Aquino faces acid test in China, Taiwan rows
NOW THIS?: When communist hordes overran China in 1949 in the concluding chapter of a civil war, the Philippines gave aid and sanctuary to Kuomintang Chinese fleeing the mainland onway to Taiwan. Many of them settled in Manila and flourished in business.
Now Taiwanese are treating us like rubbish just because one of them was killed by stray bullets when their boat intruded into Philippine waters last Wednesday and tried to ram a Coast Guard craft that accosted it.
The President of the Philippines humbled himself and apologized for the unfortunate death of one of the Taiwanese intruders – but this was rejected by Taipei as “insincere.”
Next time we feel like apologizing to a neighbor, especially if he is a renegade Chinese, we should find out first if the apology would be accepted.
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RETALIATION: The government of Taiwan, incited by local politics, made a big show of telling Taiwanese not to visit the Philippines and stopped the entry of Filipino workers. Taiwanese inflamed by their media stepped up their harassment Filipino residents and visitors.
Beijing grabbed the opportunity to play Big Brother, describing the incident as “barbaric” and insisting on holding Manila accountable.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman said: “We strongly condemn the barbaric shooting and killing of the Taiwanese fisherman, demanding that the Philippines should investigate the case and furnish the details as soon as possible. We are deeply grieved about the death of the Taiwanese compatriot and have sent condolences to his family.”
(Note that Beijing calls them Taiwanese, not Chinese.)
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PANATAG GRAB: The unfriendly rhetoric of Beijing is understandable, considering that the Philippines is one of several neighbors claiming some islands, islets and shoals that China had arbitrarily included in its territorial map.
There is no question, for instance, that Scarborough Shoal (called Panatag Shoal, sometimes Masinloc Bajo, by Filipinos) off the Zambales coast is Philippine territory as it is within our 200-mile exclusive economic zone under the UNCLOS and much farther from China.
This very rich fishing ground has been valuable to generations of Filipino fishermen. But weeks ago, China came over in full force, occupied it, roped it off, imposed a 15-mile ban on it, and kept driving away visitors and non-Chinese fishermen.
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MANILA HELPLESS?: Despite occasional press releases trumpeting its resolve to assert Philippine sovereignty over Panatag, the Aquino administration has not been able to at least make its presence felt at the shoal.
In an unfortunate move last year President Aquino ordered Philippine vessels to leave the area in a naïve attempt to create, he said, a friendly atmosphere for dialogue.
Until now, however, there has been neither a friendly atmosphere nor dialogue. Only Chinese vessels at Panatag.
China’s expansionism is alarming. What do we, a weak nation with a weak leadership, do? Will it be Scarborough today, other Philippine areas later?
Just days ago, after the Philippine navy declared its readiness to defend our maritime territory, China sent a big fleet to the Spratlys group where some islands have thriving Filipino communities managed by democratically elected Philippine local officials.
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PINOYS SHOOED AWAY: In the Los Angeles Times last May 14, Barbara Demick wrote about Panatag:
“The fishermen were sailing the azure waters off the Philippine coast when Richard Caneda saw the morning sunlight glinting off a vessel ‘bigger than the biggest ship in the Philippine navy.’
“Caneda could see a red Chinese flag. The words ‘Chinese Maritime Surveillance’ were written on the ship’s side.
“The ship came close enough that Caneda could see crew members on deck making hand gestures as though to shoo away a fly. Caneda, who had moved from the fishing boat to a tiny skiff to haul in nets left out overnight, soon saw a large gun on the ship’s deck pivoting directly toward him. A helicopter whirred overhead.
“The fishermen fled, leaving their nets and catch behind.
“‘We were scared. We were angry. We were frustrated. That is our livelihood,’ Caneda, 34, a now-unemployed father of three who lives in a shantytown in Masinloc, said of the November encounter.
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CHINESE EXPANSIONISM: Demick continued: “It happened near the reef known as Scarborough Shoal, 130 miles off the coast of the Philippines’ largest island, Luzon, and barely 200 miles from Manila, the Philippine capital.
“Claimed by both China and the Philippines, the mostly underwater reef has come to represent the dangers of Chinese expansionism.
“‘Scarborough today — tomorrow the world,’ read banners at an anti-China demonstration last year in Manila.
“In its quest to become a maritime power and to tap potential undersea oil and gas reserves, China is asserting sovereignty over various islands, rocks and reefs dangerously close to the shores of Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.
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DE FACTO OCCUPATION: “Beijing and Taipei, Taiwan, condemned the Philippines on Friday for the shooting death of an unarmed 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.
“Philippine authorities said a coast guard ship fired on the Taiwanese vessel a day earlier in an area to the north of Luzon, but only in an attempt to disable the engine to prevent being rammed.
“On Wednesday, the Philippines issued an official apology in a response to a midnight deadline set by Taiwan, which had threatened economic retaliation.
“Along with Japan’s Senkaku islands (known as Diaoyu to the Chinese), the Scarborough Shoal is the area’s most hotly contested territory, the scene of dozens of too-close calls during the last year.
“For more than a year, Chinese ships have patrolled Scarborough Shoal, chasing away Philippine fisherman and maintaining what Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario calls ‘a de facto occupation.’”