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
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
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.
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
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.