President Rodrigo Duterte should visit Vietnam and Malaysia first before going to China so he can learn strategy lessons on how to stop Chinese vessels from invading country’s waters, a Forbes columnist said.
Panos Mourdoukoutas wrote in his Saturday column that appeasing Beijing will not work for the benefit of Filipinos as shown in repeated incidents of Chinese ships sailing unannounced without notifying the government.
President Duterte should look for strategies elsewhere, he said.
“Vietnam and Malaysia are the right places for that. The leaders of both countries have dared to do what Duterte didn’t: Stand up to China, and have achieved better results than Duterte,” Mourdoukoutas wrote.
He noted that Vietnam, one of the claimants in South China Sea, outlawed many of China’s ongoing activities in the disputed territories, including building of artificial islands, blockades, and the deployment of offensive weaponry. It also mobilized its forces to stop Chinese vessels from entering into its waters.
As for Malaysia, he said the country seized more than 1 billion ringgit ($243.5 million) from a bank account of state-owned China Petroleum Pipeline Engineering over failed pipeline projects.
The Royal Malaysian Navy also conducted a rare show of its missile power near the disputed maritime region last month, Mourdoukoutas said.
Duterte has been widely criticized for his soft stance toward China before he announced his fifth trip to Beijing—which he said is the right time to assert the 2016 arbitral victory of Manila since his term is about to end.
He has repeatedly said he is “friends” with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
But the Palace on Sunday said the repeated incidents of Chinese ships sailing unannounced in the country’s waters have become “an irritant.”
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Beijing has been violating the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea through their “unfriendly act” of sailing in the Philippine waters without government permission.
“It’s becoming an irritant if you keep on repeating certain acts that may be viewed to be in violation of an UNCLOS and not as an act of friendship between two countries,” Panelo said in a radio interview.
At least five Chinese warships have intruded into Philippine waters through the Sibutu Strait near Tawi-Tawi, the Western Mindanao Command previously reported.
So far, 13 Chinese People’s Liberation Army vessels have recently entered the country, according to authorities.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who described the recent movements as “irritants,” also said that Chinese warships passed through Sibutu Strait with their automatic identification systems switched off.
On Thursday, Malacañang expressed its concern over the military’s report of Chinese warships sailing in Sibutu passage that connects Sulu Sea and Sulawesi Sea, saying it was not “an act of friendship.”
Chinese-owned survey ships have also been conducting marine scientific research recently in the country’s exclusive economic zone without approval from government, according to Ryan Martinson, a professor at the China Maritime Studies Institute of the US Naval War College.
These survey ships were Zhanjian, which has been operating off the waters of Bicol and Eastern Visayas, and Dong Fang Hong 3, which was spotted near Ilocos.
UNCLOS allows innocent passage of ships through the territorial sea of a coastal state as long as it will be “continuous and expeditious.”
As for ships conducting a scientific surveys, they must request permission from the country that has jurisdiction over the area where the survey will take place, as stated by UNCLOS.
China and the Philippines were both signatories to UNCLOS.
As a response to China’s conduct, Panelo said the government “can always file a diplomatic protest and let them respond to it.”
Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said earlier that China will not change its stance or its extensive claims over the South China Sea.
Following the June 9 ramming of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel in the Recto Bank, Duterte said he had a verbal agreement with Xi allowing Chinese fishermen within the country’s exclusive economic zone.
There were also plans to develop Philippine islands under joint agreement between government and Chinese firms.
The first agreement, confirmed by the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority, is with Xiamen-based Fong Zhi Enterprise Corporation to develop a $2-billion Smart City in Fuga Island in Cagayan.
The second is with GFTG Property Holdings and Sanya CEDF Sino-Philippine Investment Corp., which forged a $298-million project to develop the Grande and Chiquita islands in Zambales under the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.
Opposition Senator Leila de Lima has filed a resolution urging Duterte to cancel these development plans, noting that the islands were strategic and their development by Chinese firms could compromise national security.
Military and defense officials said they were not informed about these plans.