West Philippine Sea, patriotism, betrayal | Inquirer Opinion

West Philippine Sea, patriotism, betrayal

12:30 AM April 05, 2024

I first wrote about the conflict between the Philippines and China over disputed territory 12 years ago. The trigger then was the unilateral and aggressive act of China in a forceful takeover of Scarborough Shoal. These are excerpts from that 2012 article of mine:

“It is, in fact, China with whom we have ties not just historical but physical as well. We are literally neighbors, and we have substantial blood ties. We should be the best of friends, not adversaries. But there is strategic circumstance, tremendous wealth and vital resources in the long area west of the Philippines, from Scarborough Shoal to Sulu, including the lands of Palawan and Western Mindanao.

These represent sea lanes that are crucial to international trade and military sea and air movements. These represent $26 trillion worth of oil and gas deposits which could last beyond a hundred years. And these represent, not just $26 trillion, but oil and gas that are vital to production and consumption, more importantly, to the peace of mind of superpowers

We are talking about the security of nations, not just their prosperity. If China, or America, believes that what we have beneath the sea or the land is in their interest to have or to control, there will be no right or wrong to guide their action, only success.

It is a timely moment to accept reality with more clarity and less wishful thinking. Our fate is truly, and ultimately, only in our hands. Our sovereignty, our independence, our freedom, these will not be gifts from superpowers, they will be fruits from our blood, sweat and tears. If we are not willing to give all, we will not be able to keep all.”

That was in 2012 and a big change has happened since then. China is still the bully and continues to disrespect us when it comes to the West Philippine Sea. It has expanded its bullying beyond Scarborough Shoal, of course, and now centered around the Spratly Islands. Every time we send a resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre which remains grounded in a submerged reef there, China attacks us with aggressive maneuvering of its naval and maritime ships – plus shooting water cannons or beaming laser lights at our ships.

All of the above provocative actions are on top of harassing our fishermen who have been traditionally plying their trade there.

The biggest change, though, from 12 years ago is the South China Sea Arbitration Ruling made on July 16, 2016, going against major elements of China’s claim including its nine-dash line, recent land reclamation activities, and other activities in Philippine waters.


The Hague-based decision constituted under the UNCLOS declared that China’s claim of historical rights to resources falling within the invisible demarcation “has no basis in law and is without legal effect.” The ruling also upheld the Philippines’ sovereign rights and jurisdiction in its exclusive economic zone.

For the last 8 years, 6 under Rodrigo Duterte as President and 2 years so far under the presidency of Marcos, Jr., China has knowingly committed all sorts of physical intrusion into our waters, the West Philippine Sea, in a show of force – even against international laws. For all practical reasons, China is an invader, an interloper, a bully using superior force to intimidate and curtail the freedom of the Philippines to exercise control over the West Philippine Sea.

In other words, we are at war, in an undeclared war but a war nonetheless. It is a war we cannot control because we never asked for it, and we never did anything to violate any international treaty, not even a treaty with China. It is only a war we are forced to fight like cornered rats to save our divine and internationally legal heritage, our land and waters that give us life, and our freedom and independence.

Let me repeat my words of 12 years ago, to wit: “If we are not willing to give all, we will not be able to keep all.”

So let us now discuss the most important value in the context of the ongoing conflict with China – the patriotism of Filipinos. Our strongest armor is our patriotism, and our greatest enemy is our unwillingness to express it in the worst of times.

I know there are traitors in our midst, I know we even see and hear them every so often trying to placate our indignation and promote the interests of the enemy above ours. But traitors are a consequence of war, mostly driven by greed. Filipinos betrayed Filipinos under all colonial masters – our history books or hometown legends can affirm that. There will be some who will, if not yet by now, sell their souls and the countrymen to China. We must be watchful and we must not be fooled by them.

Patriotism is not taught in an ROTC course. It is taught from birth, by the example of role models. For the child, it begins at home. For the nation, it begins at the top, from our national leaders and cascades all the way to our barangays. Maybe, Filipinos have been experiencing a long period of peace, and our leaders themselves have been lulled to believe that patriotism is automatic. It is not; not without its role models to keep it fresh and alive.

But since the revival of ROTC has been pushed by some national leaders, I would expect them to be the primary role models of patriotism. China today is openly and aggressively committing disrespectful and bullying acts against the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea. The first to defend our territory and to condemn the aggression of China must be our leaders – especially those who used patriotism as their reason for wanting to bring ROTC back.

Meanwhile, we Filipinos must be alert, vigilant, understand what China is doing to us, and prepare to test our own patriotism. And beware of betrayal and traitors in our midst.

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TAGS: opinion, West Philipine Sea

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