"The clamor is growing for our government to reverse its appeasement posture."
The bully of Southeast Asia is on the offensive again. As our people struggle with the new virulence of this virus that came from Wuhan, China, our national security and sovereignty is being violated by a masqueraded flotilla of purportedly militia laden Chinese vessels in yet another blatant swarming incursion into our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
The latest incident is the chasing down of one of our civilian vessels carrying a Filipino television news broadcaster. The news reported two People’s Liberation Army Navy vessels pursuing the retreating civilian vessel deep into Philippine territorial waters off the coast of Palawan. Video footage showed the harassment became dangerously close. Two Houbei-class missile boats was said to have speeded into the scene after the coast guard vessel turned away. The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defense has ordered an investigation for appropriate action.
The strong statements of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana calling the incursion of over 200 Chinese vessels “a clear provocative action of militarizing the area” and reiterating demands for the Chinese to immediately withdraw this swarm of suspected militia boats is a welcome pivot in the treatment of these recurring incursions in the WPS. The Philippine Navy has deployed sovereignty patrols to increase presence in our territorial waters.
“We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory. We are committed to uphold our sovereign rights over the WPS,” Secretary Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana hit the nail on the head when he stated that the presence of China’s vessels shows Beijing’s intent to occupy more areas and that China has “done this before” like in Scarborough Shoal.
DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin then followed Secretary Lorenzana’s verbal salvos with diplomatic protests and his own style of colored repartee with Chinese counterparts. A raging verbal shoot-out between the Philippines and China is now creating international alarm that now has our military ally the United States and Japan voicing out warnings to China to back off and stop the encroachment maneuvers, now threatening the peace and stability in one of the most important sea lanes of global maritime trade.
Earlier in February, the US reaffirmed its commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement when the Philippines expressed serious concern on the new Chinese law which authorizes its Coast Guard to fire on vessels in maritime waters in their baseless and imaginary claim to almost the whole of the South China Sea (SCS). This claim has been declared without basis by the arbitral ruling legally establishing our sovereign rights in the EEZ and WPS under international law. The US has beefed up its military presence in the SCS in response to what geopolitical experts call as a new wave of “Gray Zone Operations”, a strategy that the Chinese have successfully deployed by swarming a targeted area with a large fleet of optically civilian-looking vessels to box out other countries and thwart the enforcement of diplomatic or legal channels to stop their island-grabbing operations.
Former DFA Secretary Ambassador Albert del Rosario is now being proven right on his repeated calls to the leadership of this administration to assert our country’s victory on the Hague arbitral ruling which nullifies China’s bogus dash line annexation of the South China Sea. His sage advice was to forge alliances with many like-minded countries to uphold the rule of law and stand against Beijing, instead of kowtowing to Chinese bully tactics. This would have been a powerful and yet peaceful deterrent to the creeping invasion which has militarized so many islands within our own territories.
The latest geospatial images provided by Simularity Inc. clearly exposed the dubious excuse of the Chinese that the more than 200 strong fleet spotted in Julian Reef since December were just moored together to seek refuge because of rough weather. The images clearly show their suspicious, non-fishing formation. More alarming images revealed the extent of well-developed facilities in militarized islands inside our EEZ.
The clamor is growing for our government to reverse its appeasement posture and to stand up to China’s expansionist ambitions which has resulted in the wanton destructive exploitation of our exclusive maritime resources. This has also violated our sovereignty. We must engage our strong allies against this threat to our national security. As citizens, it is our right to demand decisive action from the leadership of this administration.
To hear more insights from top geopolitical experts, do join the virtual round table discussions of the Stratbase ADR Institute on “Maintaining a Rules-Based Maritime Order” this Thursday, 14 April 2021, 9am to 11am. Register at: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_KcfUIEZkRoW2sP5_7WYHCg?fbclid=IwAR071kz4d10nCLB_bTCZXr3tm8_85wsfq5pPang9K8t1dJET5eZ-FQMckoI