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China’s big dream lusts for small reefs

12:02 AM March 20, 2017

China’s aggressive activities in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, have caught the attention of both international and local media. Recently, Chinese survey ships were reported to have been spotted in Benham Rise, one of the Philippines’ resource-rich territories recognized by the United Nations.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the government is concerned about the presence of Chinese ships in the area. China, on the other hand, contends that the survey ships’ passage through the country’s territorial seas was unintentional. Beijing says that Chinese research ships indeed passed through Philippine waters but there should be no cause for alarm—a lame explanation that I hope the Philippine government would not fall for.

Unfortunately, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has accepted China’s explanation.

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Let us remember that China has undertaken reclamation work around some reefs and islets belonging to the Philippines. And the latest word
about them is that missile systems are being installed in at least one of these.

The Philippines should keep on patrolling Benham Rise and possibly put up a structure there to assert Philippine ownership of the area, lest this
part of Philippine territory, which is rich in coral reefs and schools of fish, turn into another of China’s “reclaimed” lands. The brewing problem that
is Benham Rise should be addressed before it becomes a full-blown crisis.

Let’s bear in mind that China has not excluded from its big dream small territories or reefs. Aristotle wrote something like this: Conflicts arise “not over small things but from small things.”

Claims and incidents like what’s happening at Benham Rise, however petty they may seem to outsiders, if they are tied to the vital interests of those in position of power, could lead to war. And this we want to avoid.

Looking at this issue in a wider perspective: In an international order dominated by the United States, China, whose naval power is rising, is demanding a new regional order that as the most dominant indigenous player in the region, it can control.

RICARDO E. CATINDIG, Ricky_catindig26@outlook.com

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TAGS: Inquirer letters, Inquirer Opinion, Maritime Dispute, Ricardo E. Catindig, South China, West Philippine Sea
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