China does not own the West Philippine Sea
HINDSIGHT - F. Sionil Jose (The Philippine Star) - December 1, 2018 - 12:00am

Homage to Justice Antonio Carpio

Much as I abhor communism, I’ve always admired Mao Zedong for having united China and for establishing the Communist Party, the major institution that drove China’s modernization. The first and only time I was in China was in 1979, after Mao’s tragic cultural revolution had already ended. I asked the same question to all the cadres I met: If you had your way, where would you work? Everyone said, wherever the Party will send me. Until Shanghai, when, finally alone with me, a man took back his stock answer and said, “In the kitchen because there, I will never be hungry.”

Before 1949, with a population of half a billion, China had famine every year. Now, with nearly a billion-and-a-half people, hunger no longer afflicts the country. This is Mao’s magnificent achievement. More than this, with their own genius and brawn, China is now a world power and, as such, it must compulsively expand, seek raw materials, and spread its influence wherever and whenever it can. Now, it has even grabbed portions of our territory in the West Philippine Sea, which it should not have done to a neighbor that is defenseless and poor. 

This is the foremost challenge to our country today. Thank God, we have a patriot who sees this – Justice Antonio Carpio. He warns that at any time in the future, China’s People’s Liberation Army might be right at our front door. China justifies its territorial and maritime grab as a historic right. While false, the claim is embedded as a national mantra in every child from grade school onwards.

Justice Carpio gathered a vast array of ancient maps – including ancient Chinese maps – and even official documents of China, and convinced those wise men in the Hague to decide in our favor. The Spratlys are central to our survival. Much of the fish caught in our waters spawn in the Spratlys. The oil, gas and mineral reserve, estimated to be vast, have yet to be measured. However, we do not have the power to enforce our rights to these resources.

What are we to do? We are small and weak, but we have a voice and the capacity to be heard globally. Justice Carpio suggests that we must help make ASEAN formidable and united to counter China’s claims. We are not the only complainants; so are ASEAN members Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia as well.

We must urge other countries to understand the implications of China’s disregard for international law and of its aggression in the South China Sea. What for instance if India claims possession of the Indian ocean? Or if Italy as the heir of the Roman Empire claims the Mediterranean which that empire dominated? It is important for the world to recognize that the West Philippine Sea is open to international navigation.

Even the smallest and weakest animals are capable of defending themselves. The porcupine has its quills and the skunk its awful smell. As I have said before, we should have built a fleet of patrol boats to defend our territory. We must now hasten to build that capability, taking a cue from the Vietnamese who have, through the centuries, fought Chinese recalcitrance.

To the Chinese, saving “face” is almost everything; it is the very core of their foreign policy. We can dent that face. We have thousands of overseas workers in the world’s capitals. We can harness them to demonstrate in front of Chinese consulates and embassies in furtherance of our national interest.

Justice Carpio urges us to educate our own people, to be united and steadfast in the face of Chinese incursion on our sovereignty. This government has collaborated shamelessly, willingly, with China. It should be rejected in the next election. The Duterte aberration is just a tiny wrinkle in our history and it will fade. The Philippines will endure.

As much as we would like to be free from strangling American influence, what China is doing is forcing us to seek even more close ties with the United States, knowing that it is the only power that can challenge China’s hegemony. This is perhaps inevitable. Filipinos trust the United States. As recent surveys have shown, Filipinos do not trust China.

For all its bellicose posturing and armed might, China does not really want war. Steeped in Sun Tzu’s precepts on war, it wants victory on its own terms with an aggressive aid program and slow, piecemeal territorial expansion. Its occupation of Panatag Shoal off the coast of Zambales is an example. We should have sent our Navy and Armed Forces there at the very start, come what may.

But let us not look at China as the implacable enemy that cannot be appeased. We must broaden and deepen our dialogue with the Chinese and hope for China to become a China that is respected not feared. There is much in the Chinese Confucian tradition to support this expectation. The Confucian precepts of hierarchy and harmony should enable the Chinese leadership to look at countries like ours not as meek tributaries of an empire but as minor partners in the building of a harmonious world.

This nation owes Justice Carpio enduring gratitude. Almost single-handedly, with courage and a magnificent intellect, he has built a formidable bastion for this nation’s sovereignty which China’s mendacious fiction cannot destroy. 

In speaking as he does, Justice Antonio Carpio is the shining, unswerving conscience of the Filipino people. By his singular example, he has exposed the cowardice and hypocrisy of our highest elected officials who have not protected or defended our sovereignty. May his patriotism motivate all public servants who feel helpless in the face of the inaction and apathy of our leaders, and give life and direction to the idealism of the new generation of Filipinos who are eager to serve this nation.

(Erratum: In the Nov. 22 column the correct title should have been “Why I am angry” instead of A revolutionary party. My apologies to Mr. F. Sionil Jose and the readers. – RM Lim)

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