Time to try losing, and taking, some ships

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

A videograb taken and released October 22, 2023 by the Armed Forces of the Philippines shows damage to both a Chinese coastguard ship and a Philippine resupply boat following a collision in the West Philippine Sea. The incident was the latest in the wake of escalating confrontations between the two countries amid competing claims in the disputed waters.

Reactions have largely been verbal, thanks to the behind-the-scenes factors that play a huge part in forestalling any rush to armed conflict. There is, for one the implied or actual presence of the United States just beyond the horizon and its repeated claims coming to the defense of the Philippines if attacked. China hesitates to test US resolve as it may also put to test the greater Taiwan question.

And so the low-intensity conflict continues, the Philippines with its frequent need to resupply a detachment of Marines on board a derelict Navy ship purposely run aground on Ayungin Shoal to serve as an outpost, and China trying mightily to thwart the resupply attempts. Over the years of this cat-and-mouse game, nine words in three sets have become the rote of characterizations.

"Unlawful, dangerous, harassment." These words are normally used to describe Chinese actions, especially toward Philippine ships, inside the West Philippine Sea. Another three words quickly follow to describe Philippine actions in response to those of the Chinese. "Protest, condemn, whine." "Modernize, upgrade, purchase." These then follow as positive actions in response to the situation.

But as the October 22 videograb shows we could gradually lose ships to degradation and minor damage that does very little or nothing to change the situation in the West Philippine Sea. Constant hull damage can quickly reduce the integrity of our ships without scoring any real points in the strategic picture being played out in the area.

Our budget is limited. We cannot keep on modernizing, upgrading, purchasing new ships and equipment only to lose these ships and equipment to slow disintegration due to minor collisions and damage without scoring strategic points. China, on the other hand, can afford to lose ships because it can just as quickly replenish them.

Maybe, if we have to lose ships let us lose them not to minor degradation and collision damage. Let us lose them on the way to taking down some Chinese ships of our own so long as we do not use weapons. Our ships, being smaller, are more maneuverable and can therefore be positioned better in any game of collisions. China may have bigger ships but we are better boatmen.

We do not open fire because any exchange is something we cannot prevail and win. Unless of course if China opens fire first, in which case there will now be hell to pay because that will kick in the door wide open for the intervention of the United States under its mutual defense treaty with the Philippines. China certainly has that consideration in mind. Let us push it to making up its mind or call its bluff.

We need to do something drastic. We cannot go on playing like this because China is not going to give up its huge advantage. We will only eventually lose every modern thing we buy in this endless game of cat and mouse because a cat will always be a cat and a mouse will always be just a mouse. If we can keep China busy this way, I don't think it is skin off the back of the US if we can keep it that way.

The only way to put an end to this thing is to bring in the US in a more active way. It has to be directly involved in patrolling the South China Sea every day and not just for photo-ops. The only way to bring it in is to escalate physical encounters with China short of triggering a shooting war that would activate the MDT which the US is only less enthusiastic to honor.

vuukle comment


  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with