CHINA’s massive reclamation projects in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) could have been averted had the United States took a serious look and immediate action on a position paper delivered by former Philippine Navy chief Alexander Pama at the Center for New American Security Forum in Washington, D.C., last year.
In that paper, Pama, the current chairman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), anticipated China’s course of action in disputed areas in the South China Sea.
He warned that if the US failed to act, it would be harder to contain China because it is fast growing into a super military power.
Pama said China wanted to possess wealth and power.
“For China, this power is none other than having a strong military not only for an effective and strong defense and deterrence, but more so for it to wield and use when it so desires or needs to [or both],” he noted.
Pama explained that China’s current posture is a clear manifestation of its deliberate intent to utilize its wealth and test the surging strength of its military and para-military apparatus as part of its ultimate plan to regain its “glory days” in the region after being colonized by foreign powers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
A good example, he said, was the standoff between the Philippine Navy and Chinese surveillance vessels in April 2012 at the Panatag Shoal off the coast of Zambales.
After the incident, China imposed its military superiority at Panatag, occupying the territory, which, Pama pointed out, was in violation of a US-brokered oral understanding reached with Manila to withdraw all vessels from the area.
“Today, China is using the same tactic at the Ayungin Shoal, another Philippine territory off Palawan province,” Pama said in his paper.
He pointed to practical reasons and anticipated benefits that China expects from an unchallenged control of the South China Sea.
According to Pama, China needs the sea’s rich marine resources for food security, as well as vast sub-sea oil and natural deposits.
In its nine-dash line map submitted to the United Nations, it claims 90 percent of the disputed area, including territories that clearly belong to the Philippines based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (Unclos), which sets a 200-mile exclusive economic zone from the shoreline of a specific country.
China is among the signatory countries to Unclos but refuses to abide by it.
Last week, the US sent a surveillance plane on a patrol mission over artificial islands that China is building in the disputed waters. The Chinese Navy told the plane to leave.
Pama, who retired in 2012, said $5.3 trillion worth of international maritime trade passes through the South China Sea.
The area is of strategic importance for homeland defense and a springboard for naval operations necessary for a Pacific and global maritime dominance.