WINNING THE STRUGGLE AGAINST CHINA
In a military war, the Philippines does not stand a chance against China. In a word war, the odds are reversed. To win the struggle over disputed territories against China, it is pivotal therefore, that the Philippine government and Filipinos hammer on the merits of its claims.
On April 2012, the Philippines bowed down to China’s military supremacy. On April 10, Filipino sailors were prevented by Chinese ships from arresting Chinese fishermen discovered poaching corals and endangered species in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, located 124 nautical miles (M) off Zambales and over 550 M from China’s nearest port. A stand-off occurred but eventually the ...view middle of the document...
On January 22, 2013, after seventeen years of fruitless negotiations, the Philippines initiated an arbitration process under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) to declare (1) the nine-dash line illegal, interfering the Philippines’ rights over its EEZ and continental shelf, and (2) the small, uninhabitable coral projections barely above water at high tide, which China claims as “islands” as simply “rocks”.
Unenforceability of an ITLOS Judgment
Some are doubtful as to the benefit of the arbitral proceeding before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas (ITLOS). The whole process is deemed a futile exercise considering China’s refusal to participate in the proceeding. If the ruling is in favor of the Philippines, e.g. the nine-dash line is declared invalid and the status of the disputed reefs and shoals within the Philippines’ EEZ, China will simply refuse to honor the decision. On the other hand, if the pronouncement is in favor of China, e.g. the body rejects the Philippines’ claims and declares the nine-dash line valid, the Philippines would lose face and worse yet, territories that are rightfully its own.
Some sectors posit that boosting the country’s military capabilities is key to the WPS dispute. Modernization of equipment and/or grant of access to bases to the US, Japan, and other allies are seen as crucial to defending the Philippines against China’s expansionism.
Others propose peaceful resolution of the conflict through joint explorations in the disputed areas. They assert that since the issue boils down to natural resources and shipping lanes, cooperation, rather than antagonism, is the solution.
What Is The Most Feasible Policy Option?
At this point, the Philippines is not prepared for a confrontation with China. The arrival of its second Hamilton-class weather high endurance cutter, which can operate on higher sea states compared to all Philippine Navy warships, does not negate the recent statement that Philippine military equipment is like a “balisong” (fan knife) compared to China’s “machine gun.” History dictates China’s regional military supremacy. Other than the Panatag incident, it is worth recalling that in 1974, China defeated the Vietnamese forces and successfully occupied the Paracel Islands. Similarly, in 1994, while the Philippine navy was patrolling elsewhere, Chinese troops occupied Mischief Reef (130 M off Palawan) and turned it into a naval station.
Admittedly, assistance from the US, Japan, and other allies, in the form of financial aid, equipment, and training, will boost the country’s military capabilities. But, it should be underscored that the 1987 Constitution places boundaries on foreign assistance and limits the presence of foreign troops in the Philippines. More importantly, even if the country relies too heavily on its allies, there is no guarantee that they would join the Philippines in a war against China. In any case,...