THERE IS certainly no doubt now that China’s invasion of the West Philippine Sea is unstoppable. The defeatist stance of the Duterte administration fuels and further emboldens China to occupy the atolls and reefs with the installation of military facilities that can only be dismantled with might which the Philippines does not have.
The conflict in South China Sea, in which the Philippines named West Philippine Sea as within its Exclusive Economic Zone, involves China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia. The impasse had become longstanding and, worse, is turning into a powder keg, so to speak. The controversial waterway’s strategic importance cannot be ignored as an international waterway where some $5.3 trillion worth of goods move through the sea every year, according to the United States Department of Defense.
Aside from being a strategic maritime territory, the South China Sea is estimated to hold 10 percent of the total global fisheries, 11 billion barrels of oil reserve, and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas deposits.
With its booming economy and skyrocketing demand for raw materials for its industry, China cannot give in to other claimants of the South China Sea other than declaring war where the victor gets the spoils.
Looking forward to its economic expansion, China declared in 1947 the demarcation 9-dash line territory of the South China Sea which almost claimed foritself the 3.5 million square-kilometer total area.
In 2012, the standoff between China and the Philippines happened in the Scarborough Shoal which displayed China’s might and effectively took away the Philippines’ control over it. With no other way to contest its claim, the Philippine filed case before the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration. Philippine won the case in 2016 with the ruling that essentially dismissed as illegal China’s self-imposed 9-dash demarcation line as illegal.
Two years after the Philippine victory over the declared 9-dash line of China and then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte’s theatrics to jet ski to Scarborough Shoal to plant the Philippine flag there, China has almost completed the militarization of the area in the West Philippine Sea with its facilities installed.
Todate, China has already occupied the atolls and reefs the Philippines once claimed before the aggressive invasion of China of the South China Sea using the 9-dash line demarcation.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque tried to put the blame on the previous administration of President Benigno Aquino III by saying that “the Aquino administration did nothing” about the creeping invasion of China in the West Philippine Sea. Roque obviously ignored that the previous Aquino administration was persistent in pursuing its claims over the West Philippine Sea which resulted in the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling in our favor.
We cannot go to war with a superpower like China. But being in the international community of nations, there are other ways to resist invasion and bullying by more powerful nation. But with the attitude and stance of President Duterte kowtowing to Chinese officials, like they are his bosses, no diplomatic protest had been lodged against China.
Contrary to Roque’s putting the blame on the previous Aquino administration, the Duterte administration is the one giving in to China, backtracking the gains achieved by the Philippines’ claim over the West Philippine Sea handed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016. What we can see in the way President Duterte handles the issue in the West Philippine Sea is his allegedly treasonous gesture of surrendering a part of our national patrimony without a whimper of protest while it is being shamelessly being usurped right before our very eyes.