BBM disaster to lose WPS

FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben D. Almendras - The Freeman

On top of the hot weather that is scorching us, the hottest topic in the last few weeks/months and in the weeks ahead has/will be the continuous bullying of the Chinese coast guard ships on Philippine’s vessels bringing supplies to Ayungin shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). It is well established and documented that these shoals and many others are within the Philippine territorial waters, but the Chinese Coast Guard and fishing vessels have been permanently intruding in these areas. They have even built permanent structures and an airfield in some of the other islands.

The Philippines, lacking the military assets, capability, and political will, has been on the receiving end of these Chinese aggressions, with only the hundreds of diplomatic protests in response, with the Chinese government not even acknowledging or answering most of them. It has now surfaced, that the previous Duterte administration has been acquiescing secretly with the Chinese government in exchange for official and unofficial financial assistance. The country and the Filipinos were practically sold down the river. Even at this time, some Duterte defenders and trolls are still mouthing the line that the Philippines will be better off not confronting the Chinese government on this territorial issue.

Unlike our neighbor countries Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia whose territorial waters are also covered by the nine-dash-line claim of China, the Philippines had/has the weakest response. None of these countries are militarily stronger than China but they have all drawn the line against Chinese intrusion and actions. Vietnam even fired on Chinese vessels that reached their waters.

Recent incidents of Chinese Coast Guard ships blasting Philippine supply ships with water cannons and injuring Filipino naval personnel are the latest escalations/provocations by China. The international community has condemned these actions and the US confirmed for the nth time that casualties on these incidents will trigger the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Agreement, and the US will come to the aid of the Philippines. The previous and the coming naval exercises in these areas by the US, Japan, Australia, and the Philippines are meant to demonstrate the commitment of the US and our allies to a rule-based geo-political order and support for the Philippines.

While it has been contended that the US and democratic allies do not really want to open another theater of armed conflict, with the Ukraine-Russia war and the Israeli-Hamas battles ongoing, it is also possible that escalating and pushing up-front the parameters and limiting China’s aggression in the South China Sea at this time, is the best way to prevent a larger conflict. This is also the proper signal to China’s ambitions on Taiwan and North Korea’s provocations in Japan’s seas.

The Philippines’ and BBM’s position on these issues can only be with the US and its allies which are also supported by majority of the Filipinos. The undermining by the Duterte camp are minor actions to the equation. BBM cannot and will not allow that he will be the president that lost the WPS to the Chinese Communist Party. All his efforts to redeem the Marcos name/legacy will be totally for naught if he is the president that lost Philippine territory.

The Philippines is confronting a slowing economy, fiscal deficits/over-borrowed government, poverty, corruption, and ineffective governance. These are big problems but the BBM administration may muddle through them with the tolerance and patience of the Filipinos. However, they will be unforgiving if the WPS is lost to China. This will be an epic disaster for BBM, the Marcoses, the politicians, the country, and the Filipinos.

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