A new twist in Phil-China relationship

 

This is a new twist in the Phil-China relationship that I surely welcome and so should the rest of the Filipino people who feels aggrieved, bullied and disadvantaged over China’s wanton aggression and utter disregard 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 defines the limits of the territorial seas of nations and the areas in which they could exploit marine resources.

It is now history at what China has done and accomplished in the South China Sea (SCS), of which the West Phil Sea is part of it, and for a little insight you may open this link, among the other pieces I wrote about these controversial seas:  https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/eez/.

If it is of any consolation at least President Rodrigo Duterte has finally found the courage and the aggressiveness to chide China, calling it wrong the latter’s claim of the airspace over their militarized artificial islands in the SCS.

“That is wrong because those waters are what we consider international sea,” Duterte said in a speech before an audience that included foreign guests.

“You cannot create an island, it’s man-made, and you say that the air above these artificial islands is yours,” the president also said.

The logic of this statement is simply profound and, indeed, incontrovertible.

This rebuke from Duterte came in the wake of a repeated warning radioed by the Chinese military to a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon plane to “leave immediately and keep out to avoid any misunderstanding” while the reconnaissance aircraft flew close to some of the man-made islands.

On this, Duterte said, “I hope that China would temper … its behavior.”

This observation and comments by Duterte did not sit well with Beijing, however, as it ignored Duterte’s chiding, saying and asserting instead that where the man-made islands are in the SCS all are China’s inherent territory and, thus, it has the right to react to foreign ships or aircraft that get close to its islands.

Perhaps piqued by China’s continued arrogance in asserting its supremacy of the airspace over the militarized man-made islands, which for timeless occasions even our own military aircraft patrolling the area receives Chinese radio warnings, Duterte could only issue another relative statement, saying, “You cannot create islands there and claim the sea. That is not an island, artificial islands are not true, are prohibited in the middle sea. ‘Yan nga ang rule diyan eh (That’s the rule there).

Another frustration vented? You bet!

I only hope that in this new twist in Phil-China relationship Duterte will be able to see a lot more to it than meets the eye.

It’s never too late.

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Going to war against China is insane

I find it ridiculous, if not insane, the idea that the Philippines is prepared to go to war if military personnel are harmed by Chinese forces in the South China Sea (SCS).

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said the Philippines would always try to pursue talks to defuse tension, but war could not be ruled out as a last resort if its military was provoked or aggrieved.

Esperon was referring to President Duterte’s statement, saying, that if his troops are harmed that it has crossed his red line.

I agree with Esperon’s statement that ‘the Philippines would always try to pursue talks to diffuse tension’, but it should be made clear that a violation of a red line does not necessarily mean an act of war and should be reciprocated in the same manner.

Any which way, the best and rational approach is always to seek for a diplomatic solution.

I am saying this because President Duterte himself has, time and again, said that it is foolish or insane to go to war against China. The reason is very obvious.

The truth is, at this stage of China’s incursion and weaponization of the SCS, to include part of the West Philippine Sea (WPS), China has got us by the balls, or by the throat, if you may, that any adverse movement/action against them will only create a calamitous reaction from them. Suffice to say that we are now at their mercy.

I don’t think, however, that China will do anything displeasing or disagreeable to destabilize this forced ‘marriage of convenience’ between the two countries because doing so will only invite the concern and, perhaps, meddling of the US.

Definitely, this will be an unwelcome event for we don’t want to be caught in the middle of the confrontation between this two militarily powerful countries.

This is even a more insane proposition.

China’s bomber plane has landed

 

China’s H-6K bomber plane

But of course, and where else but in the South China Sea (SCS), where China is establishing military control over the disputed sea.

Surprised? Anxious?

Well, this should not surprise us for it was bound to happen sooner or later and there was nothing we can do really.

If the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia policy did not stop China’s militarization in disputed islands in the SCS, would you think that a third world country like us will have the audacity or the bluster, if you may, to stand up against this world power and derail the Chinese hegemony in the area of which the West Philippine Sea is part of?

Because the SCS may be the most strategically important waterway of the 21st century, many nations, including the Philippines, have urged Beijing to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which sets maritime zones of control based on coastlines, but to no avail.

Nobody seems to have resisted China’s insistence in its “nine-dash line” claim that encircles as much as 90 percent of the contested waters. Beijing maintains it owns any land or features contained within the line based on what it calls China’s “historical territory since ancient times.”

Thus, China disaffirms UNCLOS and its function viewing it instead as an instrument of Western hegemony designed to undercut China’s expanding influence as a world power.

One wonders now if the Trump administration’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy”, where all nations are “free from coercion” and can pursue paths forward in a sovereign manner. will ably replace the Obama era of “rebalancing” toward Asia and make a difference. Open sea lines of communication and open airways are said to be a vital part of this thinking. Or has it come too late already, too?

So, should we be anxious or fearful of China’s brazen occupation in the SCS?

Of course we should!

The fact that China’s H-6K bomber has landed on Woody Island, Beijing’s largest military outpost in in the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, after already having deployed in the Spratlys J-11 fighters, HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, YJ-62 anti-ship cruise missiles, and other military apparatus there, is indeed a reason for grieve apprehension.

Admiral Philip Davidson, incoming chief of the US Pacific Command, warned that China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in “all scenarios short of war with the United States.”

With American bases in the country, what this means is that we find ourselves now in a precarious situation caught between the devil and the deep blue sea and can be likened to iron files that is easily drawn to the magnet of war between these two military giants, if ever, God forbids.

 

 

Duterte’s baffling statement

 

President Rodrigo Duterte and President Xi Jinping

Two years into his presidency and I can say with candor that I remain an avid supporter of Rodrigo Duterte.

I always seem to understand what he is trying to say, given his colorful language, the emotion,   and the tonality he puts on it

But Duterte’s recent statement, however, saying, “The assurances of [President] Xi Jinping were very encouraging… ‘We will not allow you to be taken out from your office, and we will not allow the Philippines to go to the dogs,’” is somewhat baffling to me.

In short what Duterte is trying to tell the Filipinos in particular, and the whole world in general, is that China’s leader, who finds himself elevated to the status of president for life, following the removal of the country’s presidential term limits, does not want Duterte ousted as the country’s leader.

This is definitely an instance where I can’t seem to fathom Duterte’s trend of thought.

Now, why would China say that and who are the people alluded to that would try to destabilize and oust Duterte? And why would the Philippines be going to the dogs?

Certainly, Duterte continues to have high trust and support rating from the Filipino people in his governance of the country and I don’t see any reason, therefore, why he is entertaining the thought of being ousted.

Or could it be that the close relationship now between China and the Philippines, especially with the absolute presence and militarization by China of the South China Sea (SCS), have made the two allies unite against one common enemy which is the U.S.?

There is no doubt that China’s military aggression in the SCS does not sit well with the Americans and the latter frowns upon the fact that the Philippines is not raising a hell of a lot more about China’s incursion in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Duterte had blamed the US instead for the current maritime tensions, saying they failed to stop China’s building and arming artificial islands in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

That is very true and there is nothing much the Philippines can do.

China has established their dominance in the region and nobody, but nobody, could make them move out from that strategic place.

Perhaps this is the only reason why Duterte is being assured of his continuance in office because of his seeming fealty to the Chinese leader. Perhaps an assurance also that after him another Duterte could take over with China’s help.

Sara Duterte?

Just asking.

 

US hands-off policy on South China Sea dispute

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim recently issued a statement, saying that America will defend the Philippines should a foreign force attack any of the country’s territories.

“Our commitment set in the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) is absolute that we will defend the Philippines,” said Kim during the Ambassador Series forum organized by Asia Society Philippines.

The US ambassador is referring to the treaty between the Philippines and US that was signed in 1951, which provides for the US to come to the assistance of the Philippines if its metropolitan territory or island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific area would be attacked.

Kim made the statement, however, with a caveat, which is that their hands-off policy on the Philippine-China territorial dispute is irrefutable.

What this means is that while the US is monitoring closely developments in the South China Sea amid the continuing militarization efforts by China on its man-made islands in the area, what concerns most the US is that the freedom of navigation in this part of the world goes must remain unhampered and undisturbed.

Not only that.

The US military has a long-standing position that its operations are carried out throughout the world, including in areas claimed by allies. This is what is described as free nautical movement.

“…What we do is freedom of navigation and overflight to the freedoms of assembly and expression online. These are the things that we will enforce and so we fly, sail, and operate wherever international law permits.”

This statement was issued by Brian Hook, a senior adviser to the US Secretary of State on Asia Policy.

Hook described China’s militarization of the South China Sea as “provocative” and reiterated US commitment to uphold international law.

“We very strongly believe that China’s rise cannot come at the expense of the values and rules-based order… When China’s behavior is out of step with these values and these rules, we will stand up and defend the rule of law,” he said.

It will be noted that the Philippines has raised its claims on the South China Sea to the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration and was favored by the international court in 2016. China, however, has refused to recognize the ruling.

Be that as it may, the US policy on free nautical movement is consolation enough that somehow claimant nations in the territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea that are allies of the US are protected.

China’s interest in Philippine Rise – Part II

 

I decided to make this a sequel to the first part of this article, which can be read at this link: https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2018/02/20/chinas-interest-in-philippine-rise/, for the simple reason that President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest statement, saying, that he would ‘go to war’ to defend Philippine Rise, is very much in the purview of the subject.

Although it has been clarified by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque that Duterte’s warning of war has China excluded, for obvious reasons, still it is very reassuring to know that at least Duterte recognizes the significance and importance of this area for the generation of Filipinos to come.

What makes it equally reassuring is that China recognizes that the Philippines have sovereign rights over the area.

What was undoable at the South China Sea (SCS) or the West Philippine Sea, the country is now implementing it at the Philippine Rise, and for the same obvious reason stated above that like us, other claimant nations did not also have stronger counter claim against China’s historical rights over the area, notwithstanding the existence of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Not even the greatest power on earth, the US, could stop China’s hegemony in the area. Thus, China was able to flex its muscle with impunity, to the extent that their man made militarized islands are now near our vicinity.

Could one blame Duterte, therefore, if he is seen now tugging the coattails of China rather than making the giant nation his and the country’s enemy?

But not at Philippine Rise, and this is why Duterte has now a battalion of Marines ordered to watch over the territory for any incursions without his knowledge.

So, can anybody say now that Duterte’s inevitable and close friendship with China is a big folly or is it somehow paying off?

The fact that China now is looking into joint exploration with the Philippines in disputed areas in the South China Sea – which Duterte sees as a recognition of “co-ownership” – is better than not being able to benefit anything at all from what is underneath this early on. For the truth is that even if the Chinese were not there, we could never exploit the area on our own because we do not have the means and the capability to do it, such that we still have to tie up with foreign entities to be able to extract whatever resources are there beneath the sea.

That is the reality of the situation now in the SCS and whether we like it or not, it is a pact we have to make and take advantage of if it is what it takes to make the lives of Filipinos better.

So the question now is: How about Philippine Rise?

Well, it will really depend on how the Chinese behave in the long haul. While we see them very active at the SCS, it does not mean that they are not, likewise, salivating at the prospect of being able to exploit the gas, oil, and mineral resources of the Philippine Rise.

It is safe to say, therefore, that the better option is to have ‘a wait and see attitude’ on how the Chinese operates at the SCS. If the Chinese remains the same in having the devious notion in business, as in: ‘what is ours, is ours, and what is yours, is ours’, then let us save the Philippine Rise from their clutches.

Let it be a learning process for the generations to come.

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.