a high stakes poker game with China placing all its chips on the table,
gambling that it can seize unoccupied islets and shoals in the West
Philippine Sea - transforming them into man-made artificial islands by
pumping sand onto live coral reefs and paving them with concrete, then
equipping them with aircraft runways, port facilities and surface-to-air
missiles while in the process of exercising total control and dominion
over the entire South China Sea - and get away with it.
Across the table from
mighty China is this pipsqueak pesky Philippine government which dared
to challenge China’s hegemonic ambitions by filing a case in 2013 in the
Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, asserting the Philippines’
ownership rights over the 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone that
extends from the archipelago into the South China Sea (the West
Philippine Sea) as provided for by the United Nations Convention on the
Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of which China and the Philippines are
boycotted the proceedings by claiming that the UN has no jurisdiction
over the dispute, China did issue a position paper arguing that the
Philippines’ maritime delineation/entitlement claims were merely
territorial sovereignty claims in disguise. Since the tribunal cannot
consider sovereignty claims, China asserted, it therefore had no
On October 15, 2015,
the arbitral tribunal considered China’s position paper as its legal
argument in and disagreed with it, holding that it has jurisdiction to
resolve the dispute.
After its position was
rebuffed by the Arbitral Tribunal, China declared that the arbitral
judgment was “null and void” and that it will ignore any of its future
But China cannot
simply ignore the international pressure that would be brought to bear
on its shaky economy which is highly dependent on global trade and
What's at stake for
clarify what is ours, specifically our fishing rights, rights to
resources and rights to enforce laws within our exclusive economic zone.
For the rest of the international community, the clarification of
maritime entitlements will assure peace, security, stability and freedom
of navigation in the South China Sea," said a spokesman for the
Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.
This would mean that
China would have no right to prevent the Philippines from exploiting the
vast natural resources of the Recto Bank (just 80 miles from Palawan)
which may contain up to 5.4 billion barrels of oil and 55.1 trillion
cubic feet of natural gas, according to the United States Energy
Information Administration (EIA). The EIA reports that it may also hold
significant deposits of undiscovered hydrocarbons.
This would also mean
that China would have no right to continue its blockade of the
Scarborough Shoal and to bar Filipino fishermen from their ancestral
fishing grounds. This would mean China’s massive fishing vessels which
have had free rein to scoop all the fish they want in the West
Philippine Sea would no longer be allowed to do so.
According to a Reuters
report published in the National Interest magazine (July 30, 2014),
China has installed a Beidou satellite navigation communications system
in more than 50,000 Chinese fishing boats plying the South China Sea,
with the Chinese government picking up the tab for 90% of the costs.
If Chinese fishing
boats get in trouble with foreign governments while fishing in disputed
waters, they have a direct hotline to Beijing to call for help.
According to Quartz magazine, China has 695,555 other fishing vessels,
which may soon be sailing into the Spratly Islands, scooping up the fish
that would otherwise feed and nourish the Filipino people.
Pag-Asa Island Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon spoke in San Francisco last year,
he was asked what overseas Filipinos can contribute to help the
fishermen of his island. He said they badly need radio transmitters as
they now have to go out for days to fish and many get lost at sea.
vessels are connected to Beijing
The value of this
Beidou communications system showed itself on April 8, 2012 when a
Philippine Navy surveillance plane spotted eight Chinese fishing vessels
docked at the Scarborough Shoal. When the BRP Gregorio del Pilar cutter
arrived to inspect the catch of the fishing vessels, the Philippine Navy
discovered illegally collected corals, giant clams and live sharks
inside the first vessel boarded by the team. But before they could
arrest the Chinese fishermen and seize their boats, Chinese maritime
surveillance ships arrived at the scene to rescue them, thanks to their
Soon 100 Chinese
fishing vessels, accompanied by government surveillance ships, arrived
at the scene surrounding the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar in Scarborough
Shoal, which is only 125 miles from Luzon and 550 miles from China,
barring Filipino fishermen from fishing in their traditional fishing
grounds. Through deceit, China succeeded in getting the Philippine
government to withdraw its lone ship from the Scarborough Shoal,
allowing China to maintain its blockade for the last four years. China
may soon finalize plans to convert Scarborough Shoal into a full-scale
island with military facilities so close to Manila.
Ownership of the
strategic Scarborough Shoal will be among the issues included in the
Arbitral Tribunal’s decision which is expected to be handed down in June
But in anticipation of
an adverse ruling, China’s Chief Justice Zhou Qiang has announced that
China will set up an “international maritime judicial center” to protect
its sea rights, a move to bolster its claim to the entire South China
Sea. This is China's Plan A. “The playbook the Chinese leadership
appears to follow is if you can’t challenge your opponent’s claim based
on established norms of international law, then challenge the norms,”
Prof. Sebastian Maslow of the Tohoku University School of Law observed.
But China’s Plan B has
been its main plan for some time, it is the election on May 9, 2016 of a
Philippine president and a vice president who will support China’s
position of rejecting international arbitration in favor of “bilateral
A year ago, I
predicted that Vice President Jojo Binay would be China's“Manchurian
candidate” in the 2016 elections.
Like the principal
title character in "The Manchurian Candidate" film, Binay also switched
When the Philippines
filed a case against China before a United Nations arbitral tribunal on
January 22, 2013, Binay faithfully supported the government’s position.
“The filing of the case before the UN tribunal is an expression of our
desire to resolve the dispute with China within the framework of
international law. President Aquino is committed to protect our
sovereignty and is likewise committed to resolving the dispute with
China in a peaceful manner. I am hopeful that China, in the interest of
greater peace and harmony in the region, would recognize the
jurisdiction of the UN arbitration tribunal in accordance with
international law,” he said then.
But more than two
years later, Binay switched sides. In an interview in a Visayan radio
station on April l2, 2015, Binay said that there was no point in
pursuing the UN venue because China will not abide by the decision of
the tribunal anyway. (”Sabi ng China, kahit ano pang maging desisyon
do’n sa Tribunal, hindi nila susundin,” Binay said in the radio
Binay then declared
that if elected president, he would back China’s call for “bilateral
talks” to resolve the territorial dispute between the two countries and
that he would engage in “joint ventures” with China.
candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. echoed Binay’s call for
bilateral talks with China. In a press briefing on March 2, 2016, Marcos
said: “The conflict is between China and Philippines. Only the ones who
can resolve this territorial dispute are China and the Philippines, not
the United States, and not any other third country.”
Marcos said that China
is calling for bilateral talks: “I cannot see why we don’t do that. This
problem cannot be fixed unless the two parties talked,” Marcos added.
“How will you come to an agreement if you’re not even talking?”
Former Department of
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario belied their arguments.
“We were for
bilateral talks but we ran into a dead end in terms of using that
approach,” Del Rosario said in an interview with ANC’s Headstart. "In
the case of Scarborough Shoal, we had over 50 bilateral engagements with
them and that did not work because the very first instance in every
bilateral meeting with China, they will say to you ‘we have indisputable
sovereignty over the entire South China Sea’, so that’s the preface,”
Del Rosario explained.
Under China's Pres. Xi
Jinping, ownership of the South China Sea is now an issue of "core
national interest" like Taiwan and Tibet.
Once Binay and
Bongbong accept China's pre-condition for bilateral talks, what would
there be left to negotiate?
93% of Filipinos
support PNoy on China
It is curious that
neither Binay nor Bongbong are discouraged by the results of a
nationwide poll conducted by Social Weather Station (SWS) from December
2013 through January 2014 which showed that “an overwhelming majority of
Filipinos (93 percent) back the Aquino government’s efforts to defend
the national territory” against China.
sentiment was also reported by Rappler.com in its July 2015 issue
showing that Filipinos have given China "a record-low net trust rating
Click here to read the article.
Why did Binay
change his mind?
In that same Visayan
radio interview, Binay said “China has capital, we need money.” By “we”,
he may have been referring to the Philippines as a whole but it may also
have been a Freudian slip, a candid admission of his own personal
presidential candidates require massive amounts of capital to fund their
election campaigns with costs ranging from expensive TV ad buys to
providing “gratitude money” to voters to help them with their choice of
cash-strapped when the Philippine Court of Appeals upheld the order of
the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to freeze the 242 bank accounts
of Binay and those of his immediate family members and alleged fronts
like Eduvijes Baloloy and Gregorio Limlingan. The AMLC argued that the
total of the bank accounts and transactions in question had reached 16
billion pesos (about $358 million) since 2008, an amount inconsistent
with his Statement of Assets and Liabilities Networth (SALN).
Binay’s SALN statement
revealed that in 17 years as an elected official, Binay's wealth had
grown over 500 percent from P8.8 million in 1994 to P57.9 million in
2011 which were already staggering amounts for a municipal official. But
they don't explain how he could accumulate 16 billion pesos to deposit
in 242 separate bank accounts by 2015. The SALN law states that if an
elected official cannot explain wealth beyond his official income, then
it is presumed to be the product of graft and corruption.
China's hooks on
Chinoy and non-Chinoy billionaires
It is not just direct
Chinese capital that Binay wants but also the financial backing of the
Chinoy (Filipino Chinese) billionaires who all have extensive
investments in China. Taipan Lucio Tan, for example, owns the Eton Hotel
in Shanghai and dozens of buildings in Beijing and he certainly
understands that whoever China supports, the Taipans will have to
support as well in order to protect their investments in China.
But China even has its
hooks on non-Chinoy billionaires. The Ayalas have massive investments in
China and Enrique Razon's main partner in his Solaire Hotel and Casino
is Kim Wong, the star witness in the senate investigation into the $81
million stolen from the Bangladesh Central Bank that somehow ended up in
When Binay addressed a
luncheon of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and
Industry Inc. on Feb. 15, 2016, he made a public pledge to remove Kim
Henares, the current Bureau of Internal Revenue chief, immediately upon
assuming the presidency. (“Sa loob ng trenta minutos … wala na kayong
Kim Henares”). This promise was met with lusty cheers by businessmen who
complain that Kim Henares cannot be bribed.
Binay also craves
China’s "technological expertise"
The Commission on
Elections (Comelec) will conduct the 2016 national and local elections
in May of 2016 by using the automated election system (AES), the core of
which is the election management system (EMS), which sets up the
automation of the polls and manages election-related data. The EMS
inputs the data files and prepares the ballot templates for the election
As Rappler's Michael
Bueza explained (“How does the PH automated election system work?”, May
15, 2015): “The ballot designs and configuration files are created by a
program called an Election Event Designer (EED), while an Election
Programming Station (EPS) loads the configuration files into compact
flash (CF) cards and "iButton" security keys. These "iButtons" are used
by the BEIs to activate the most widely-known component of the current
AES: its voting machine, popularly known in the Philippines as the
precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine...The PCOS machines are
operated by a software provided by Dominion Voting Systems and have been
licensed to Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) Corp since the
The P7.1 billion peso
computerized election system set up by the Comelec is based on 2010
technology developed by Venezuela. What chance does it have against
China's army of advanced hackers?
Liberation Army hackers
following. In 2013, a New York Times investigation uncovered a group of
Chinese hackers as the source of a major on-going attack on the
newspaper. The US government determined that China's People's Liberation
Army hackers were the culprits in a series of recent cyberattacks on US
The New York Times
also reported on July 9, 2015 that “the Obama administration revealed
that 21.5 million people were swept up in a colossal breach of
government computer systems that was far more damaging than initially
thought, resulting in the theft of a vast trove of personal information,
including Social Security numbers and some fingerprints.”
“The agency said
hackers stole “sensitive information,” including addresses, health and
financial history, and other private details, from 19.7 million people
who had been subjected to a government background check, as well as 1.8
million others, including their spouses and friends. The theft was
separate from, but related to, a breach revealed last month that
compromised the personnel data of 4.2 million federal employees,
officials said. Both attacks are believed to have originated in China,"
the New York Times added.
reported on June 5, 2015, “the China-based hack on US government
computers is worse than anyone realizes.” Among the disclosures was one
from a US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) contractor who reported
that the cyber breach had affected the private files of more than 25,000
DHS workers and thousands of other federal employees.
Comelec no match
for PLA hackers
People's Liberation Army hackers can penetrate and manipulate the most
sophisticated and securely encrypted US government computers. The
Comelec computer system would be "chicken feed" for the Chinese PLA
With less than a month
to go before the elections, the latest Social Weather Station (SWS)
polls show Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte surging to the lead over
Sen. Grace Poe in the Philippine presidential elections with Binay and
Mar Roxas trailing.
substantial lead over Binay, Duterte knows that it will not be the
Filipino voters who will ultimately decide the fate of the Philippine
In April of 2015, when
he was still mulling a presidential run, Duterte advocated for the
mandatory return of the ROTC for all college males to instill
“discipline, nationalism, and the patriotic duty” to prepare them to
defend the Philippines should China become more aggressive in claiming
the maritime territories of the Philippines.
But a year later,
while campaigning in Palawan, Duterte declared that if elected
president, he would abide by China’s insistence on bilateral or
country-to-country talks to resolve the South China Sea dispute rather
through international arbitration. “I have a similar position as
China’s. I don’t believe in solving the conflict through an
international tribunal. China has said it will not abide by whatever
that tribunal’s decision will be. That’s the same case with me,” Duterte
answered in reply to a question during a press conference.
In order for Duterte
to have a real chance of winning the elections, he can only hope that
Beijing heard his answer as well.
Given the enormous
economic, political and military consequences at stake for China and
given its technological capability to hack into the Comelec's election
computer system to manipulate the election results, why will China not
make sure that its Manchurian candidates prevail?
hopes that Filipinos who picketed Chinese consulates with signs that
said "China hands off West Philippine Sea!" will also demand "China,
hands off PH elections!" Please send your comments to Rodel50@gmail.com
or mail them t the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San
Francisco, CA 94127 or call 415.334.7800).