Few things are as illuminating as a map to show us where we are.
For example, it is one thing to discuss and analyze our territorial dispute with China, but it is altogether another thing to see how much of the West Philippine Sea that Beijing is carving out for itself with its discredited nine-dash line policy and its dubious historical claims.
One such map can be found in “Limits in the Seas” No. 150, a document released this month by the US State Department, which finds no grounds in fact or in law for China’s excessive claims in the South China Sea.
The map on page 4 of the report illustrates China’s so-called nine-dash line, which hugs the western coastline of the Philippines, depriving it of reefs and shoals that are well within our exclusive economic zone that stretches 200 nautical miles from our baseline, as prescribed by the 1982 United Nations Convention of the Law on the Sea, of which both Manila and Beijing are signatories.
Against this backdrop, it was dismaying to hear the governor of Cagayan, Manuel Mamba, oppose live-fire military exercises in his province because these would put potential Chinese economic investments there at risk.
“It may cause a diplomatic row,” he was quoted as saying this week. “We don’t want to anger China here in Cagayan. We see that we could get help from them.”
The live-fire exercises in Claveria town were supposed to be part of this year’s Balikatan, the yearly military exercises between the Philippines and the United States.
“That’s live fire. They’re going to test all armaments. What will happen to our relationship with our neighbors, especially China? We are trying to reconnect ourselves to China,” Mamba told Inquirer.net.
Under the governor’s watch, the province’s antidrug and peace and order councils and its anti-insurgency task force opposed the live-fire drills in almost identical resolutions, saying they “may be perceived by some states as provoking posture.”
Given the opposition, the military is said to be planning to push through with the joint exercises in Cagayan, but without the live-fire component. This acquiescence begs the question: Do local government executives have the authority to dictate defense policy and practices?
Mamba, who is seeking re-election next year, says Chinese investors have seen Cagayan’s potential and expressed interest in investing in many areas, saying they are “trying to invite them to come in.” This statement suggests that in the six years since the administration pivoted to Beijing, very few of these “expected” investments, in fact, have poured into the province of Cagayan, save perhaps for a few offshore gambling operations.
Do we really need elected officials—national or local–who kowtow to a foreign power at the expense of the country’s territory and sovereignty?
In everyday life, what China has been doing to us is akin to a neighbor who draws a line at the boundary of your property and says he owns the sidewalk and the street around it. This is not what good neighbors do, and we need leaders who recognize this and act accordingly.
All this kowtowing cannot be good for the backbone.