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.

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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.

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.

China and its ‘magic island-maker’ dredging vessel

 

The Tiankun dredger: China’s massive island-maker.

What am I talking about here and what is its significance?

Well, amid ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the controversial island-building frenzy China has been undertaking thereat, it has been reported lately that this economic giant of a nation continues to flex its maritime muscles, this time with the launching of an equally giant island-building vessel considered to be the most powerful vessel of its type in Asia.

Named the Tiankun, the vessel, more aptly described as “a magic island maker”, is the best of its kind in Asia, according to the ship’s designer, the Marine Design and Research Institute in Shanghai, and “can be used to conduct coastal/channel dredging and land reclamation operations even in bad weather at sea.”

The vessel, with a deck as long as five basketball courts, 140 meters, and a full displacement of 17,000 metric tons, can smash underwater rocks and then suck out sand, water, and mud, and transfer the substance up to 15 kilometers away. It can dredge up to 6,000 cubic meters (around two and half Olympic swimming pools) an hour from a depth of up to 35 meters.

The Tiankun is the same kind of vessel as its sister, the Tianjin, the largest currently operating dredger used to create several China-held militarized islets in the disputed seas including those close to our shores in the West Philippine Sea.

The fortification of these Chinese-made islands with military-grade airfields and weapons systems was referred to later as China’s “great wall of sand,” by U.S. Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris in 2015.

The Philippines government is said to be wary about the giant dredger especially that international security observers have expressed alarm that it might be deployed to the region again, this time to reclaim Scarborough Shoal.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that government is monitoring the dredger especially in the light of the statement issued by Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, saying, “The President recognizes the principle of good faith in international relations. China has told the President they do not intend to reclaim Scarborough and we leave it at that.”

But who are we really to stop what China has already began in what it claims as their territory historically?

Good faith?

As the poor, aggrieved country we can only rely on our faith. The question, however, is: Will China give in to faith as it extends its influence in Asia and across the globe?

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.

 

China still a winner despite arbitral tribunal’s favorable ruling

 

Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr.

Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay

Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay’s pronouncement as ‘a great and resounding victory’ the arbitral tribunal’s favorable ruling in our dispute with China on the country’s claim of the West Philippine Sea is, to my mind, ambiguous at best and a sham at worst.

How can the country claim victory when China not only disrespects and dishonors the arbitral body and its decision but more significantly has not move an inch away from our own exclusive economic zone, which the country has the sovereign rights to explore and exploit, conserve and manage the natural resources, whether living or non-living, etc.

What is even disadvantageous is that China has not stop developing and strengthening militarily the disputed area, all to our dismay.

Most wanting yet is that the rich fishing grounds where our fisher folks used to go for a living continues to be off limits to them.

Yes, they call it a historic ruling by the arbitral tribunal but what impact has it made on the foreign powers, most notably the United States?

Nothing! Why? Because there is nothing the Western powers can really do directly about it. That is the long and short of it.

Yet Yasay says, “We are also getting the pressure on the part of the international community to urge China to precisely respect and recognize the decision of the arbitral tribunal. This pressure on the part of the international community is building up.”

If the most powerful country in the world and its allies can’t compel China to honor the decision of the arbitral tribunal, who are we to bulldoze this giant nation?

“We are trying to make China understand, especially when the dust settles, that unless they respect and recognize the arbitral tribunal, they will be the losers at the end of the day on this matter,” Yasay said in a congressional budget hearing.

Losers or is it that China just don’t give a damn and continue to have their aggressive winning ways?

For how else one should interpret what the Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said in an interview with reporters on this matter:  “We cannot accept the arbitration award but we do look forward to talk to the Philippines bilaterally of the troubles we have.”

That is the reality we and the rest of the world have to contend with.