China never honors its own words

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Josephus Jimenez - The Freeman

As I have always said and written, the Philippines can never rely on China to honor its word. On the eve of the Chinese New Year, and just a few days after President BBM met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, whereby the latter supposedly assured him China will no longer bother our fishermen in our exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippine navy reported another bullying incident against our own fishermen in our own fishing grounds. When should we stop engaging with this unreliable super bully?

China doesn’t honor any international law. It doesn’t respect the UNCLOS or the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. China didn’t honor the judgment of the generally-accepted body and the entirely neutral international arbitration body. It doesn’t respect the territorial integrity of our country which, albeit much smaller in size, population, and military might, is also a sovereign state. China uses its superior strength in the international community of nations, as a permanent member of the United Nations' Security Council, to continue its policy of aggressive and provocative harassment of our fisherfolks who are only exercising their basic human rights to fish inside our own traditionally- and legally-owned fishing grounds. The Chinese leaders say one thing to mislead us and their underlings do the exact opposite with the leaders' tacit approval.

The Philippine foreign affairs had already filed hundreds upon hundreds of diplomatic protests, but China never gave its truthful response. Chinese diplomats keep on denying our complaints and keep on assuring us they would look into the reported incidents then get back to us. They never did and instead keep on repeating their usual pattern of harass, deny, promise, and then harass again. How can we ever trust them and how can we continue engaging with this unreliable state? They kept on building new structures in contested shoals and reefs, and reclaiming islands covered by the international arbitral tribunal's decision in our favor. China sends people to our country who engage in unlawful transactions and violate our laws. They operate POGOs that provide illegal activities including money laundering. Why is the president dilly-dallying in putting a stop to these nefarious activities of undesirable aliens?

The latest incident reported by the Philippine Coast Guard involved our fishermen who were harassed by the Chinese Navy earlier this month, near Ayungin Shoal or the Second Thomas Shoal, located 315 kilometers west of Palawan. Very clearly, the shoal is within the Philippines' 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone. On January 9, fishermen from Puerto Princesa, Palawan, led by Lito Al-os were fishing on their boat named Ken Ken when a Chinese Coast Guard ship with bow number 5204 approached them and ordered them to leave the premises. The Chinese ship maneuvered towards Ken Ken and went as near as 730 meters. Chinese Coast Guard elements then boarded an inflatable boat, approached Ken Ken, and ordered the fishermen to leave the area. This is the standard bullying tactic of China inside our own exclusive economic zone.

That same Chinese vessel, CCG 5204 is familiar to the Philippine Coast Guard because on January 15, 2020, the Chinese used it in what was dubbed as the first ever Philippine-Chinese joint search and rescue drill. That vessel is described as a 102-meter naval ship with water cannons which the Chinese Coast Guard keeps on using to harass our fishermen. In response to China's provocations and unfriendly acts against our own people, the Philippine Coast Guard deployed our BRP Teresa Magbanua and other vessels to patrol the areas around Ayungin. Our own coast guard is never remiss in their duties to protect the integrity of our territories and exclusive economic zones. Our DFA is always presenting the usual diplomatic protests, which China continues to ignore and even perhaps laugh at.

China shows palpable indications that it has no intention to deal with the Philippines as an equally sovereign nation. Xi assured President BBM in the early days of this month in Beijing that he would order his people not to bother our fishermen anymore. But this last incident on January 9 is another proof beyond the shadow of any doubt that we are being hoodwinked, fooled, and taken for a ride by China. The sooner we disengage with this unreliable bully, the better for the Philippines and for the greater interest of the Filipino people. We should stop allowing China to make a fool out of us.


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