POSTSCRIPT /April 1, 2014 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

Share on facebook
Share This
Share on twitter

China afraid its claim may be found baseless

WHY AFRAID?: China believes in the validity of its sovereign claim over shoals and islets in the West Philippines Sea. It insists on a one-on-one discussion to resolve territorial disputes with neighbors, while avowing friendship and peaceful intentions in dealing with the Philippines. It is a member of the United Nations and signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

So why is China refusing to talk directly with the Philippines at the UN arbitral tribunal where the latter has sought a just settlement of their territorial dispute under international law to which both subscribe?

The plausible reason is that China is afraid it cannot justify and defend its overreaching claim over a vast marine area beyond 200 nautical miles of its shores defined by convention as its Exclusive Economic Zone under the UNCLOS that it has solemnly signed.

The neighborhood bully is afraid it might just lose to the kid down the block in an international forum.

* * *

WIN OR LOSE: The Philippines submitted Sunday a 4,000-page memorial (memorandum) to the UN arbitral tribunal hearing its case against China. The 10-volume summary was sent electronically to the tribunal’s registrar at The Hague.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Volume 1 of the memorial analyzes the applicable law and relevant evidence, and shows that the arbitral tribunal has jurisdiction over all of the Philippine claims.

Volumes 2 through 10 contain more than 3,700 pages of documentary evidence and over 40 maps supporting the Philippine claims.

* * *

CHINA WARNING: Calling attention to the complexity and sensitivity of the case, Beijing has asked Manila to resolve the dispute through direct negotiation and not take the question to the UN so as to avoid, it warned, further damage to bilateral relations.

But Del Rosario said the resort to arbitration, initiated on Jan. 22, 2013, is supported by the United Nations, the European Union and many other countries.

“It is currently unknown whether China will appear in the case or continue abstaining from the proceedings,” he said. “Under the Rules of Procedure, the arbitral tribunal will decide on the next steps and advise the parties.”

Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza said Manila amended last month its claim to include Ayungin Shoal (Ren’ai Reef to the Chinese) where a contingent of Filipino marines keep watch from a navy ship purposely run aground to serve as their outpost.

* * *

HURRAH!: There was cheer and a lifting of spirits in Manila last Saturday when a small vessel carrying fresh troops and supplies to Ayungin managed to slip past Chinese coast guard patrol trying to block it.

The Chinese ships harassed and ordered the mission not to enter what they claimed was part of China, but the Filipino skipper swerved and maneuvered through shallower waters where the much heavier pursuers could not follow.

Also on board were journalists who documented the cat-and-mouse chase and relayed footages to Manila. On the derelict BRP Sierra Madre that has been their lonely outpost the past five months, the unshaven marines looked happy and healthy.

The high point of the rotation of troops (a simple version of the VFA rotation of American GIs?) was the brisk raising of the Philippine flag and the spirited singing of the national anthem down to the last line that says “…ang mamatay ng dahil sa iyo”.

* * *

CABBAGE TACTIC: That final line is a reminder to all that a time comes when a Filipino may have to give up his life for his country.

In the case of the marine sentinels on Ayungin, they could either be captured or mowed down by Chinese intruders — or starved to death.

A previous attempt to bring them food and supplies was blocked by Chinese forces. Such tactic was explained recently by a Chinese general who described it as the “cabbage” routine involving the laying out of layers of patrols to prevent penetration.

Marooned or blockaded, he boasted, the Filipinos will soon run out of food, water and supplies. Either they give up or starve to death.

* * *

PANATAG STANDOFF: That was what the Chinese did in April 2012 to Filipino fishermen seeking shelter in bad weather in the lagoon of Panatag Shoal (also called locally as Bajo de Masinloc), their traditional fishing ground 120 miles off Zambales.

Sometimes called Scarborough, this shoal was surveyed decades ago by a team of the late engineer-contractor FF Cruz together with the US Geodetic Survey. The United States, which used Scarborough for target practice when the US Navy was still in nearby Subic, knows it is part of Zambales.

But for two years now Chinese fishermen protected by their navy, have taken over. Zambaleños, once the mainstay of the fish market in the region, have beached their boats and now have to look for other ways to meet the needs of their families.

* * *

BOYCOTT CHINA: One is incensed upon hearing of this inhumanity of poachers backed by the superior force of their government driving away local fishermen – much like the Chinese coast guard imposing a blockade on Ayungin – who depend on the sea for their family needs.

The Philippine arbitration complaint before the UN should call attention to this humanitarian aspect of the case.

We are sure President Aquino sees this human dimension of Chinese expansionism, but it is not easy for him to make like he is about to let sparks fly or to officially rally his people against a neighbor professing to be a friend.

To spare him this sordid chore, maybe lower echelon bureaucrats can UNOFFICIALLY instruct government offices to stop buying or using China-made products or to phase them out if covered by term contracts. The private sector can follow suit.

It is really a minor move, something the bully may not even feel or notice, but it can help deliver the message that we are not happy with China’s “Starve them” policy toward Filipinos.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 1, 2014)

Share your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published.