Beware of propaganda about boat ramming
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - June 19, 2019 - 12:00am

A communist must be a good propagandist, Mao Zedong directed. So China’s communist rulers contrive lofty aims behind their schemes. Despite authoritarian and military might, they pretend to be underdogs. Beijing’s spin about its maritime militia’s ramming of a Filipino fishing boat follows the script. Supposedly in the dead of night of June 9, seven to eight Filipino craft ganged up on a lone Chinese vessel. In retreat the latter inadvertently hit fishing boat Gem-Ver 1, throwing 22 Filipino crewmen into the water. The Chinese then valiantly stopped to check for survivors and left only after ascertaining the arrival of rescuers. Still, if the Chinese later are found in the wrong, they allegedly would be reeducated and punished. It’s as if they’re aggrieved, yet will abide by rule of law.

Slyly obscured are the facts. For one, the huge Chinese launch Yuemaobinyu 42212 from Hainan is steel hulled, as is usual. Puny wooden Filipino bancas would not deign menace it, or else be crushed. Satellite video of that night shows about two-dozen vessels far apart in that grid of the Recto Bank, 80 miles from Palawan; there was no swarming of boats. Too, Gem-Ver 1 was anchored and properly lighted up as its crew was resting. The skipper was alerted by the cook about the oncoming vessel, then wham! As the Filipinos floundered in the cold dark sea, the collider switched on a characteristically Chinese “super-lite” on their sinking boat, then sped off. The victims perceived the Chinese flag of the vessel they see there often. Spotting another vessel’s lights, two of them paddled two hours towards it, a Vietnamese, for help. Videoed in evidence were the subsequent rescue, transfer to a sister and then a Philippine Navy craft, the towing of the damaged Gem-Ver 1, and their homecoming in Mindoro.

Most important was that Yuemaobinyu 42212 was poaching in Recto Bank, well within the Philippines 200-mile exclusive economic zone. It was not supposed to be there, 600 miles beyond China’s own EEZ, except in innocent passage. Yet the Gem-Ver 1 victims recognized it as the frequent intruder.

Yuemaobinyu 42212 is likely with the communist People’s Liberation Army-Navy, which in 2013 set up a maritime militia based in Sansha, Hainan. The PLAN equips Hainanese fishing launches with spying gear for para-military missions. A recent mobilization was the surrounding of Palawan’s Pagasa Island in the Spratly archipelago to taunt Filipino fishers and sailors. In Vietnam’s Paracel Islands, Chinese maritime militia also routinely ram Vietnamese fishing boats, reminds Supreme Court Senior Justice Antonio Carpio. There have been nine such assaults since 2014, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative monitors. Vietnamese authorities possess videos.

Propaganda subplots have emerged. One is that the Chinese broke no law since Recto Bank purportedly is a “traditional fishing ground of many countries.” It is not, says Dr. Jay Batongbacal, one of few experts on international maritime law. There is no shared traditional fishing right within any EEZ, for that would negate the point of exclusivity. Thus did Indonesia’s minister of fisheries recently blast Chinese poaching launches in the Natuna Isles, over which Beijing falsely claimed rights. To show resolve Indonesia’s president then sailed there in a navy ship, silencing the neighborhood bully. Similarly Filipino fisheries and coast guards must forbid foreign trespassers from Recto Bank. The UN arbitral court ruled in 2016 that China cannot arrogate oil, gas, or food resources there.

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Do Filipinos never learn? Why do we go on electing crooks then lament their corruption, or tolerate wrong so are victimized? Why do we have to suffer year in and year out floods then water shortage, dengue then flu outbreaks, crop failure then over-imports? Do not solutions stare us in the face?

Apparently the nasty national habit of always going back to square one is deeply rooted in our history, Gemma Cruz Araneta wrote. In the 19th century Jose Rizal was already warning compatriots about such noxious collective inclination (“Rizal’s True Love,” Cruz Publishing, 2014).

Rizal observed: “The reason for the little progress Filipinos have made in the three centuries of ‘españolismo’ is, to my mind, the fact that our great talents have died without bequeathing us anything more than the fame of their name. We have had very great intellects, we have had a [Tomas] Pinpin, a Dr. Pilapil, Father Pelaez, a Father Mariano Garcia, a Dr. Joson, etc.; we still have a Benedicto Luna, a Lorenzo Francisco, and others besides. Yet, what all these men have studied, learned and discovered will die with them and will come to an end, and we will once more recommence the study of life.”

So there. Rizal no less critiqued that even before his time we already habitually repeat our mistakes and reinvent the wheel. “The individual perfects himself, not the species,” he said. Some rise, but the nation stagnates.

Rizal’s words should be our wakeup call. Read Rizal, Cruz Araneta counseled. Let not his brilliance come to another waste. “Rizal was the greatest product of the Philippines and his coming to the world was like the appearance of a rare comet,” Blumentritt told Dr. Maximo Viola in 1887. Biographer Rafael Palma too said, “The doctrines of Rizal are not for one epoch but for all epochs. They are as valid today as they were yesterday.”

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

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