POSTSCRIPT / June 4, 2013 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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How China’s ‘cabbage strategy’ kept out Phl

INCOMPETENCE: Every year when public schools open, we are swamped with the same recurring reports of lack of classrooms, textbook and teachers.

It is easy to project yearly increments in enrolment and anticipate the logistical requirements of the expanding student population as far forward as five years. We should be able to solve the attendant problems even before they hit us.

Incompetence at the top – aggravated by lack of concern for the youth — is the only reason why year after year our public school system suffers from insufficient classrooms, books and teachers.

The problem cannot be lack of funds since we fritter away billions upon billions in intelligence funds, unproductive doles, pork barrel and slush accounts with nothing to show for it.

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STRATEGY BARED: Listening to a Chinese military general disclose their strategy in taking over Panatag (Scarborough) shoal off Zambales as well as other isles and fishing grounds, one would think Beijing is deliberately shaming Filipinos and their leaders.

What have President Noynoy Aquino and his subalterns done to merit this humiliation? After he declared that we would defend “what is ours” to the last fighting man, China responded by sending a swarm of fishing boats escorted by warships.

In a recent television interview, Major General Zhang Zhaozhong said that China’s navy has been wrapping Panatag like a “cabbage” with their warships, thus keeping away Filipino naval ships and fishing boats.

Panatag is just 120 miles off Zambales, well within the Philippines’ 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone just like Recto and Ayungin reefs that China had taken over while Filipinos looked on helplessly.

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PERMISSION NEEDED: In the TV interview, the Philippines was cast as the villain whose puny attempts to protect its domain were described as “rude” and “barbaric.”

Knowing that the Aquino administration could not do anything anyway, Zhang talked openly of how they have been employing the “cabbage” strategy to secure Panatag by constant surveillance and the posting of administrative fishing vessels and warships there.

“If the Philippines wants to go in, in the outermost area, it has first to ask whether our navy will allow it,” Zhang said. “Then it has to ask whether our fishery administration ships and marine surveillance ships will allow it.”

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TRANSCRIPT: Part of the Zhang interview —

TV host: We’ve watched the footage and now let’s look at the big screen that shows the Chinese islands and reefs illegally occupied by the Philippines.

What one has stolen has to be returned. No matter how long the Philippines have illegally occupied those Chinese islands and reefs, it cannot change the fact that those islands and reefs are inherent Chinese territories. What shall we do to counter those rude and barbarian acts of the Philippines?

Zhang: We have done some things relatively successfully. Since the 1990s, the Philippines has done a few illegal and irrational things in its attempt to turn Huangyan (Scarborough) island into its territory by means of presidential order, domestic legislation, and so on.

Each time our Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested, but it refused to listen. In the meantime, it was busy doing this and that, such as sunk a boat there and conducting lots of patrols there. By April 2012, an incident finally took place that it took initiative to detain Chinese fishermen by force. It sent troops to detain at gun point the fishermen who had entered the lagoon to carry out normal fishing.

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ZHANG: Since then, we have begun to take measures to seal and control the areas around Huangyan. In over one year since then, there have been fishermen inside. There are lots of fish there. Fishermen go there in large ships and then sail small boats in the lagoon to fish. They can have shelter in the lagoon when there is a typhoon.

Around the island, administration ships and marine surveillance vessels conduct normal patrols while in the outer ring there are navy warships. The island is thus wrapped layer by layer like a cabbage.

If the Philippines wants to go in, in the outermost area, it has first to ask whether our navy will allow it. Then it has to ask whether our fishery administration and marine surveillance ships will allow it. Our fishermen can carry out their production safely while our country’s marine rights and interests as well as sovereignty are safeguarded.

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ZHANG: We can adopt this method elsewhere. We have not resorted to war and we have not forced the others to do anything. You have invaded and then left. You have violated Chinese law and China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Why did you point your guns at our fishermen? As you have first violated the law and pointed your guns at our fishermen, you would never be allowed to enter the area.

We should do more such things in the future. For those small islands, only a few troopers can be stationed on each of them, but there is no food or even drinking water there. If we carry out the “cabbage” strategy, you will not be able to send food and drinking water onto the islands. Without supply for one or two weeks, the troopers stationed there will leave the islands on their own. Once they leave, they will never be able to come back.

Over the past few years, we have made a series of achievements at the Nansha Islands (the Spratlys), the greatest of which I think have been on Huangyan, Meiji reef (Mischief reef) and Ren’ai shoal (Second Thomas shoal).

We have gained quite satisfactory experience about the ways to recover the islands and reefs and defend them. For the Nansha and Xisha (Paracel) islands, we have established Sansha City to administer them.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 4, 2013)

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