• NYT: “Not if but when: PHL will lose Spratlys”

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    Forget President Aquino’s oafish bluster: “We will defend Recto Bank as if it were Recto Avenue.” The Philippines doesn’t have a chance of resisting China’s advances in islands and reefs in the South China/West Philippines Sea.

    This is the message of the cover story titled “A Game of Shark and Minnow” of the New York Times Magazine’s issue last weekend. China of course is the shark, and us the minnow—which the dictionary defines both as a small fish, or a weak person or organization.

    If you haven’t read what is becoming viral in social media, do so—and weep, or get very angry.

    Mr. Aquino hijacked P137 billion of taxpayers’ money in the past two years, claimed it was for his Disbursement Acceleration Plan, and used it any way he wanted, including P13 billion as additional pork barrel to bribe Congress.

    But he spent not a single centavo to strengthen our first line of defense in the disputed Spratly islands: a rusting World War II-era landing ship, named Sierra Madre, grounded in 1999 on Ayungin Shoal to act as our makeshift outpost in that sea of dispute. The shoal is just a few kilometers from Mischief and Subi reefs, where the Chinese have built forts starting in the late 1990s.

    Brand new forts for the Chinese, ours a 69-year old landing ship deliberately grounded on the shoal to serve as outpost. (Photos of Chinese forts from a Chinese government website. Ship imagecaptured from interaksyon.com)

    Brand new forts for the Chinese, ours a 69-year old landing ship deliberately grounded on the shoal to serve as outpost. (Photos of Chinese forts from a Chinese government website. Ship imagecaptured from interaksyon.com)

    Aquino’s officials even scrimped on rations for the eight-man contingent—one Navy man and seven Marines—manning the dilapidated ship, that the NYT article narrated how one marine had to fabricate out of the steel handle of an old bucket a crude spearhead so he can spear-fish for his food. “The men depend on fish—fresh, fried, dried—as their main means of survival,” the article noted.

    In the style of much of American journalism, the NYT article described in embarrassing detail the pathetic daily routine of our servicemen on Sierra Madre—in one photo depicted more as bored fisherman rather than Marines—as its peg to explain the “geopolitical struggle that will shape the future of the South China Sea and to some extent, the rest of the world.”

    The multi-media article in its Internet version even takes us on a video tour of the ramshackle ship, in one part of which our servicemen had to be careful and use a flashlight to walk on lest the rusted steel floor give away, plunging them into the “cavernous tank space below”.

    Imagine the derelict oil tanker Exxon Valdez run by the villainous

    “Smokers” in the movie Waterworld, shrink it, and that’s what Sierra Madre, our “fort” in that disputed sea, looks like. It is a metaphor for this administration.

    The article’s details on our servicemen on the ship—for example a narration of how one Marine misses his family back in Zamboanga City—make it appear at the outset as a sympathetic account of our troops stationed in a forsaken place. The impact, really, is one of ridicule at our country’s pathetic, feeble situation to stop Chinese expansion in the disputed areas.

    The piece reports how Chinese Coast Guard cutters and fishing vessels routinely circle the Sierra Madre, with their crew even taking photos and video of our decrepit ship. Our Marines resort to humor to maintain their dignity, that they could soon “be visiting China without a passport.”

    Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin ranted a few months ago referring to our disputed claims: “To the last soldier standing, we will fight for what is ours.” After seeing the NYT article’s photos and videos of Sierra Madre that showed it so full of holes that it would sink or at least topple over soon, one wonders if there will be any place in the area in the coming months where a soldier can stand on.

    The Chinese just won’t overrun our puny presence to avoid being accused of being an aggressor.

    Even as Aquino has neglected our outpost on Ayungin shoal, it represents the remaining shred of our sovereignty in that area. The minute our contingent leaves the Sierra Madre and we don’t have a presence there, the Chinese will almost certainly be rushing in to set up their forts as they did in Mischief and Subi in the 1990s, or at least cordon it off, as they have done in Scarborough Shoal.

    This is a very-real possibility given the ship’s condition and given the fact that the area would be inaccessible during the typhoon season, if our big Navy ships, which are very few, are docked for repairs.

    The Chinese have even naughtily ridiculed our Ayungin outpost when their Foreign Minister Wang Yi during the Asean Regional Forum last July told our foreign secretary Albert del Rosario that China could remove “that grounded ship” if the Philippines doesn’t have the money—as our top diplomat claimed—to do so. Del Rosario was dumbstruck, and pretended not to have heard what Wang Yi said.

    After Ayungin, the NYT piece takes us to Pag-Asa, practically the whole of the municipality called “The Kalayaan Group”, and which is supposed to be our fortress island in the Spratlys. I visited Pag-Asa ten years ago, and seeing the NYT video of the island, I can confidently say nothing has changed there, no additional buildings, no new fortifications. The situation there could be even worse now: “There was recently a food shortage because the last two Filipino naval resupply vessels haven’t been able to make the trip because of inclement weather,” the article reported.

    “The Philippines,” the article quotes the Kalayaan mayor, “has done very little to develop the islands they hold, while Vietnam and Malaysia have turned some of the reefs and islands they occupy into resorts that the Chinese would find much more difficult to justify taking as their own.”

    And after our pathetic Ayungin and Pag-Asa, the NYT piece then contrasts these by giving us an aerial view —courtesy of our government’s plane —of Subi Reef, where the Chinese has built gleaming-white “concrete multistory structures, including a large-domed radar station, a helipad and a dormitory.“ Around the reef were moored “enormous Chinese fishing boats, along with 50 or so smaller sampans”

    The NYT piece called the Chinese’ Subi fort as the “Death Star,” using as metaphor the mammoth spherical starship in the Star Wars movie that destroyed whole planets. Singaporean Spratly expert Huang Jing corrected the reporter: “It’s not the Death Star. It’s actually the Borg from ‘Star Trek’: ‘You (our occupied islands and reefs) will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.’”

    The NYT article is one fond of metaphors, which indeed very well describes the Spratly situation. Huang was quoted: “The Chinese expand like a forest, very slowly. But once they get there, they never leave.”

    My favorite: “ What China is doing is putting both hands behind its back and using its big belly to push you out, to dare you to hit first. And this has been quite effective.”

    There is however no metaphor in the piece using the biblical legend of David and Goliath. And minnows don’t have a chance fighting sharks. After all, in evolution as in geopolitics, might is right

    Aquino and del Rosario, who seem to have assumed that the US will defend us with its military might in the Spratly dispute, should read and re-reread the NYT article.

    If it articulates US public sentiment or that of its policy makers, we are in big trouble, especially after they have demonized China. There is no message at all in the NYT article that the Americans will rush to defend us when push comes to shove in the Spratlys. “The United States does not have the unlimited leverage it once did,” the NYT piece pointed out.

    tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
    www.rigobertotiglao.com and www.trigger.ph

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    25 Comments

    1. Corruption is the main problem in our country. If this disease will be remove forever and the prosecution of Corrupt Tongressman, Senatong and other govt officials and there will be a great changes in our govt and can fully support the upgrading of our Armed Forces of the Philippines. Overall we need to upgrade our AFP in the Maximum Credible Defense. Use all the money to be sequestered to include their properties to support a Maximum Credible Defense for our AFP. Jail and lethal injection for those corrupt Tongressman, Senatong and other govt officials!

    2. Bad omen to the Philippines while China slowly expanding or creeping on our territory one by one. We are sure a loser better DAP to use to buy Defense equipment or built structure in the Spratleys, to strengthened our claim before it’s too late or let all lawmakers put in the spread of Soratleys as guard to teach them the lesson of greed or lust for money. How is Philippines today.

    3. Just a matter of time (very soon I may say) the Chinese will occupy all of these islands/ reefs at spratly. Just look at what happened with the mischief reef while the Chinese were busy building their fort, nakatunganga lang ang pilipinas ….. oh philippines reacted by grounding decrepit ship ayungin reef & call it her first line of defense ….. Stupid move by the Philippine government …..

    4. Hindi ang kasalukuyang administrasyon ang dapat sisihin. This administration has been here for only a little over three years and have done a lot in modernizing the military in fairness to them. Count how many years and passed administration had been and have not done anything, puro kurakut lang ang ginagawa. Sisihin natin lahat ang mga pulitiko unahin na natin ang mga Marcos up to Arroyo– Aquino kahit paano ay may ginagawa pero maganda sana kung make it more aggressive to the point of getting the armada of modern war ship and military hardware, squadron of modern war planes and missile systems. Develop and construct improvement in the island we are occupying just like what China is doing, kahit na ipangutang ng bansa to get the respect we deserve, and depend our sovereignty as well. Blame the corrupt politicians for what our country are in now.

    5. Our government has no chance of defending the Spratlys. They are too busy trying to
      defend their stupid politics at home and there is no way the U.S will prevent the Chinese from encroaching our shores if the Phl will not give them a military base, pure
      and simple so don’t depend the the ‘Canos. They won’t give you something for nothing.
      Unless Pnoy wakes up to the realities that the Chinese will gradually take all of the Spratlys for nothing and then some then he is in for a big surprise. Wake up PNoy

    6. Help the Helpless Pinoy on

      Be realistic – we are no match for China so please do not make stupid statements about standing our ground at the extend of the poor crew.

    7. The pitiful situation that we are in is a glaring testimony of where Noy2 priorities are-NONE. Eh kung ginagamit yong DAP, PSF na pambili nang gamit nang AFP, at least we can start though in a gradual manne,r to modernize the AFP. Ang problema kay Noy2, he has to defend his title as “Pork Barrel King” and use all those funds to toe the line of the tongressman and senatongs. During and immediately after the Korean war, even though our equipments, airforce and navy were ten years or older, they were all in working conditions. Ngayon, what do we have? Ni saranggola, wala yata ang airforce.Yong navy, they could used the bucos as floaters and bamboo rafts as their speedboats, and big bangkas as aircraft carriers. And the army, yes the army . . .oh well, they can always help a home industry by buying “paltiks” made in Cebu and in the Ilocos. Phooey!. Daang matuwid? Baluktot kamo.

    8. RE: Japan-China face off on the Senkakus, and how this relate to the Spratlys viz-a-viz RP-China faceoff.

      The Chinese are testing the Japanese defenses by sending their stealth bombers
      across the gap in the Okinawa chain of islands, the Japs are no push over and scrambled their F-15s/F-16s on the trail..

      With chest-pump boast we can do the same – send our dilapidated OV-10s.
      With all the improvised nuts and bolts instituted to the aircraft maintenance, – if you can call that a decent maintenance – well,you don’t need to scramble that fast for sure – these nuts and bolts will metal-fatigued themselves rather than get blown to pieces in the sky without a fight!!!! OV-10 Broncos, bumibiten sa aire, sabay lagapak!. Kawawang Pilipinas, lupain at Islas Ladrones at mga mga corrupt at bulok na sistamang political….

    9. ….And as we speak, nag gigirian ang Japan at mgaTsino sa Senkakus/Diaoyus group of Islands in the East China Sea. Kawawang Pilipinas, bahag- buntot na lang na umatras sa face off sa Panatag Shoal daw last year, sa kawalan ng sapat na armado’ng mga barko na itatapat sa armadang mga Tsino. PATHETIC how BRP Gregorio Del Pilar(the former USCG cutter Dallas- 715) blinked and headed home on a pretext that they will only load supply and provisions at Poro Point, La Union – but never got back where the real heat and action is – the face off flashpoint is – Scarborough Shoal. Very sad, veeeery very sad turnaround……

    10. Walang ka depe depensa ang mga sinasabi’ng mga pag aari daw ng Pilpinas na mga Islas diyan sa Spratys. AT WALA NAMAN TALAGA’NG PANG DEPENSA ANG PILIPINAS. KAHIT SINO’NG MGA INVADERS AY NAPAKADALI SAKUPIN NG MGA ISLAS NA IYAN NG PILIPINAS. Meanwhile, as we speak, these AFP Generals are invading the coffers and funds of the AFP, for their own personal benefits and use, reasoning that if these Honorables Senators and Co-tong-gressmen can push their own racketeering scams unabated without mercy – for so loooong many, many, many years and decades up to this very minute as we speak – So can we!!!! Folks, this is the sad and real state of the nation, Defenseless and subject for invasion by foreign elements. Sabah claim? Forget about it for now, we CAN NOT BACK up our claim with military hardware in the standards of the North Koreans or their Southern brothers, South Korea.
      Philippines, the weakling of South east Asia, the minnow of Asia. The One and only
      Asian country that has NO FORMIDABLE ARMY to defend herself from foreign threats. But the Philippines has the highest per capita standards in the whole world when CORRUPTION is the menu on the table. Kabizado na ng Kano ang kalikaw at katarantaduhan ng politikang Pinoy kaya wag nyo asahan na sasamahan kayo ni Uncle Sam pag tumirada ang China diyan sa Spratlys…

    11. Kung ayaw natin nun na maging another State of the United States of America, at kaya natin maging Republika kuno, pasakop na lang tayo sa Peoples Republic of China. Kain tayo pansit at iba pa. Kawawang Pilipinas.” SCAMMERS BEWARE!” FIRING SQUAD ANG HARAPIN NYO.

    12. The PHL is inutil, in all aspects including defense. our leaders have neglected the AFP, they cannot even make improvements in Kalayaan island with its short run way for aircrafts, no harbor for large ships, last time I saw some photos with rusting anti-aircrafts. the country and its minds are so obsolete and corrupt that even Vietnam can invade our spratleys with ease including Palawan. With the AFP modernization funds stolen and no prosecution and accountability, we may as well sell our country to Japan and China for a price, since Filiipinos are not capable of self governing. shame on us.

    13. The Philippines should stand its ground. China is a bully and we know what bullies are like *SHOW OFFS*. Yes the Philippines might be rough up if it comes to that but we never run from a fight, history has shown that. The Philippines maybe thought as an easy target but China should think again. The Philippines is not alone.
      The men on the front should get recognition and medals. If the Americans had the Alamo the Philippines the Sierra Madre.

    14. Let’s wait for the arbitral tribunal’s decision and these Chinese structures standing within the Philippine controlled shoals and reefs would have to go and be torn down as these are likened to a squatter shanty built in somebody’s property. It is precisely these structures (built fortresses) that China doesn’t want to internationalize the tug-‘o-war situation between the Philippines and China over a number of Philippine owned islets in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). The Law of the Sea promulgated by the UNCLOS and is binding on every member of the community of nations clearly favors the Philippine position.

    15. I could not help but gawfaw so loud that my children came rushing to ask if there was anything wrong with me after I read what Gazmin said that “to the last soldier standing we will defend what is ours!” I can just imagine the Chinese snickering and winking at each other after reading this statement. Stop kidding yourself Gazmin I dont think even the soldiers take you seriously.

    16. Tama lang na basahin ng madlang pip pol ang publikasyon ni Ginoong Tiglao ng maintindihan kung gaano ka unutil ang Abnoy na hinahal natin! Hwag na tayong mag patumpik-tumpik kc kahit ano pang sigaw ng taong bayan na mag resign itong c presidenteng Abnoy ay kapit tuko kaya dapat tayong magkaisa patalsikin na puro lng porma. Tama lng na gawin sa kanya! Hayaan ba natin sakupin lahat ng china ang ating territory. Kilos na at tinatawagan natin ang lahat na may prinsipyong kababayang Pilipino bago mahuli ang lahat at tayo’y magsisihan!!!!

      • At sinong magaling papalit? Ikaw? Maoist reds nasa bulsa ng china, misuari? or mama Gloria. Give us an alternative Kung Hindi tumulong ka na Lang. Pangit ng ugali mo binabastos mo Ang boto ng milyon mil yong Pilipino. You might as well be working for china.

      • Wala n ngang pagasa ang pinas kung ganitong polical system p rin ang umiiral s ating bansa. Bilang OFW nanaisin ko pang sakupin tayo ng mga dayuhan para mabago ang ating buhay…. EDSA1 RETIREE

      • Whether we like it or not we have to face the music. Aquino is president because of the minions (este millions) who voted for him. Can we blame them if they blindly adore Aquino for his promises? To his credit its just a promise. He did not sign on as president for anything else. His term is almost over anyway. Lets just hope that our military could last another three years defending our ground on spratlys through the dilapidated Sierra Madre for another three years until the Filipino finally elect a REAL PRESIDENT.

      • garcia Alegria on

        bakit naman si Pnoy ang tintira at kinakawawa dito? hindi ba bago pa umupo si Pnoy ay issue na yan? ano ang ginawa ng mga umupong Presidente kuno na gahaman sa kapangyarihan at kuramsyon ang inuna? nais ko lang po malaman kung ano ang nagawa nilang pagprotekta sa ating bayan? sa loob ng napakahabang panahon mula ng ako ay nagkamuwang wala pa akong nakikita o nabalitaan na bumili ng pandikmang sasakyan o mga bagong barkong pandigma para proteksyonan ang ating bansa bagkos puro pagpapayaman at mpakikipagkuntsabahan sa China tungkol sa kurapsyon ang ginawa ng mga nakaraan administrasyon. nakakalungkot nga lang na puro dakdak ang ginagawa ng mga ibang tao kontra sa kasalukuyang admistrasyon na kung tutuusin ay ang kasalukuyang administrasyon lang ang nakagawa ng paraan upang pagibayuhin at palakasin ang sandatahang pandigma ng ating bansa. kung hindi pa kumilos ang administrasyon ni Pnoy marahil ay nakuha na ng China ang mga islang yan ng walang kahirap hirap. napakagaling manghusga ng iabng mga tao pero kung kayo ang tatanungin o sila ang tatanungin kaya ba nilang pagsabayin ang pagpapalakad ng isang bansa at paglilinis ng isang bansang dinungisan ng mga taong walang humpay na nagpapahirap at patuloy na gumagahaman sa kapangyarihan at pera ng bayan?

    17. The Philippine republic is such in disarray that it is in no position to defend its claims. Heck, if the Chinese wants to invade the Philippines, it could do so easily.

    18. Rosauro Feliciano on

      The truth is, the US will never ever come to our defense and that is for sure because she is in obligation to settle or to pay China trillion of US currency. Our central government MUST know this fact.

      • Our only chance to settle
        the issue is through diplomacy,
        since we are not in a position
        to confront China militarily.