Protecting our own
THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - March 14, 2014 - 12:00am

Another incident has drawn sharp criticism from the United States. Last Sunday, Chinese vessels prevented two Philippine ships from reaching Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. The ships were contracted by the Philippine Navy to re-supply Marines stationed aboard the BRP Sierra Madre, and to rotate the Marines as well. The ship was deliberately run aground in 1999 on a shallow outcrop of Ayungin, to serve as a forward outpost and to mark Philippine territory as well. For more than 15 years, the routine of re-supplying and rotating the Marines were unhampered. That was different last Sunday. The Chinese vessels, using megaphones and digital signboards, ordered the Philippine vessels to leave the area, once again citing Chinese sovereignty over the area. So the Marines were neither re-supplied nor rotated that day. An airdrop had to be done to supply the Marines. How to rotate the Marines would be the next problem. The US may have to resort to something more tangible than harsh criticism. The Chinese Air Force may even resort to blocking airdrops soon.

One can just imagine life aboard the BRP Sierra Madre. Only a handful of Philippine Marines are stationed there every three months. The ship is a relic of World War II. It has passed hands from the US, to Vietnam and finally the Philippines where it was run aground on Ayungin Shoal after the Chinese took over nearby islands. To say that life on the ship is hard is an understatement. The Marines have to battle boredom, the heat, the humidity, loneliness, not to mention the health risks should they cut themselves on the rusted ship. The nearest hospital is far away. I assume they have anti-tetanus shots on board.

Philippine fishermen would drop by every now and then to chat with the Marines, and even share their catch. Something the Marines fully appreciate. They try their best to have a life, with modest luxuries like satellite phones and a battery powered TV and video player. They are armed, but only with rifles and grenades, nothing hard-hitting. They know all too well that if they are attacked, they do not stand a chance. The Chinese do not even have to board the ship. They can easily disintegrate it with their weapons. But that is not the point, is it?

The issue is sovereignty, which they are there to protect. It is, sans any change in the status quo for the past 15 years, Philippine soil. They are there to protect the interests of the country. And until the United Nations comes out with a resolution regarding our claim on several islands in the West Philippine Sea, we will protect what is ours. I do not agree with the views of others that the ship must be removed, because it only furthers the hilarious image of what our military is like and capable of. On the contrary, it shows what we will go through to protect what is ours, even against insurmountable odds and horrific conditions. It brings to light a line in our National Anthem.

"Sa manlulupig, di ka pasisiil."


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