Lackadaisical attitude towards China's bullying tactics

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - May 18, 2021 - 12:00am

The problem, to my mind, is not that we cannot control what China has been doing to us as a nation, as a people. The more problematic is a feeling of surrender, or an open declaration that we are open to be abused, and we will not do anything because of “utang na loob”. I applaud Secretary Teddyboy Locsin for blowing his top. And the Chinese have no moral right to remind him of good manners because what China is doing to us is the worst manifestation of a nation's manners towards his neighbor.

The Philippines has a case of Stockholm syndrome. Instead of resisting the bullying tactics of China, we tend to justify its incursions into our territories and Exclusive Economic Zone. Sometime in 2012, Chinese vessels surreptitiously entered the Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc resulting in a standoff between those intruders and our naval forces and coast guard. Nature intervened when a big storm hit the area. The whole community of nations called upon both China and the Philippines to ease the tension by a simultaneous withdrawal. The Philippines took the right path by heeding the call and withdrew the troops. China also made a pretended and reluctant gesture of withdrawal. But in a matter of a few days, China came back with a vengeance with many more vessels intruding into the area, which is definitely within our Exclusive Economic Zone. From then on, China never stopped doing construction activities in the shoals. Chinese fishermen harvested thousands of giant clams that destroyed the marine life in the area.

In 2017, a giant Chinese vessel illegally entered the Benham Rise, which is internationally recognized as part of the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone. The Philippines demanded an explanation and China replied that the vessel was just passing by as an innocent passage. The truth of the matter is that the vessel remained there for a long time and conducted research and espionage over the area and even named some of the shoals, cays, and reefs giving them Chinese nomenclatures. By these series of treacherous and malicious acts, we should have already lost our trust and confidence on China. We cannot for the life of us continue to act as if we were “bulag, pipi at bingi” in the face of blatant travesty of our dignity as a nation and as a people. For once, we should be willing “to march into hell for a heavenly cause”, to borrow that line in the song The Impossible Dream.

On June 19, 2019, the birthday of our national hero, a huge Chinese ship Youemaobinyu rammed and sank a Philippine fishing vessel F/B Gem Ver near the Red Bank west of Palawan. The lives of 22 fishermen were put in grave danger and, in violation of international maritime laws, said the vessel abandoned its victims and did not take any action to save the lives of the victims. It was a Vietnamese fishing vessel that exercised what is proper in international law, and that was to rescue the men in distress. The Philippine government raised a big howl about this incident but China nonchalantly dismissed it as an ordinary sea mishap. China did not make a categorical and responsive answer to our complaint that, assuming that it was a mishap, why did the vessel abandon the victims. Is this the kind of neighbor that we should respect?

For once, Filipino leaders, from the executive and the legislative should express in very firm and unequivocal manner our sense of anger and outrage at these series of travesties. Why is it that retired justices and diplomats are the ones making a big fuss at China's series of insults against our national dignity? We cannot remain lackadaisical about all these. We should assert our rights and tell China to go home to their own land and leave us alone in peace and tranquility. That is the least that we can do given our circumstances.

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