competition in the context of ‘mine’s-is-bigger-than-yours’, I am not at all surprised at US President Donald Trump’s idiotic plan for a massive military parade.

Remember what the world saw and heard not so long ago when Trump tweeted urging someone from North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s “depleted and food starved regime” to inform him that Trump’s “nuclear button” is a much bigger and more powerful than Kim’s and that Trump’s button works, in response to Kim’s declaration that he had a button for nuclear weapons on his table and the entire U.S. mainland was now within strike range?

According to reports Trump has already given the Pentagon its marching orders to plan a major military parade that would display its military might in Washington, D.C., in the same vein as the French Bastille Day military parade from where he got the idiotic vision.

Well, not really in the same vein because for one considered a narcissist his intention is to have the grandiose military parade of them all.

It is not only about surpassing Bastille Day parade every July 14th, but outshining as well the military parade of other nations like Russia’s Great Patriotic War, a celebration commemorating the end of World War II, or China’s display of awesome military power when celebrating events like the foundation of the People’s Republic of China in front of the Tiananmen Gate, or Iran’s military parade commemorating the Iran-Iraq war, and who is more notorious for military parades that North Korea itself.

But one should understand that a military parade that Trump is envisioning to have is really not about the USA, for the whole world knows the might of the military arsenal the greatest and most powerful country on earth possess.

There is nothing to flaunt about as the country’s awesome military capabilities are recognized and acknowledge by friends and foes alike.

So, if the planned military parade is not for the USA, what is it for?

What else but to showcase the stable genius of Trump!

It is Trump’s ego tripping where he wants the whole world to see how his pompous presence and leadership inadequacies that have made him a historically unpopular president presiding over a deeply divided and disquieted country is visibly recognized and acknowledged by a smart salute, which surely he deserves not, as the uniformed military personnel pass him by.

Roque’s absurd statement on China’s reclaimed islands in the SCS

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

When President Rodrigo Duterte ditched Ernesto Abella for Rep. Harry Roque as presidential spokesperson, it was all thumbs up for me for there couldn’t have been a better choice than one who is more able to defend the president and articulate enough to speak for and in his behalf.

What really made Roque highly favorable for the position is that, like Duterte, he knows his law and they seem to be on the same wave length, despite the fact that both, too, have seemingly different views on human rights issue.

But knowing the law and making public assertions where the law has nothing to do are two entirely different aspects which could affect the sensitivities of people, especially those who are not dumb.

One does not have to be lawyer to understand what is happening in the South China Sea (SCS). Or to put it bluntly, one does not have to be a lawyer to understand what the Chinese are doing in the SCS or the West Philippine Sea (WPS) for that matter.

Thus, for Roque, therefore, to declare in an interview, “Clearly, eventually, those artificial islands will be ours if we can ask China to leave”, is plain ridiculous and absurd and an insult to our intelligence.

Just because the country is “asserting an independent foreign policy”, as Roque affirmed, that “we have ceased to be a lackey of any other state”.  I suppose Roque was referring to the US. So my question is: What are we now to China?

I could not agree more with Sen. Grace Poe who criticized Roque for saying the Philippines will someday thank China for its artificial islands in the WPS (SCS).

Poe said in a statement, “The WPS will freeze over first before China will even begin toying with the idea of giving us back those islands.”

Truth to tell is that we are at China’s mercy. The Chinese are using us more than we are using them. We are waging war against illegal drugs but in reality the drugs coming in are mostly from China, reports say.

Yes, China may be supplying us with arms and helping us build some of our infrastructure projects, but those are all small tokens in exchange for our peaceful, if not passive attitude towards them for their perpetual dominion in the area.

Talking about uncontested hegemony by China!

Critics chide Duterte for Chinese militarization in the South China Sea

 

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate

For the life of me I don’t know why political foes of President Rodrigo Duterte keep on blaming him for the militarization of the reclaimed islands in the South China Sea (SCS).

Perhaps this is the umpteenth time that I have also defended Duterte from this seemingly unreasonable disparagement from the opposing party.

Lately,  Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate condemned, yet again,  the alleged “inaction and deafening silence” of the Duterte’s administration, as new photographs bared continuous militarization in seven reefs claimed by the Philippines in the Spratly archipelago. He described it as a “see-no-evil; speak-no-evil; hear-no-evil” attitude and as a “this blatant violation of our sovereignty.”

In the same vein, an opposition party politician, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, said Duterte should not “stand idly by” as Beijing claims disputed islands and completes the militarization of territory.

Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan

Pangilinan even sounded melodramatic when he made the following statements: “What makes a country? Aside from the recognition of its neighbors, a country is defined by its territory and the people in that territory, and its ability to defend its territory and people. Thus, it is the government’s sacred core duty to protect its territory on behalf of its people.”

“That’s why we are deeply troubled that instead of expressing outrage, Malacañang displayed a nonchalant attitude in playing down China’s militarization of the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.”

Again, I am asking both Zarate and Pangilinan, and the others who have the politician’s trend of thought, this: what can a third world country like ours do when a giant, militarily powerful and economically super-strong country like China, disregards the existence of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also known as the Law of the Sea Treaty – the international agreement that defined the limits of the territorial seas of nations and the areas in which they could exploit marine resources, then claims practically the whole of the SCS on the pretext of historical basis and starts reclaiming coral reefs/atolls and other rock protrusion they see and then converting them into garrisons and airfields?

Like I said, the Chinese territory is now in our backyard already and while The Hague ruled in the Philippines’ favor in 2016, when we challenged China’s reclamation of the Spratly Islands in 2013, still China continued with impunity its controversial buildup in the area.

In all of these, was the U.S., the greatest nation on earth, able to deter China from militarizing the SCS? Where is the U.S. in all of these then, especially knowing the decision of the international tribunal at The Hague?

Nowhere, really, because the U.S. main concern is that the freedom of navigation in the area remains unhampered.

So if China was able to show its will, determination and muscle to develop the SCS despite the knowledge of the greatest military power on earth, who are we to stand up against China?

All I am saying here, therefore, is that, like Zarate and Pangilinan, and whoever else that wants to criticize Duterte for his “deafening silence” on the Chinese militarization of the SCS, they should vent their disappointment, nay their ire, at the U.S.

Making enemies of the Chinese who are occupying a mammoth airbase at our backyard with big guns pointing at us is simply a big folly.

Duterte’s illogical advice to Suu Kyi

 

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi with President Rodrigo Duterte at the Asean-India Summit 2018.

I had been always a big supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte in his actions, and even in his words, as the leader of the Filipino nation.

In fact in the numerous pieces I wrote about him you have read me defending him from criticisms hurled against him here and abroad.

Although many of Duterte’s comments are considered to be tongue in cheek, as it is his nature when making ad-lib speeches, this time, however, I cannot just let it pass without commenting about its importance or significance.

I am referring to the remarks Duterte made to Myanmar (formerly Burma) leader Aung San Suu Kyi during his speech at the recent Asean-India Summit 2018, saying, that the latter should not bother about human rights activists as they are “just a noisy bunch”.

Note that Suu Kyi is facing international criticism for failing to address the plight of more than 600,000 members of the largely-Muslim Rohingya ethnic group who have fled to Bangladesh, after Myanmar’s military launched a campaign ostensibly aimed at eradicating Rohingya armed groups.

Those who have fled describe a campaign of killing, rape, and destruction, accounts that have been backed by human rights groups and journalists working in the region.

Suu Kyi has yet to recognize that atrocities are taking place and has not spoken out against the Burmese military.

In fact I have written about Suu Kyi and the sufferings of the Rohingyas which can be read at the following links:

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/10/03/aung-san-suu-kyi-a-laureate-she-is-not/; https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/10/05/aung-san-suu-kyi-a-laureate-she-is-not-part-ii/; https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/plight-of-the-rohingyas/

Many people in Buddhist-majority Myanmar regard the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The United Nations described Myanmar’s crackdown as ethnic cleansing, which Myanmar denies.

“I pity her because she seems to be caught in the middle of being a Nobel Prize winner for peace and this is now the ruckus, she is heavily criticized,” Duterte said in his speech.

Suu Kyi’s case is very much unlike Duterte’s when the latter was also criticized for human right abuses and alleged extrajudicial killings during his bloody campaign against illegal drugs.

Suu Kyi is not only a Nobel Prize winner for peace, but also Myanmar’s leader, and to be silent and insensitive to the plight of the Rohingyas living in her country speaks badly of her reputation.

What I am just saying is that Duterte should not have compared the fate of the more than half a million Rohingyas whose desire is simply to improve their lot with the criticism he got for killing drug personalities who are bent on destroying other people’s lives with impunity through the use of illegal drugs.

There is simply no logical comparison between one leader’s silence that caused adversity to hundreds of thousands of people and another leader’s strong political will to get rid of the scourge afflicting the country and its people and in the process killing thousands.

The human rights activists may have been “just a noisy bunch” to Duterte, but definitely where Suu Kyi is concern she deserves condemnation not just of the “noisy bunch”, but of freedom-loving leaders as well, including Duterte.

Thus, I consider Duterte’s advice to Suu Kyi not to mind human rights activists as illogical.

 

Useless diplomatic protest against China

 

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana

I am talking of course about Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s statement that the defense department will file a diplomatic protest against China if it can be established that there is indeed militarization over the Fiery Cross Reef (Kagitingan Reef) in the South China Sea (SCS).

Lorenzana should not have acted so naïve even if the Chinese government had promised other claimant nations not to militarize their man-made islands.

Note that the Kagitingan Reef is also claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Lorenzana, by virtue of his position, should be the first one to know that when China took over the reef and made it into a huge island, that it was not for the purpose of making it a tourist destination.

Like any other Chinese-fortified reclaimed islands in the SCS, the Kagitingan Reef has been transformed into a Chinese military base, which features a 3,125-meter runway for H-6K strategic bombers and equip with a hospital and military facilities, including early warning radars and close-proximity weapons systems. According to reports, over 200 Chinese soldiers are stationed on the artificial island.

Instead of showing total obeisance to China it would have been apt if Lorenzana just been forthright in saying that the protest was a matter of formality it being a threat to peace and security.

What makes the threat real is because the Kagitingan Reef is one of the islands subject to the arbitral tribunal decision that it is within the Philippine economic zone.

But what makes the diplomatic protest useless just the same is China’s disrespect and disregard for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and more so for the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), that area of coastal water and seabed within a certain distance of a country’s coastline, to which the country claims exclusive rights for fishing, drilling, and other economic activities.

The fact that China ‘walk the talk’, after claiming that practically the whole of SCS is theirs and built fortified bases out of the protruding reefs, and not even the greatest nation on Earth, the USA, could do anything about it, makes the diplomatic protest not only useless but absurd as well.

 

East China Sea territorial dispute

 

Senkaku/Diaoyu islands

What do East China Sea and South China Sea have in common?

Obviously, other than the fact that they are both seas, they also bear distinctly the name China, a giant nation now becoming a superpower next only to the USA.

I have written about East China Sea (ECS) before which you can read at this link: https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/east-china-sea/, and the reason why I am writing about it again is because I want these questions to be answered:

  • Will there be a repeat of South China Sea (SCS) in ECS?
  • Unlike the Philippines and its neighboring nations, will Japan allow China to occupy and/or construct islands in the ECS?

The whole world now knows what China has done in the SCS. It not only claimed practically the whole of the SCS, but it is now made up of militarized man-made islands – a conglomerate of garrisons if you want to call it that.

What is even worse is that some of this fortified islands are located at the Philippine’s ‘backyard’.

The reason why China acted with impunity in our part of the world is because China does not respect the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also known as the Law of the Sea Treaty, the international agreement that defined the limits of the territorial seas of nations and the areas in which they could exploit marine resources.

But what made China pursue its evil scheme is that America, despite knowing what  was going on in the SCS, did not give a hoot and was just interested in making sure that the rules for the use of the high seas for international navigation are to be respected.

So if the greatest military in the world was not able to restrain China from militarizing the SCS, at the expense of the poor nations in the region, what power has the Philippines to stop China from developing islands in our own territorial waters?

Thus, the questions are being asked above. What I am just trying to point out here is that China’s aggressive presence in the SCS will never result to an ugly conflict because any which way one looks at it the Philippines can never win against China.

But the same cannot be said of China and Japan in the ECS because the latter has the military power to fight China and therefore cannot just be bullied like it has done to the Philippines.

It will be remembered that both China and Japan lay claim to a set of islands in the East China Sea that cover around 81,000 square miles. Called Senkaku in Tokyo and Diaoyu in Beijing, the area is near major shipping routes and rich in energy reserves.

In 2012, Tokyo’s decision to purchase three of the five disputed islands from their private owner triggered violent anti-Japanese protests in China, forcing Japanese firms to shut down businesses on the mainland. The following year, Tokyo lodged a protest following Beijing’s declaration of a formal Air Defense Identification Zone over parts of the East China Sea.

According to Ryan Hass, a David M. Rubenstein Fellow at Brooking’s foreign policy program,  “the frequency of close encounters between Chinese and Japanese ships and aircraft in the East China Sea is intensifying” and will likely continue as both countries look to improve their respective air and maritime capabilities in the zone.

The SCS territorial dispute may have caught the attention of the whole world, but the ECS, described to be a lesser-known hotbed of tensions, might be more likely to trigger an international conflict.