• Who’s the worst violator of Philippine territory?

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    It’s not the Chinese. That’s the near- unanimous answer of Filipinos, especially with China threatening sanctions after the Philippines was to have filed its pleading for the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) to rule on the validity of Beijing’s nine-dash claim over the South China Sea and its islands, shoals and resources.

    The latest diplomatic test of wills comes on the heels of another confrontation at sea. Weeks ago, the Chinese coast guard turned away Philippine boats carrying supplies for a marine detachment aboard the beached warship Sierra Madre in disputed Ayungin or Second Thomas Shoal. That forced the Philippines to airdrop food and water before another supply sailing finally slipped through the Chinese blockade over the weekend.

    But no, the Chinese are not the top intruders in Philippine territory. Though it took over Panatag shoal in 2012 and now threatens Ayungin, China has kept far, far away from the archipelago itself.

    In fact, the high seas in which Chinese and Philippine vessels have faced off are international waters, though they are within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as designated under the UN Conventiion on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

    But another country has deliberately intruded into Philippine territorial waters, including the UNCLOS-recognized archipelagic sea, year after year. It even has the temerity to negotiate the privilege of doing so with even greater forces “rotating” through the country: the United States of America.

    America the intruder
    By its official admission, the American military has openly and deliberately violated Philippine internal waters, as designated by the UN Convention. Sailing between our islands nearly 20 times last year, US vessels pointedly challenged the UNCLOS-backed claim that waters within the archipelago are part of Philippine territory.

    Adopted by most nations in 1982, UNCLOS provides that the archipelagic sea within our recognized territorial baselines is part of our republic’s internal waters. But this is disputed by the US, which has signed but not ratified the Convention.

    As the US Defense Department told Congress in its Freedom of Navigation Report for Fiscal Year 2013, the American Navy entered those internal waters within our archipelago, showing Washington’s opposition to that claim. (One wonders how the US would have reacted if the Chinese Navy sailed into our archipelagic sea alongside its Seventh Fleet to join it in challenging our claim of internal waters under UNCLOS.)

    The Pentagon report said that among a dozen countries subjected to maritime challenges of their UNCLOS-designated waters, the second-most sailings occurred in the Philippines, next only to intrusions in Iran. Ten other UNCLOS claimants challenged by the US last year were Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Oman, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

    US might vs. Chinese money
    America’s misgivings about UNCLOS may partly explain why it has done nothing to back up the Philippines in asserting our EEZ claims against Chinese encroachments. The fact is Washington does not officially subscribe to the Convention on which we are claiming exclusive economic rights in sea and seabed 200 nautical miles from shore.

    Add to that the exclusion of South China Sea conflicts from the stated coverage of the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty, which is explicitly confined to Pacific conflicts (see March 21 column), and no one should be surprised if Washington never confronts Beijing in defense of the Philippines’ UNCLOS claims.

    Of course, far more important than legalities is America’s own national and geopolitical interests. It will never undertake the mammoth cost of direct conflict with China to defend disputed islets, shoals and waters far away from the main Philippine islands.

    Not only does it need China’s trade and investment, including the holding of over $1 trillion in US Treasury bills in Chinese hard currency reserves. Beijing’s cooperation is also vital in dealing with many international problems, from North Korea, Syria and Iran, to world trade talks and global warming.

    Instead of directly confronting Beijing, Washington has exploited President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s combative bent to project China as bully and America as protector, in an effort to shore up waning US influence in Asia. Unable to match Beijing’s growing aid, trade and investment largesse, Washington must capitalize on its sole remaining strength in wooing Asia: armed might.

    To do that, however, there is need to create security threats against which the US military can secure Asia. That’s where the South China Sea spats come in. Instead of continuing joint cooperation and confidence building under the Arroyo government, the Aquino administration has pursued the opposite tack of direct confrontation—giving the US the regional tensions needed to justify its increased military presence in Asia.

    Asean’s odd man out
    But the rest of the region isn’t buying the American ploy. Most of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are sticking to the decades-old Asean policy of non-alignment, enunciated right at the start in its vision of becoming a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZoPFaN).

    The grouping also remembers well how Beijing has proven a staunch supporter over the past four decades following America’s pullout from Asia after the Vietnam war ended in 1975 and US military bases in the Philippines closed in 1991-92.

    China backed Asean through Vietnam’s 1978-1989 occupation of Cambodia and the 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis, and has showered it with economic favors over the past decade, with promises of even more aid and trade, including infrastructure funds and participation in Asean’s Regional Economic Cooperation Program trading bloc.

    So Asean is far from siding with comebacking America against constant China, especially with recent Indonesian and Malaysian gripes over reported US snooping into their leaders’ phone calls. Even Vietnam is on good terms with the Chinese, while beefing up its defenses, including the order of supersonic antiship missiles from India.

    Still, our neighbors are content to let the Philippines quarrel with China, give up our share of Chinese trade, aid and investment, and host American forces as a counterweight to the People’s Liberation Army.

    So as Filipinos, especially those working in Hong Kong and China, brace for Beijing’s sanctions on the Aquino administration, we can only hope that our next leader would see the folly of picking a fight with the world’s coming superpower and seeking the help of the current one to defend Philippine maritime claims—which it openly flouts.

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    12 Comments

    1. Did Ricardo Saludo became a crazy man? How much is the chinese paying you to make a crappy propaganda? For sure you are one of the UP graduates who are blinded by deceitful communist ideals. Wake up! Don’t sell your soul to your enemy or otherwise you should move your ass from the Philippines, traitor!

    2. This so called “oponion writer” kuno which the Manila Times has plenty, starting from the editorial board head, is the main reason why this once illustrious newspaper at par with the worlds dailies, will never come out of the mediocrity, fractured analysis by a degenerate mind.

    3. What has been forgotten in our classroom history is that Pope Alexander Vl in 1498 to settle brewing territorial disputes, cut the world in half by drawing the imaginary demarcation nine-dash-line which granted territorial rights half to Russia and the other half to China.Thus Russia claimed Crimea while China claimed Tibet and the Philippines invoking this invisible demarcation line.

    4. If you cannot defend the country from Communist China’s intrusion in Bajo de Masinloc then, your point of view is useless and inutile.

    5. bobby andrews on

      Hey Mr. Saludo how much did you get for making this opinion? its a good thing that you were rejected as Chairman of CSC otherwise you have sold even the government bureaucracy to China. Im sure even your braces was sponsored by a Chinese company during GMA’s era where China poured money to all your pockets in exchange for Philippine territory. If America enters the Philippine EEZ, these intrusions are helpful as they are also patrolling our waters with no intention to fish nor to scare off Filipino fishermen. It is highly stupid of you to compare China’s intrusions with American intrusions. China’s intrusion is for the purpose of grabbing Philippine territory and bullying Filipino fishermen and dozing them with salt water to sink them. In fact Chinese ships are booming their horns so that the eardrums of the Filipino fishermen gets blown out of their sockets. Your lucky Mr. Saludo cause you were given cash and probably first class treatment by the Chinese while you and your jailed president GMA were in power.

    6. Can’t you see the difference, China is claiming our land and territorial waters and the US is just merely passing our territorial water. So what’s wrong with you?

    7. This is not the first anti American garbage of an article here by this author
      Can anyone check this individual’s background please?
      This is an outright,once again,JOKE of an article by Mr Saludo
      God bless the U.S and the courageous People of the Philippines.

    8. Andy R Samson on

      Finally, Ben Kritz, gave positive reinforcements to the idea of ZOPFAN that was floated more than 25 years ago as a veritable tool for resolving the contentious issues in and around the Big Pond the PH are wont to call WPS. Now is the time to resolve these issues much in the same manner the resources of the North Sea was resolved and equitably distributed to the littoral states when Brent field was discovered and exploited for the common good of mankind. ASEAN and all the other claimant states can now sit down and address claims and counter-claims and prove to the Community of Nations that they have finally reached the age of reason. There are resources in this Big Pond that can be reasonably exploited and equitably distributed for all to share and benefit from.

    9. Siony Camacho Bana on

      This article is outright flawed and only encourage China to bully its smaller neighbors, period. Mr. Saludo, it seems you easily forget that to maintain our democracy as a free nation, our country has had always depend from US and other nation for protection , because we are weak and due to many corruption of our own lawmakers Phl is not strong enough to defend herself. In calamities and many other vital issues good example Yolanda calamities and territorial claims, who is beside us and ready to protect the Phl , its US , cuz they stand for freedom of all nation.

      • Didn’t you see the difference between trespassing and claiming what is not yours. China’s claiming our own land and the US is just merely trespassing or passing our territorial water.