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Editorial

Resist China’s aggression

/ 04:07 AM September 23, 2020

There is no end to China’s aggressive behavior toward this friendly nation.

The Jiageng, said to be one of China’s top research ships, spent a week within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, according to Ryan Martinson, an assistant professor at the China Maritime Studies Institute of the US Naval War College, in a post on Sept. 17.

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The Inquirer reported that this was confirmed by the Philippine military, which said the Jiageng, 77.7 meters long and capable of carrying more than 50 people, was monitored on Sept. 18 a mere 52 nautical miles off the coast of Burgos, Ilocos Norte. The ship was observed to be nearly stationary at a speed of 1 knot and doing “stop-and-go’’ and U-turn activities consistent with research and survey operations.

It was only the latest sighting of a Chinese survey ship conducting unauthorized research in Philippine waters.

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Just last month, two Chinese vessels were also observed engaged in an unauthorized survey in the vicinity of Recto (Reed) Bank in the West Philippine Sea, prompting the Philippine Navy chief, Vice Adm. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, to request the defense and foreign affairs departments to file a diplomatic protest. At a forum, Bacordo did not bother to hide his exasperation at China’s “many violations” of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and its refusal to honor the 2016 arbitral ruling that the Philippines won in the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague.

In August 2019, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. bestirred himself and filed a series of diplomatic protests following the swarm of 113 Chinese vessels in Sandy Cay near Pagasa Island and at least 13 Chinese warships passing southern Philippine waters without permission. In October of the same year, he again protested the presence of more Chinese vessels in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

Still, Chinese vessels have intruded again and again, not just in Philippine waters but elsewhere in the world.

On the same day that the Jiageng was observed in a suspicious activity off Ilocos Norte, the world gasped in horror at the discovery that some 340 Chinese vessels had been illegally fishing for at least a month around the Galápagos Islands, designated a Unesco World Heritage Site for their astounding marine and wildlife diversity.

China’s unabashed illegal fishing drew global alarm — and rightly so because the reprehensible activity could seriously damage the ecosystem in the Galápagos, where vast and diverse species of marine, wildlife and flora and fauna, most of which are found nowhere else in the world, inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

According to the marine conservation group Oceana, the Chinese fishing vessels’ harvesting of squid, observed between July 13 and Aug. 13, threatens the survival of various species on the islands such as the fur seals, hammerhead sharks and tuna.

“For a month, the world watched and wondered what China’s enormous fishing fleet was doing off the Galápagos Islands, but now we know,” Marla Valentine, Oceana’s illegal fishing and transparency analyst, said in a New York Post report. “Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the impact of China’s huge distant-water fishing fleet on our oceans.”

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Which is why former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario and former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales of the Philippines asked the International Criminal Court back in March 2019 to prosecute Chinese President Xi Jinping and others for “crimes against humanity.’’

Del Rosario and Morales said China’s aggressive island-building, occupation and illegal fishing in the South China Sea not only persecuted hundreds of thousands of Filipino fishermen but also caused “massive, near-permanent and devastating environmental damage across nations’’ that would result in the collapse of fisheries and food shortage in nations around the disputed waters.

Thankfully, other countries like Vietnam and Indonesia have shown the necessary spine and resisted China’s bullying. And last week came an encouraging development: The United Kingdom, France, and Germany filed a joint note verbale at the United Nations, rejecting China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea and invoking the 2016 arbitral ruling favoring the Philippines.

Retired Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio, a leading campaigner against China’s incursions, said that Filipinos should be deeply thankful to these countries for supporting the arbitral award to the Philippines and that their action serves as a warning to China.

But Locsin, displaying the nervous glibness that makes him a fish out of water in his post, dismissed the action of the three European countries in a tweet: “Imagine if I had brought the matter up in the UN General Assembly where numbers talk and not right as suggested by idiots.’’

Regardless of such a cowardly copout by the Philippine government as represented by its foreign secretary, it is everyone’s imperative duty to protect lives and livelihoods and the fragile ecosystems that support life on earth.

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TAGS: Chinese aggression, Editorial, Maritime Dispute, PH-China relations, South China Sea, West Philippine Sea
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