Tourism in Spratlys, a tactless plan to use civilian shields vs. Chinese aggression


We take exception on the plan of AFP chief Catapang to turn the Philippine-controlled areas in the Spratly Islands as a tourism area. The government’s attempt of using civilian activity to strengthen our territorial jurisdiction in the high-tension and militarized area is both tactless and  dangerous.

It is hard not to interpret AFP’s idea as an attempt to use “civilian shields” as a deterrent
against Chinese military forces. Are they banking on China to make the mistake of opening fire upon tourists and earn widespread international condemnation in the process?

AFP Chief Catapang is foolhardy to think that by merely increasing civilian activity in the Spratlys Islands, the Chinese government’s bullying and transgressions in our territories will cease. Promoting tourism, especially with the country’s Boracay brand, will also only exacerbate the environmental stresses on the already degraded ecosystems of the West PH Sea.

It is frustrating that the Aquino government and its Coast Guard forces continue to fail in defending our fisherfolk in Panatag Shoal from the abuses of Chinese maritime forces. We can see how poorly supplied and vastly undermanned our military stations are in Ayungin island. How can we have assurance that local and foreign tourists that will visit our islands in Spratlys will be protected in the first place?

If the Aquino government wants to effectively assert our sovereignty and defend our national patrimony, it should rally the Filipino people  in their millions to protest against foreign intervention in our country–any kind of political and economic subservience is unacceptable, whether it is China’s recent aggression or the United States’ long-standing dictates that Aquino is forcing upon us as a solution. (Have we not learned from the former US bases’ toxics and the Tubbataha Reef grounding?)

We have access to a wide array of pressure tactics. One collective action is to campaign for a nation-wide boycott of Chinese products. The Aquino government can sanction Chinese economic interests in the country such as their mining and power projects to show it has the guts to stand with the Filipinos against Chinese bullying and expansion, especially as most of these are consistent violators of our environmental laws.

The Aquino government should sober up to the reality that its tool box of solutions–civilian shields, and the self-interested US defense bogey–only serve to create a false sense of security, and at the same time a sense of hopelessness among our countrymen that we cannot defend our sovereignty by ourselves.

What the Aquino government should do is to seriously pursue national industrialization to comprehensively develop our economy. This in turn will be a strong basis not only to build up our external defense, but also to assert our territorial integrity. That is leverage that should be used to promote the demilitarization, marine conservation, and wise multilateral utilization of the West PH Sea.

Kalikasan PNE
26 Matulungin St. Central Dist., Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100 Tel./Fax; +63 (2) 924-8756; E-mail: secretariat@kalikasan.net  Website: www.kalikasan.net


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