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Filipinos Need to Stand Tall in the Face of Chinese Aggression

resident Aquino made the right move by going to Japan to bolster Philippine-Japanese cooperation. President Aquino shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo AbeWhile he might be “preaching to the choir” as far as the Japanese are concerned, he nonetheless needs to communicate the graveness of the situation the Philippines currently faces. More than any other country in Southeast Asia, the Philippines is the one most threatened by China’s “salami slicing” tactic of encroachment: taking over one small island after another in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Make no mistake, China’s ultimate intention is hegemony over all of Southeast Asia in the short term, and Asia and the rest of the world in the long term. As evidenced by her actions, China has no respect for the Philippines or the Filipinos. The fact that the Philippines is militarily weak and corrupt only makes it so much easier for China to impose its will on the country. As a signatory to UNCLOS, China has its own 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that no other country is allowed to enter. Yet China operates with impunity well inside the Philippine EEZ. As many have noted, as far as China is concerned “what’s mine is mine, but what’s yours is also mine.”

The Only Venue Open to the Philippines

Galvanizing world opinion against China is the only option open to the Philippines. Filipinos of yesteryear used to say that the only God the Chinese have is have is money. And if Filipinos can galvanize world opinion so that countries start imposing economic sanctions against China, its leadership will have to re-think its hegemonic strategy altogether. If negative world opinion along with crippling economic sanctions against it begin to take hold, China’s leadership might well decide that occupying islands that don’t belong to them is not worth it.

As we noted in a previous editorial, it should be the responsibility of Filipinos everywhere to open the eyes of the world to the threat that China now poses. We are glad that President Aquino appears to be taking a more proactive stand to this crisis. After Japan, he should go to Vietnam, the United States, and Europe to form alliances and make his case to anyone who will listen.

The Philippines Must Lead the Charge

At this point in time, the Philippines appears to be the country most threatened by China’s aggression. Previously uninhabited islands well within its 200-mile EEZ are being enlarged to become Chinese military bases. If allowed to continue, Filipinos will forever live under the threat of Chinese guns just a few miles offshore.

Thankfully, the U.S. has now awoke to the realization that China’s aggression not only threatens peace in the region but also trillions of dollars in global trade that passes through the shipping routes around the Spratly islands. The U.S. has said that will stand with the countries that want to stop China, but as a highly placed U.S. defense official noted, the countries most affected by this issue—like the Philippines—need to own it.

A week ago a University of the Philippines professor, Clarita Carlos came out with a truly asinine statement that because the U.S. and China are now at loggerheads over the Spratlys, the Philippines had best get out of the way.University of the Philippines professor Clarita Carlos According to Carlos “we’re just ants. We might get trampled, so let’s get out of the way.” This defeatist, pedestrian attitude should no longer have any place in Filipino culture going forward. It only perpetuates the “saling-pusa” mentality that many Filipinos, like Carlos still cling to. The Philippines is actually bigger than many well-known and more powerful European countries. And population-wise we are larger than many nations as well. So if Filipinos want to be taken seriously, they need to stand tall and take the stage, front and center on this issue. There can be no hiding behind Uncle Sam’s long coattails.

Since the Philippines appears to be the country that China has singled-out and invaded islands well within its territory, it is therefore only natural that Filipinos lead the charge. By building coalitions and getting countries to impose sanctions, the Philippines can stop China in its tracks. The Chinese must be made to understand that aggression and bullying have no place in 21st century geo-politics. When that happens, the Philippines will become the “David” that stood up to and stopped the Chinese “Goliath.” Published 6/2/2015

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