Should the Philippines Fight More Aggressively Against China Over Spartlys Claim?
“China, you are a bully! China Stay out!” Ang sigaw ng mga Pilipino laban sa China. Dapat na nga bang higit na maging agresibo ang Pilipinas sa paglaban sa karapatan sa Spratly Islands? Or should we focus on more diplomatic measures? How do we best fight for Spratly islands?
Last July 8, Friday–global Filipino communities showed an “unprecedented show of Filipino People Power of 2011” , as kababayans from at least 12 cities in four countries staged simultaneous international protests in front of Chinese Consular offices and Embassies. The message was loud and clear: China, keep out of Philippine territory! This, they said, is a fight for the Philippines’ sovereignty and dignity as a nation.
Balitang America reported on the protest held in Manhattan New York, where Filipinos sought to expose China’s $ 892-Million super oil rig ready to start drilling next month. This rig was reportedly positioned about 80 nautical miles or 125 miles away from Palawan, and within the Philippines’ 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
Community Leader Loida Nicolas Lewis of the of the US Pinoys for Good Governance said, that this is a clear intrusion of Philippine territory based on the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea or UN-CLOS.
The Philippines, along with China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Taiwan, have long been claiming portions of the Spratlys falling within their territories’ 200-mile radius or what is referred to as an Exclusive Economic Zone, under the 1982 United nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS). In March 2010, China unilaterally declared the South China Sea a “core national interest” similar to its claims to Tibet and Taiwan and therefore “non-negotiable.”
The islands is said to have potentially 213 billion barrels of oil beneath its sea bed, making the region oil-rich, second to Saudi Arabia. A Bloomberg article describes these disputed islands as covering “5 square kilometers of land, one and half times the size of New York’s Central Park, spread over an area roughly the size of Iraq.” These oil and natural gas-rich group of islands, according to Chinese experts, is enough to produce $50 billion dollars every year.
“As Filipino-Americans, as Filipinos in our hearts, we should protest this invasion of the Philippines and the taking of the heritage and the natural resources of our people and our people’s children!” , Lewis said.
Meantime, Joe Ramos, Chair Emeritus of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NAFAA) argued that the Philippines owns part of the Spratly Islands. He told Balitang America “ I am really concerned about China’s wanting to have the whole of it which is not right. I think we should stand for our rights and Filipinos all over the world should do the same!”.
In this long standing dispute against China, the US State Department reaffirms its support for the country. “ We, the United States, are with the Philippines. The Philippines and the United States are strategic allies, we are partners. We will continue to work with each other on all issues including the South China Sea”, US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Tomas said
At least nine Chinese intrusions in the Philippine territory have been recorded in the last few months, according to Philippine officials. Loida Nicolas Lewis said that Filipinos all over the United States are standing up with the battle cry, “China, you are a bully! China Stay out! When do we want it? NOW!”
This is for the future of our children. When they don’t have access to housing, education or health care, then this is really worth dying for. China is getting resources that rightfully belong to us,” said Atty. Ted Laguatan, another Filipino-American community leader in San Francisco.
But there are groups of Filipinos who caution against waging political war against China which may escalate to heightened military conflict and further instability in the region.
The Migrant Heritage Commission, a Washington, DC-based not for profit organization providing services to immigrants in the US, said in a press statement that President Aquino must already initiate the multilateral talks among claimant countries to peacefully and diplomatically resolve the political impasse on the Spratly islands.
“The legal basis of the claims is territorial sovereignty and not the law of the seas.There is a solid basis for reviewing the competing historical and legal claims to the Spratlys and people should really look again especially at the claims of China and Vietnam. The Philippines was apparently the last to lay its claim in 1956. The more that we should work for a win-win situation for all claimants, including the Philippines.”, MHC Executive Director Atty. Arnedo Valera said.
Valera stressed, “In order to avert any military conflict, the president must call to its neighbors and propose the creation of the SREDC (Spratly Resources Economic Development Commission) and also ask the United Nations for mediation or arbitration on this matter”. Valera is also a UN Representative on Migration, Global Peace and Security under the auspices of FSUN (Foundation for the Support of the United Nations)
“The creation of SREDC can be an effective mechanism to manage whatever potential resources in the area that will be discovered and shared in a communal way by the competing claimants. Any political posturing should not result to a zero-sum game to a particular claimant country.”, Valera added.
Responding to the call for strong international protests among Filipinos against China, MHC says it admires the zeal and sincerity of those who cry for “patriotic duty.” However, MHC Co-Director Jesse Gatchalian presents a different perspective. “Patriotism is not only expressing love to one’s country. That love should not be blind. We need to be insightful, well informed so we can push the Spratly issue in the right direction.”
The Philippines hopes to balance its interests between the United States and China when tackling its territorial dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea. ABS-CBN News reports that Ronald Llamas, political adviser to President Benigno Aquino said Manila should negotiate through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“Smaller states must work together as a bloc and avoid taking any side. ASEAN should be a fulcrum to balance the interests of the US and China. The problem can be avoided by not being partisan.”, Llamas pointed out.
Following diplomatic talks between Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and his Philippine counterpart Albert del Rosario in Beijing last Friday, China and the Philippines agreed not to allow rising tensions over conflicting claims in the South China Seas to hamper bilateral relations.
A joint statement of China and the Philippines said, “Both Ministers exchanged views on the maritime disputes and agreed not to let the maritime disputes affect the broader picture of friendship and cooperation between the two countries.” The two sides also agreed to abide by a 2002 code of conduct over their claims in the South China Seas, signed by the disputing nations that also include Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Is it time for the Philippines to be stronger and more aggressive in our claim over the Spratly Islands? Or should we focus on diplomatic measures? Are we ready for an all-out war — politically, economically, militarily, even if we do not get all the support we are hoping and expecting to get from the United States? How do we best fight for Spratly Islands?
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