Unless we upgrade our armed capability we can expect continued intrusion of Chinese and Taiwanese ships.
Recently we filed a case before the United Nations questioning the so-called nine-dash line that the People’s Republic of China is invoking to justify the grab of islets and shoals that clearly belong to us. It seems like the international community is on our side, but there is no guarantee that the world tribunal will rule in our favor. And granting that it does, we still need to maintain a credible defense posture to discourage encroachment into our territorial waters. We need to take care of ourselves.
The Chinese and the Taiwanese have violated our sovereignty countless times before. The most recent incident was that of a Taiwanese fisherman, Tsai Po, who was caught Sept. 3 poaching off the Batanes coast. He is now in jail in that island province and charges are now being prepared against him.
Taiwanese authorities predictably dispute the accusation claiming their compatriot was in international waters.
It was not the first time the poacher was seen in the area. In fact he would not have been apprehended but for the fact that Ivatan fishermen had tipped off the authorities of his presence so close to shore.
The Philippine Coast Guard is hard-pressed patrolling the country’s long coast line, what with very few vessels under its disposal, all of them old and dilapidated. The idea that it would venture beyond the country’s territorial waters is ridiculous.
On May 9, the Coast Guard shot a Taiwanese vessel and killed Hung Shih Cheng, a fisherman on board, in the same general vicinity. The Filipino law enforcers may have over-reacted, but the Taiwanese Government response was totally disproportionate to the crime, if indeed it was a crime at all. It sent out a warship, to intimidate the country. It could only do that, fully aware that we did not have the capability to match its superior naval power.
The arrogance is nothing compared to that of the Chinese from the mainland.
Filipino authorities used to prevent Chinese poachers from entering Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, off the coast of Zambales. The Communist giant would routinely lodged protests. Subsequently, realizing we couldn’t do anything about it anyway, China claimed the area as its own, as part of its so-called nine-dash line. Now it is the Chinese who are driving away Filipino fishermen from what has been their and their ancestors’ traditional fishing ground.
Sometime ago a 12-man Chinese vessel ran aground at Tubahatta Reef in Palawan. The 97,000 hectare marine sanctuary is within Philippine territory, with the United Nations designating it a World Heritage Site. The foreign ship had no business being in the area. If we remain weak, however, the time will come when that too will be claimed, either by the Chinese or the Taiwanese.
Belatedly, we realize we have become the most bullied nation on earth. That’s because we are too weak to defend ourselves. In the school ground as it is in the open seas, bullies would think twice if we could return measure for measure. We could not, thanks to the poor state of what we laughably call our navy.
One senator called for the modernization of the armed forces. That was all hot air though. The same senator has been implicated in the pork barrel scam, in which billions of pesos has been dissipated over a three-year period.
The pork barrel funds could have gone to strengthen the defense of this country. It went to finance his lavish lifestyle and that of the other legislators instead.