Defending Philippine sovereignty

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - April 8, 2021 - 12:00am

The continued illegal presence of around 200 Chinese ships at the Juan Felipe Reef has created a moment of unity in this country which has rarely found solidarity in its foreign and domestic policies. Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. issued several statements condemning the intrusion in Philippine territory by Chinese ships. Among his many statements, there is a Twitter message reported in a newspaper as having been sent by Locsin.

Reading this message, I can only say that this is vintage Locsin. Here is the statement:

“China can say what it wants, Philippines will do what it must to keep what is hers by right.

Irrelevant whether we possess commensurate military power to meet the challenge; we will not yield but die – or trigger World War 3. Not a bad outcome; living is overrated. Honor is all.”

I had a chance to get to know TeddyBoy, as we used to call him. He was always an excellent writer and the best speechwriter I have known. He was witty and had a way of creating unforgettable quotes. He could also be sarcastic – a trait that those he did not get along with soon learned.

There was, however, no question in my mind that, like his esteemed father, he was a nationalist and a patriot. In his own way, he loved his country and would not accept dictation from any foreign power. All these can be seen in that Twitter message.

It was not only DFA Secretary Locsin who has reacted strongly to the Chinese incursion on Philippine territorial waters. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has also strongly condemned the continued presence of these Chinese vessels.

The initial claim was that these ships were boats seeking shelter. Lorenzana did not mince any words when he said: “The continued presence of Chinese maritime militias in the area [ i.e. Juan Felipe Reefs] reveals their intent to further occupy features in West Philippine Sea.”

This blatant violation of Philippine sovereignty is reminiscent of the incidents in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and Panganiban Reef which are now heavily garrisoned by Chinese armed forces.

The Chinese are again using their infamous “cabbage strategy.” First named by Chinese Rear Admiral Zhang Zhaozhong of China’s People’s Liberation Army, this is a tactic to overwhelm and seize control of an island by surrounding and wrapping the island in successive layers of Chinese naval ships, China coast guard ships and fishing boats and cut off the island from outside support. The layers of Chinese vessels block the entry and exit of any country’s navies, thus effectively isolating the island and bringing it under Chinese control.

Examples of Chinese cabbage tactics include the swarming of contested islands in the South China Sea, which also entailed construction of artificial islands to serve as naval and military bases. Another example is the occupation of disputed areas along the Sino-Indian border.

The reply of the Chinese embassy in Manila to the Philippine protests could only be described as arrogant and even shifted the blame to the Philippines for causing the tensions. China is following the path of all superpowers, past and present, who believe that superior force is all that is necessary to impose its will on other countries.

“China is committed to safeguarding peace and stability in the waters and we hope that authorities concerned would make constructive efforts and avoid any unprofessional remarks which may further irrational emotions.”

The Chinese claim, therefore, is that it is the Philippines that is causing the “irrational emotions” to increase. This statement can only be attributed to the belief that a superpower can get away by simply imposing its will on a weaker neighbor.

The Chinese embassy claims that the Juan Felipe Reef is part of China’s Nansha Islands or Spratlys in the South China Sea. The Juan Felipe Reef is a reef at the northeastern extreme limit of the Union Banks in the Spratly Islands of the West Philippine Sea. It is the largest reef of the Union Banks.

It is V-shaped with an area of about 10 square kilometers. It used to be submerged most of the time; but, at the end of the 20th century, small sand dunes had developed on the reef, making a territorial claim possible. The Philippines considers the reef part of its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

Almost all the major political groups, including the opposition, realize that now is the time to unite against a common adversary. Here is a statement of support from an opposition group.

“We in the 1SAMBAYAN strongly support Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. in their firm and principled stand in defending Philippine territory and sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea against Chinese encroachment. All patriotic Filipinos, regardless of political affiliation, should unite as one in the defense of our sovereign territory and sovereign rights.”

*      *      *

Young Writers’ Hangout via Zoom on April 10, 2-3 p.m. with Roel SR Cruz.

Contact writethingsph@gmail.com. 0945.2273216

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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