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Editorial

Checklist for Xi

/ 05:08 AM August 13, 2019

“Ghosting” is apparently the new trick the intrusive Chinese warships have been resorting to as they continue to trespass in the Philippine exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

A couple of weeks ago, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana revealed that Chinese warships passing through Philippine waters were turning off their Automatic Identification System (AIS) in an effort to “hide their presence.”

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And last week, two Chinese oceanographic survey ships were spotted conducting research within the Philippine EEZ without permission from the Philippines; like the warships, they were also trying to be incognito.

A “very much alarmed” Lorenzana asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to file a diplomatic protest, saying protocol requires these foreign ships to seek permission from Philippine authorities. Once permission is granted, a Filipino scientist should board the ship and accompany it on its research.

What if the Chinese vessels are spy ships “masquerading as a marine research ship” to conduct surveillance on Philippine naval positions, asked Lorenzana. “I am not saying that they are up to no good, but why the secrecy?”

Why indeed. And it should be added: Why are these Chinese ships conducting “marine scientific research” in Philippine waters?

Lorenzana has also raised red flags about the planned development by Chinese companies of three strategic Philippine islands — Fuga in the Babuyan islands, Chiquita and Grande in Subic — on grounds of possible threats to national security, as the islands may end up serving as monitoring posts or forward bases to fortify the Chinese claim on the entire South China Sea, including Philippine waters.

These escalating developments provide the critical backdrop to President Duterte’s announcement that he would finally raise the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration to Chinese President Xi Jinping during his forthcoming visit to Beijing. “This is the time,” Mr. Duterte’s spokesperson Salvador Panelo declared.

Well, if that’s really No. 1 on the President’s agenda, bully for him. This should be a welcome move, given what has been widely perceived as Mr. Duterte’s deferential and defeatist attitude toward China — a stance and a policy that have never met public acceptance, with surveys showing that an overwhelming majority of Filipinos want their government to assert Philippine interests more vigorously in the West Philippine Sea.

In facing up to Xi, Mr. Duterte should bring with him, along with a copy of the tribunal ruling, a checklist of instances of Chinese misbehavior in the West Philippine Sea in the past three years alone.

Never mind the presumptuous dismissal of the President’s plan by Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua, who warned that China will not budge from its position rejecting the Hague ruling. The envoy even suggested that Mr. Duterte should not use the word “invoke,” and raise the issue only in a “friendly, nonconfrontational manner.”

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How about citing the “friendship” China supposedly has for the Philippines, and then Mr. Duterte itemizing to his Chinese counterpart these egregious incidents?

The unauthorized passage of four Chinese warships, including aircraft carrier Liaoning, from February to June 2109.

The unauthorized survey by Chinese ships Zhanjian and Dong Fang Hong 3 this month.

The swarm of more than 600 Chinese fishing vessels around Pag-asa Island in the first quarter
of 2019.

The ramming and sinking of the Philippine fishing boat Gem-Ver 1 off Recto Bank in June 2019.

Chinese vessels driving away Filipino fishermen from Pag-asa in March 2019.

The Chinese coast guard seizing Filipino fishermen’s catch in Panatag Shoal in June 2018.

The harassment of a GMA-7 television crew in Panatag Shoal in November 2018.

The firing of warning shots by the Chinese coast guard against Filipino fishermen in the Union Banks atoll in April 2017.

These are just offenses in Philippine waters. Another list can be made of aggravations on land, including the influx of illegal Chinese workers to work in Chinese online casinos that Beijing itself deems illegal, and the continued inflow of massive drug shipments emanating from China.

Mr. Duterte’s trip to Beijing later this month will be his fifth since becoming President three years ago, a remarkable frequency of pilgrimage by a President to one country that’s telling of how Mr. Duterte remains smitten with China.

But, as with his plan to now mention the once-unmentionable to Xi, it’s high time he spoke bluntly as well — the way he customarily speaks to his own countrymen — of what has been so far a most one-sided love affair.

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TAGS: Chinese warships, Delfin Lorenzana, EEZ, Exclusive Economic Zone, Inquirer editorial, Maritime Dispute, Rodrigo Duterte, West Philippine Sea, xi jinping
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