POSTSCRIPT / March 23, 2014 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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PH-China row antics hint at warlike drift

BY FORCE: Is physical occupation backed by military force the only option left in resolving territorial disputes between the Philippines and China in their common waters?

That is another way of saying war looms as a possibility as the options for peaceful settlement dwindle.

A military scenario is emerging with the reckless rhetoric coming from Beijing, the latest of which is its warning Monday to Manila to keep off Ayungin(Second Thomas) Shoal, which is just 105 nautical miles from Palawan well within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

Beijing forbade Manila from sending reinforcement and supplies to a Marine detachment marooned in a grounded navy vessel, the BRP Sierra Madre, in the vicinity of Ayungin.

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ARBITRATION: Moving in increasingly warlike pattern, China has refused to submit to the arbitration at the United Nations International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea.

After expelling from Ayungin early this month two Filipino civilian vessels allegedly transporting supplies and construction materials to the marooned Marines, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in Beijing:

“China watches closely and is highly vigilant on further possible provocations in the South China Sea by the Philippines and it must bear all the consequences arising therefrom.”

The Philippines protested the vessels’ expulsion. But China simply rejected the protest, as it previously did an earlier complaint filed after Chinese coast guard vessels drove away with water blasts Filipino fishermen in Panatag Shoal off Zambales.

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CHINA’S POND?: With its burgeoning population and industries, China looks at the sea below the mainland as a source of food, fuel and mineral resources. It has to show its teeth in front of its tongue when telling the neighbors to stay away.

Hong claimed that the Philippines has refused to make good an alleged promise to remove the Sierra Madre derelict, and instead brought in materials “with a purpose of building facilities on the reef”.

While the Philippines lobs protests that bounce off China’s hide and waits for a breakthrough in its arbitration bid before the ITLOS, China continues to drive away Filipino fishermen and naval vessels as it builds structures on disputed areas.

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UNCLE’S WAITING ARMS: The dispute’s developing into a military confrontation is driving the Philippines into the arms of United States, its mutual defense partner.

Although Filipinos love to strike an independent pose when people are looking, the belligerent bellowing of Beijing only serves to make Filipinos cling closer to Uncle Sam.

This makes it both easier and trickier for the US in pursuing its strategic plans in the emerging area of conflict. It makes the Philippines more dependent on American support, while raising the prospects of Filipinos expecting too much from the US.

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SANG’S VISIT: Obviously not ready for an armed confrontation, Philippine leaders may learn a few things by observing how its neighbor Vietnam is girding for any Chinese provocation.

Amid tensions over territorial disputes, the recent official visit of Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang to Japan caught the eye of international media that generally described it as a success. Sang was accorded a very special welcome, including the privilege to address the Diet.

Reports have it that Japan and Vietnam committed to further strengthen their cooperation on maritime safety. What is most significant is Japan’s understanding of the need to enhance Vietnam’s maritime enforcement capacity.

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CAPACITY-BUILDING: In his address at the Diet, Sang called for countries in the region to refrain from the use or threat to use of force, and to respect international laws and the sovereignty of other countries.

Abe said he would soon send a team to Vietnam to exchange opinions on “supporting Vietnam to build capacity for its maritime law enforcement agencies.”

Sang’s visit appears to be part of a bigger effort to enhance cooperation between two Asian countries sharing anxieties and uncertainties towards China, strengthening defense and strategic coordination between Hanoi and Tokyo.

Vietnam has stepped up its strategic engagement with Japan as both sides explore institutionalized cooperation on maritime issues. Japan and Vietnam share similarities in their disputes with China in the East China Sea and South China Sea.

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CLARK SUCCESS!: Based on feedback from the field of 112 players who joined the Clark Golf Cup last Friday at the Mimosa Golf & Country Club in the Clark Freeport, the tournament was a success.

Newsmen Ashley Jay Manabat reports on the event organized by the Capampangan in Media Inc. in cooperation with the Clark Development Corp:

Setting the pace in the ceremonial tee-off was nine-year-old Jungolf champion Annyka Pineda Cayabyab who unleased a mammoth drive to the delight of spectators at hole No. 1 of the Lakeview course.

Next on the tee was Wack Wack Golf and Country Club president Philip “Popoy” Juico who launched a similar drive. Clark Development Corp. president/CEO Arthur P. Tugade was next with a long drive that bounced and rolled on the green before caddies scrambled to retrieve it.

The last on the tee was Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco who likewise launched a powerful drive veering slightly to the left before bouncing on the green.

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THE WINNERS: Using the Double Peoria scoring system, Mimosa announced these winners:

• Class A division champion, Fernando Delos Reyes scoring a 70 with his well-rounded golf game. First runner up, Kim Jin Gyu, 70; second runner up, Kim Si Hoo, 71.

• Class B division champion, Rey Dron, 72. First runnerup, Ely Saludar, 72, followed by Francis Dimaliwa, 73.

• Class C division champion, Teo Han Chua, 67. First runnerup, Rolaud Lallana, 68, followed by Edward Isidro, 69.

• The Ladies division was dominated by Arline Ward, 68. Hwang Hye Young was first runnerup, 71.

Fun holes winners were Yang Ju Yung nearest to the pin at 2 ½ feet at Acacia hole No. 3. The longest drive, Jun Romero with a 296-yard drive at the Lakeview No. 5; the most accurate drive, Edgar de Guzman with a mere 10 inches at Lakeview hole No. 5.

Song Si Hon was the Low Gross winner with a 71, and Benzon Tang scoring 66 was Low Net winner with his excellent golf game.

Manila Bulletin newsman Mario Casayuran scoring a leisurely 107 was handed the trophy for the Most Exercise.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 23, 2014)

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