05:00 AM August 09, 2019

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines in a case the latter filed against China. Ordinarily this cause célèbre, which the Philippines won, is a reason for national jubilation, owing to the precedent-setting, high-profile lawsuit and worldwide attention and support the case generated.

After the present administration took over, however, it did not hide its lukewarm reaction to the ruling and reluctance to enforce it, even if only in areas covering the country’s exclusive economic zone.


Meanwhile, Vietnam howled in protest over an oil rig (Haiyang Shiyou 981) that China pulled into what it considered its territorial waters. Several Chinese factories were set on fire by irate Vietnamese. After that, China did not attempt to bring back its oil rig, much less wage war with Vietnam. Just recently, around nine Vietnamese vessels trailed the Chinese vessel Haiyang Dizhi 8 as it conducted hydrographic surveys in the South China Sea near Vietnam’s East Sea.

Indonesia, on the other hand, fired shots at a Chinese trawler when it did not stop fishing in Indonesian waters despite warnings. Indonesia also seized the vessel and its crew. In another incident, its naval corvette fired a volley of shots at 12 Chinese fishing boats close to Natuna islands when these did not heed the Indonesian warnings. Did China retaliate and engage Indonesia in a shooting war? It did not. In fact, China may have felt Indonesia’s seriousness to shoo them out of and fight for its territorial waters.


China repeatedly warns that it will retake Taiwan by force. Has this warning deterred the tiny island from coming out with its own vitriolic rhetoric aimed at its menacing neighbor? What China, thus far, can do is saber-rattling; Taiwan remains undeterred. Beijing knows that carrying out its threat of brute force is like giving the United States an excuse to come
into the armed defense of Taiwan and gaining the world’s condemnation.

Hong Kong, meanwhile, fights off a proposed extradition bill that it warns will give Beijing grounds to meddle in the judicial independence of the former British colony. There have been calls for the pro-Beijing chief executive to resign, with street protests continuing over the past weeks and recently turning violent. This only goes to show that China faces great odds in winning the hearts and minds of Hong Kong citizens.

In contrast, the Philippines shows off a pliable attitude toward China, which some deem as capitulation. While it’s true that the country does not have the firepower to engage China in a full-drawn war, neither is China prepared to start any even if it has the means to
unleash one.

The government must heed, or at the very least consider, the counsel of the nation’s elder statesmen and women, as they only have the best intentions in giving out advice, before we totally lose the chance to save not just our claim to the vast ocean but also our collective dignity as Filipinos. We can’t afford to have future generations of Filipinos calling this piece of the ocean the “Waste Philippine Sea.”

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TAGS: China, Chinese fishing boat, South China Sea
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