We shall defend what is ours | Inquirer Opinion
Commentary

We shall defend what is ours

/ 04:25 AM July 10, 2024

Aggressive actions by our giant neighbor to the West, China, have been escalating. The Chinese have been using different bully tactics to weaken our will and our spirit to defend what is ours. Filipinos at sea experience firsthand how desperate China is becoming; our troops, fisherfolk, and vessels encounter numerous attempts to block rotation and reprovision missions. There have been countless incidents where they have fired water cannons, and supply vessels now routinely being blocked with intentional collisions.

And then, on June 17, China outperformed itself yet again. The China Coast Guard boarded Filipino vessels, performed dangerous maneuvers, seized rifles, and struck inflatable boats with knives. China not only blocked our vessels at Ayungin Shoal but also seized our equipment and injured our people in an act akin to pirates. Armed with axes and knives, the China Coast Guard threatened our soldiers for “trespassing” in their so-called “territory.” A Filipino Navy soldier was injured defending against the violent assault.

What barbarity, indeed.

This is where we find ourselves during the eighth anniversary of the landmark ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). The arbitral court, deciding on a petition the Philippines filed three years prior, determined that China’s so-called nine-dash (now 10-dash) line has no basis in fact and thus, the West Philippine Sea (WPS) is ours.

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China, of course, smarting from the defeat and humiliation, is obstinate. It does not recognize the jurisdiction of the PCA and thus continues to make its erroneous assertion. It is also trying to twist with their false narrative that the Philippines is the one encroaching on Chinese territory.

Meanwhile, the rest of the international community has recognized the ruling. We stand among like-minded partners and allies in this challenge, and our fight goes beyond words that attest to our commitment. The countries that have expressed their support for our victory in the arbitral court and who themselves have done more by extending their help in developing our defense capabilities. After all, this is not just about the predicament of one country, the Philippines, that is being bullied by its giant neighbor, China. Rather, this is about the rule of law being supreme and thus must be respected by all.

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It is heartening to note that more and more Filipinos are becoming impassioned by the issue in the WPS, and the overwhelming international support is on our side. This is the result of the assertive transparency strategy wherein we publicize incidents that violate and undermine the rules-based international order.

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This is, after all, an issue that not only confronts fisherfolk in the area or our soldiers and the Philippine Coast Guard guarding our seas. It is, rather, an issue that concerns all Filipinos because what is at stake strikes at the very core of our identity and integrity.

In May 2024, the President declared that his administration and Filipinos will not yield. He emphasized that Manila will “not only [be] unyielding in protecting our patrimony, our rights, and our dignity as a proud and as a free country. We are also firm in our commitment to regional and global peace.”

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This month, as we mark the eighth year of the ruling, echoing the words of our government leaders, we reiterate our commitment to be steadfast. We will not yield. We will never yield. We have the whole of Philippine society behind us as we assert our rights in the WPS. Our administration’s pronouncements, complemented by our military’s efforts to boost external defense capabilities through the Comprehensive Archipelagic Defense Concept, civil society’s contributions in raising awareness and even sending civilian missions to the WPS, and the support of like-minded states in the community of nations give us hope and confidence that we will be able to safeguard our national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and economic rights in the WPS.

There is no place for barbarians in today’s world and in the international order. We are one with the rest of the world in ensuring that the rule of law prevails. Every nation, regardless of size, or military power, must respect the rights of others and adhere to international law.

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Dindo Manhit is founder and CEO of the Stratbase Group.

TAGS: Commentary, opinion

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