Aquino, China, Malaysia and the MILF

10

NEXT to President B. S. Aquino 3rd, two major threats confront the Republic. One is a possible armed confrontation with China; another is the possible dismemberment of the country by means of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which seeks to create an Islamic enclave for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Which comes first is not material now. Each is a horror in itself, but Aquino’s personal handling of both issues makes them extremely dangerous. They could explode when least expected.

We need a saner, more sober and more competent executive to handle both threats. But unless preceded or accompanied by some radical political change, the 2016 elections cannot hope to provide such an executive.

Let us examine these two issues.

China might decide to wage war on us
The first threat: war with China. China is locked in maritime territorial dispute with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan over some islands, reefs and shoals in the South China/West Philippine Sea. To beef up its territorial claim, it has reclaimed at least seven land features, namely, Mischief Reef (Panganiban), Johnson South (Mabini), Gaven (Gavin), Cuarteron (Calderon), Kennan (Hughes), Eldad (Malvar), Fiery Cross (Kagitingan). The Philippines has protested these activities from the very beginning, to no avail.


In April 2012, a standoff ensued between the Philippine Navy and Chinese maritime vessels after a Philippine warship tried to arrest Chinese fishermen operating illegally around the Scarborough Shoal. The standoff ended in July with China seizing control of the shoal. Subsequent Philippine efforts to get the Asean foreign ministers to say something about it failed when Cambodia, the host of that year’s foreign ministerial conference, rejected any reference to the dispute in the customary communiqué. Because of this, no communiqué was issued for the first time in Asean’s 45 years.

In January 2013, the Philippines announced it was seeking international arbitration against China’s “nine-dash line” in the South China, under the terms of the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea. This was met with a very stern reaction from Beijing, which rejected the process and whatever results it might bring. A virtual word war in the press ensued, which replaced all semblance of diplomacy between Manila and Beijing. Both Aquino and his foreign secretary, Albert del Rosario, began to talk like master sergeants, and replied with uniform bellicosity to every statement from China, even from unnamed spokesmen and newspaper commentators.

As China intensifies its island-building activities in the Spratlys, reports of US military air surveillance of these activities give us the feeling that the next explosion is just around the corner. Neither China nor the US could be unaware of its implications. We would be the first on the side of the US to get it, even though China may not want to nuke a country whose economy is dominated by Chinese-Filipinos, and whose richest dollar-billionaires on Forbes magazine’s annual listing are all ethnic Chinese. However, Aquino might see in an armed confrontation between the two giants a heaven-sent opportunity to liquidate all his critics, cancel all democratic and electoral debts and remain indefinitely in office. This is the biggest danger then—the enormous personal political profit from an insane military conflict for a deranged megalomaniac.

How did Philippine-Chinese relations come to such a pass? The Philippine claim to the Spratlys has been there since the 1950s, and it did not disturb a single reef or corral at all. In 1968, the first Philippine troops landed and established themselves on five of the islands. In 1975, a 1,800 meter runway was built on Pagasa, the biggest of the Philippine possessions, 215 nautical miles from Palawan, 450 from Manila. That same year the government granted a Philippine-Swedish consortium a contract to drill for oil on the Reed Bank. The exploration yielded gas and oil condensate. It drew diplomatic protests from Vietnam and China, but no bellicose or menacing exchanges between China and the Philippines.

In fact, in 1975, Manila and Beijing exchanged diplomatic relations in a distinctively festive spirit. I was part of the presidential entourage at the time, and it remains one of my most treasured moments. The official photos of that visit remained preserved in the Great Hall of the People’s gallery. On that occasion, the Chinese Communist Party was reported to have agreed to cut off its active support to the Communist Party of the Philippines, in exchange for the Philippines’ recognition of the One-China policy. President Ferdinand Marcos, who was an absolute teetotaler, ended toasting his hosts with the famous Chinese mao tai, after then Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping, who was the high official in attendance, quoted the Chinese proverb saying, “Between two enemies one drop is too much, but between two friends no amount could ever be enough.”

In 1978, President Marcos issued a decree which declared the Kalayaan Island Group, its sea-bed, continental margin and air space, as belonging and subject to the sovereignty of the Philippines. It also formally designated the area as a separate district and municipality of the province of Palawan, to be known as Kalayaan and to be administered directly by the Secretary of National Defense or such civilian or military official as may be designated by the President.

In May 1988, 147 Filipino voters on Pagasa, having constituted themselves into a barangay, elected their first barangay captain in the person of Alawi, a Filipino Muslim. This completed the integration of Kalayaan into the Philippine archipelagic state. This had no adverse effect of Philippine-Chinese relations, which remained equable.

Malaysia map with parts of Philippines as its territory
The only unexpected development then came from Malaysia, when it announced its claim by issuing a map that showed its territory extending towards the southwestern tip of Palawan and enclosing parts of Kalayaan. To Manila’s protest, Malaysia said the map was based on a bilateral agreement defining its sea-bed boundary with Indonesia. In April 1980, Malaysia declared a 200-mile exclusive economic zone that overlaps areas claimed by the Philippines.

Compared to Vietnam, the Philippines had the most genial relationship with Beijing at the outset. In 1974, China ejected Vietnamese troops from the Paracels, forcing them to withdraw to Pugad Island. In 1984, a joint Soviet-Vietnamese amphibious exercise was held on the northern coast of Vietnam. China reacted by sending ten amphibious landing craft with some 2,000 marines on board to hold landing maneuvers on the Spratlys. Vietnam accused China of preparing to annex the islands and vowed to defend them. On March 4, 1988, the Chinese and Vietnamese navies clashed. China sank two Vietnamese vessels, resulting in 77 presumed deaths on the Vietnamese side.

By 2013, China’s attitude towards Vietnam tended to soften. High-level visits were exchanged, and the two countries agreed to set up hotlines between their navies and agriculture ministries to manage fishing incidents. In May 2014, however, without any warning, China deployed its first indigenous deep-water drilling rig—the HYSY981—in waters around the Paracels, causing clashes between Vietnamese and Chinese vessels, in which a Vietnamese fishing boat was sunk.

This triggered a large standoff at sea involving dozens of Chinese and Vietnamese law enforcement vessels. This in turn fueled mammoth anti-China protests all over Vietnam, culminating in riots in mid-May. China was forced to withdraw the rig in July, and to resume its charm offensive. This has remained since. By contrast, relations with the Philippines have remained frosty, despite hopes that Aquino would continue the exemplary relations that flourished during Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s term. Things soured early after eight Hong Kong tourists were killed in a bus hijacking incident in Manila, and Aquino refused to apologize for the tragedy.

Although China has not been able to justify its island-building activities in the Spratlys, it has been able to raise a lot of noise against the US military air surveillance of its reclamation activities. It has thus been able to show that its real problem in the South China Sea is not the Philippines or any of the claimants to the Spratlys, but primarily the US, which continues to assert its position as the first power in the Asia Pacific. China wants to reverse this—or at least ensure its own place as the second global power in the region, without having to fight for it.

The competition is between two giants, and Aquino has managed to insert himself in it. To Washington’s discomfort, he has insisted on pasting his government crudely at the tail of the American kite, even when not needed. Where his senator-grand uncle (Lorenzo Sumulong) once caused Nikita Khrushchev to bang his shoe on his desk at the UN Security Council in response to an unnecessary attack on the Soviets, PNoy has tried to call China’s attention to himself in the hope of pleasing the US. China tried to ignore him in the beginning, but he will not be ignored, at the cost of our Republic.

Bangsamoro Basic Law and Philippine balkanization
The second threat is the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law and the eventual balkanization of the Republic. I have discussed this extensively in this space, and everybody else is talking about it. Only Aquino cannot seem to see the danger it poses to the State. We are in deep shit with China because the Asian giant has chosen to claim parity with the US, and because Aquino insists on pasting his government at the tail of the American kite, even when there is no need for it. If Aquino cannot seem to see it, the less likely is he to see that we are on the verge of being balkanized because insisted of standing for what is right, he has chosen to kneel before Malaysia which robbed us of Sabah when it was just a pile of mud, wild beast and forest, and would like to make the crime permanent now that Sabah has become an island of the greatest wealth.

fstatad@gmail.com

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10 Comments

  1. Conrado Maramag on

    I believe there will mo large scale war, it mihht some shooting encounter near the islands close to the Philippines. US will patrol the WPS, and make its point tthat no big airbase will be erevted there. Maybe some fabrication shops, super drilling rigs areas, community housing for sea snd oilrig workers, science or weather stations, one nval base for lighter ships. Full airforce base thete will be sitting gor the USaF.

    Unless there will be surprising erroneous decision, full scale war,, is both disafvantaggeous to China and the US. Their economic dream of dominance will falter.The bully soon realize he must negotiate and he negotiate formsharing redources, but has the advantage as the redources are in place, to exploit gas there. China willl work its way on “friendly” Philippine politicians, which there are many.

  2. Amnata Pundit on

    Hindi tayo papatulan ng China unless this moron is stupid enough to shoot first, but if war breaks out between America and China then, like in the last World War when we got run over in a war that was not our making, we could be devastated as it will surely involve weapons of mass destruction. What is more likely is a war with Malaysia that can happen if a Marcos-like government comes into power, and its a war we can win provided all the yellow Edsa quislings are thrown in a concentration camp or worse for treason and corruption.

  3. The beef with China on Spratly Islands, is due to USA’s interest in keeping an ‘open’ sea lane, with China’s ever expanding power and influence in Asia, USA is alarmed by its loss of ‘balance’ of power, and lessening its of influence in the region.

    USA, for its part is trying to arm wristle with China, through a backdoor approach in establishing a forward base to counter China’s island reclamation on Spratly, they are putting pressure on this BS Cojuangco Aquino III’s administration to pass the BBL, something that USA can look forward to in establishing and occupying their already developed airport and seaport in Mindanao.

    USA, will deal with the moros as a independent entity inside the republic, and would look forward to the moros paying their debt of gratitude, for gaining a sub-state. The Americans would not want to deal with the government of the republic, for one simple reason, they will have to pay huge amount of monies to bribe the house of congress, for the approval allowing them to return to Clark and Subic bases.

    The next Philippine president to win the election comes 2016, will be one whom USA would consider a ‘team’ player, not one who can stand up to them and be truly independent for the republic’s national interest, sad but this will be the reality because Filipinos are oftentimes observed to see only the tree but never the forest – it is our collective colonial mentality and not nationalistic fervor that did us in.

  4. China will not be at war with the Philippines, 100% sure. It is only at war with our Dear Leader BS Noy.

    After next election, attitudes will change.

  5. Should teach you a lesson about getting too cozy with those Communist liars
    Better of dead than Communist red, Always enjoy this guy’s articles. They are so pro-Chinese they always make me laugh.

  6. Mariano Patalinjug on

    Yonkers, New York
    26 May 2015

    I compliment columnist Francisco S. Tatad for weighing in at length on the History of the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China over those islands in the Spratlys group which the Philippines asserts are parts of its territory under International Law [UNCLOS].

    Now Manila Times readers can have a pretty good idea of how this China-Philippines territorial dispute started and where it is now.

    The Philippines is in no position to win a hot war against China over those disputed islands. The Philippines, militarily a chihuahua compared to China’s 800-pound gorilla, is no fool. And that is why the Philippines, a member in good standing of the United Nations, a peace-loving member, went to the UN Permanent Arbitral Tribunal of the Law of the Seas [ITLOS] in Hamburg for a peaceful Resolution of its dispute.
    There it has high hopes that it will win the case against China.

    But it is not the Philippines alone which has a vital stake in the South China Sea. Recall that time and time against, high US officials have publicly declared and given notice to the whole world that THE UNITED STATES HAS A VITAL NATIONAL INTEREST IN KEEPING COMPLETELY OPEN THE SEA LANES STARTING FROM THE MIDDLE EAST THROUGH WHICH OIL PASSES AND ENDS AS FAR EAST AS THE WEST COAST OF THE UNITED STATES. An estimated $5 trillion worth of trade yearly passes through this area.

    It should be clear to China in particular that the United States will not allow it to impede navigation in this critical area. If China does not heed the US’s warning, then a hot war could be inevitable.

    MARIANO PATALIJUG
    Lapulapu1927@yahoo.com

  7. Anima A. Agrava on

    But our leaders in non-govt sectors are all–except some bishops–so lazy or apathetic to the danger BSAquino himself and his coterie pose to or Republic and our national security. It seems as if Lucifer has taken over their minds, as Lucifer has taken over Aquino’s being.

    We have to continue being close to the Holy Trinity while doing what we can in the material sphere.

    Senator Marcos and PNoy wll have a talk. The later will surely try to sway Marcos from his stand that the BBL bill as it is now must be made
    (1) inclusive to include the inputs and desires of the very many groups that Deles and Ferrer dd not talk to, must likely under PNoy’s behest, and
    (2) compliant to the Philippines Constitution.

    Let’s pray that Sen. Marcos is not swayed by the Millions of pesos PNOY will ffeer hiim.

  8. Maraming napaniwala sa drama ni Aquino! Upang masunod lang niya ang utos ng US,hinayaan niyang malipol ang SAF 44 sa kamay ng MILF,dahil sa pagsunod dito,mga palpak na helicopter at mga bala na dahilan ng maraming pagkasawi saating sundalo!
    Ito ang pangulo na hindi naging maayos ang pakikitungo sa mga pangulo ng ibang bansa!wala kang nabalitaan naging malapit sa kanya! Ito ang kaisaisang pangulo na naging masyadong mapagmataas at laging handang kaladkarin ang bansa sa giyera!
    Walang kadi kadeplomasya sa katawan puro kayabangan ang nasa bunbunan!!

  9. Matthew Parkes on

    China can buy every single politician in this country for a very low price. It would certainly be cheaper than actually attacking this nation… not that they would need much in the way of materiel considering how few of the nation’s major pieces of military equipment actually work. Oh, and then there is the problem of the lack of ammunition as well.

    No, if China wants the Philippines then they can buy it from Filipino traitors just as the Japanese did in WWII, the Malaysians did with Cory, and the Malaysians are doing again with the latest Aquino traitor.