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Standing Up to China, To Teach It a Lesson or Two

n Thursday, September 24, 2015, a day before the official start of Chinese president Xi Jinping's first state visit to the United States, U.S. President Barack Obama invited his Chinese counterpart to a very private, closed-door, informal dinner at Blair House, just across the street from the White House. Aside from both presidents, only a handful of aides from both sides were in attendance. During that dinner, Which lasted close to three hours Obama tried to get Xi to stop what China was doing in the South China Sea. But try as he did, Obama could not get Xi to budge even an inch. Shortly after that dinner, it is rumored that a frustrated Obama spoke with his military advisers and gave the go-ahead to the long held-up plan by the US Navy to sail warships within 12 nautical miles of China's man-made islands in the South China Sea.

On October 26, 2015 the U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef (Zamora Reef) and Mischief reef (Panganiban Reef), both now artificial islands built-up by Chinese dredging over the past year and a half.

China of course could do nothing but wring its hands and cry foul. The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is not yet ready to go head-to-head with the U.S. Navy at this point in time. The scary fact though is that China is catching up quite rapidly and within five years the PLAN could be the dominant naval power in the South China Sea.

Given China's bullying actions towards Filipino fishermen who are simply trying to make a living by fishing in waters they and their forefathers have fished in for centuries, we can get a glimpse of what life will be like should China achieve its goal of hegemony over the region. Filipinos will be at the mercy of ruthless tyrants who would easily outdo the former Spanish colonial masters, or the barbaric troops of General Yamashita during WWII. Unless China is put in its place, that might be the tormented future generations of Filipinos will have to live under.

Begin forming alliances now

We've said it before. Filipinos must learn to stand on their own. We currently have a military that former dictator Ferdinand Marcos badly mangled during his nearly two decades in power. So that today, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is little more than a comedic sideshow. In order to re-engineer the AFP into a serious force once more, the Philippines must strike strategic alliances with countries in the region, and with the United States. Joint military exercises with the U.S., Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, and Singapore would hone the fighting skills of the Filipino soldier, sailor, airman and Marine. More importantly, all those joint exercises would send a clear message to Beijing that the AFP will no longer be the pushover it once was.

The United States took a calculated risk when it sent the Lassen on its recent mission. The Philippines must now also do its part by standing by its long-time ally and actively work with its other Asian neighbors starting with Japan and Vietnam to build a strong and united coalition.

Keep in mind that China will do whatever in can to weaken Filipino resolve. It will fund the communist insurgents and other rebel groups fighting the government. It will fund leftist anti-American demonstrators. It will fund politicians who for a price will do its bidding. China will surely carry out these clandestine operations because they are the more cost-effective ways to destabilize the Philippines than direct military intervention.

China's nine-dash line delineates most of the South China Sea as belonging to China. And given sea's strategic location and the trillions of dollars worth of oil, gas and minerals underneath its waters, it is not surprising that China wants all of it for itself. China does not recognize the Philippines' 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), even though it sets a stricter protocol on its own EEZ. China says it can prevent warships of other countries from entering its EEZ waters; this Chinese interpretation is not globally accepted as all other countries allow foreign military vessels on the waters of their EEZ.

Gloria Arroyo's Treasonous Act

In 2004 then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo did the governmental equivalent of lifting up her skirt to reveal her hidden treasures for the Chinese to see when she signed the highly controversial Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) with China and Vietnam. The JMSU gave China what it wanted which was to conduct a seismic survey of contested waters in the South China Sea. But Arroyo gave the Chinese much more than that. She also allowed the Chinese to survey areas that were not in contention and that were clearly part of the Philippine continental shelf. This gave the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) a clear idea of what mineral, oil, and gas deposits were in and around Philippine waters.

At the time no one could raise questions about the JMSU because it was all shrouded in secrecy. The JMSU contained a secrecy clause. Section 10 of the agreement stated that: "The Agreement x x x shall be kept confidential during the Agreement term and within 5 years after its expiration x x x and shall not be disclosed to any third party without the written consent of the other parties."

Luckily for Filipinos, they had an Australian to thank. The late Barry Wain a renowned journalist with vast experience all over Southeast Asia, who was then working in Singapore as a researcher in the Institute for Southeast Asian Studies, got hold of secret JMSU documents and published an article in the Far Eastern Economic Review. Wain's article characterized the JMSU as "largely a sellout on the part of the Philippines." According to Wain "The Philippines ... has made breathtaking concessions in agreeing to the area for study, including parts of its own continental shelf not even claimed by China and Vietnam." The article further pointed out that the area covered by the JMSU "thrusts into the Spratlys and abuts Malampaya, a Philippine producing gas field. About one-sixth of the entire area, closest to the Philippine coastline, is outside the claims by China and Vietnam."

After Wain's authoritative article was published, the JMSU was quietly scuttled by the Arroyo administration. But all seismic and other data already gathered by the Chinese survey ship have remained in Chinese hands.

China learns more about Pinoys each day

So don't be surprised if China knows more about us then we do about ourselves. China is "in it to win" and will stop at nothing short of total dominion over all of Southeast Asia. All of China's moves appear to have been well planned and well calibrated.

China knows it can easily exploit the naïveté and inexperience of our leaders the way it hoodwinked President Benigno Aquino III into giving up Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) without a fight. China knows it can easily bribe legislators and corrupt public servants. China knows it can infiltrate and help finance leftist student movements and communist insurgencies.

With almost everything in the Philippines up for sale to the highest bidder, China knows there will be little it won't be able to buy or influence.

The Filipino patriot

The only thing standing in the way of complete Chinese domination are the Filipino patriots. They are the ones who cannot be bought and who stand ready to sacrifice so their children will not be forced to live their lives under the yoke of Chinese domination. However, these 21st century heroes will need to have more than just patriotism. They will also have to be smart, tech savvy, creative, and street-wise in order to keep up with the Chinese at every turn. They have to be articulate and be able to build alliances, both nationally as well as globally.

In the final analysis, we all know that the Philippines will not be able to change China's behavior on its own. But when like-minded individuals from many nations join forces, they become a formidable alliance. And when that happens, bullies like China quickly learn to change their heavy-handed ways. When that change happens, the entire region ... and the world becomes a better place for everyone. Published 10/29/2015

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