OMG, I see modern Lim Ah Hongs!

OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide - The Freeman

In my elementary school years in Candijay, Bohol, we heard of the name of Lim Ah Hong as a Chinese pirate. We even used his name in the war games we young boys played. Somehow, we were fascinated by the little tales attached to his name. Years later, I read that Lim Ah Hong was a dreaded pirate who twice attempted to invade Manila in 1574.

The accepted definition of piracy is that it is an act of robbery or criminal violence by ship or boat-borne attackers typically with the goal of stealing cargo and other valuable goods from other ships. Of recent times, a Bahamian flag carrier merchant ship called Galaxy Leader, operated by the Japanese NYK line and with crew members among them 17 Filipinos, was seized by pirates. Presumably, ransom was demanded although there is a blackout of information on this matter and this is understandable.

To me though, the most recent act reprising what Lim Ah Hong, the Chinese pirate, did centuries ago, happened at the Ayungin Shoal, in the West Philippine Sea. The video footage of the piracy was beamed to the world. Everyone saw the criminal act being replayed on television and cable news worldwide. It showed that the Chinese pirates did not use the wind-driven sailboats of Lim Ah Hong as they were on board modern sea crafts clearly marked China Coast Guard. The pirates themselves were armed with axes, bolos, and spears, not unlike Lim Ah Hong, and to my horror they were wearing military-grade uniforms. They forcibly boarded Filipino vessels and in the process injured Filipino crewmembers. A late report revealed that not only were supplies taken, the pirates also got the guns of the Filipinos.

For a brief backgrounder, the Permanent International Arbitral Tribunal ruled in the case filed by the Republic of the Philippines under President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino, III that the islands in the West Philippine Sea including the Ayungin Shoal lie within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines. The tribunal rejected and dismissed as baseless the nine-dash line claim of Communist China. The decision was based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, (UNCLOS) referred to as “The Law of the Sea Convention,” an international convention that sets out the legal framework for the seas and the oceans by defining the rights and obligations of state parties. The arbitral tribunal penned that decision shortly after Rodrigo Duterte became our president. Unfortunately, Duterte kept that document in the attic of forgotten treasures.

As we all probably know, the Philippines intentionally grounded the Navy ship BRP Sierra Madre to serve as our outpost. I understand that elite Navy units man the ship. To bring new supplies to our men stationed at the outpost, we regularly send Coast Guard vessels and boats owned by civilians. Last June 17, we were going to deliver another bunch of fresh supplies to BRP Sierra Madre.

That was when Chinese pirates, grossly superior in number, attacked. They encircled our boats, rammed those positioned to escape encirclement, leveled axes, bolos, and spears against our men who tried to prevent them from boarding our vessels. Our defense was strong but the pirates appeared overwhelming.

If our government is doing enough but still seems unable to cope with this problem posed by Chinese pirates in the employ of Communist China, let the acknowledged leaders in the civilian sector convene and adopt measures to protect our national integrity and we ordinary mortals follow their lead.

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