Photo Credit: Wikimedia.org.
The Chinese on the West Philippine Sea is a very hot topic in the Philippines right now. With the election coming in 2022, President Duterte is under pressure to defend his stand on China’s ignoring the 2016 Arbitral victory of the Philippines.
In Philippine law, the West Philippine Sea refers only to the portions of the South China Sea, which the Philippine government claims to be part of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. The area’s naming became official through Administrative Order No. 29 by President Benigno Aquino III on September 5, 2012. The administrative order asserts the Philippine claim over its EEZ in the South China Sea. It conveys the Philippine government’s position that it has sovereign rights under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea over the West Philippine Sea.
Since 2013, China has been island-building in the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands region in the South China Sea. Its efforts have been on an unprecedented scale from 2014 to 2016, constructed more new island surface than any other nations have built throughout history, and as of 2016 placed military equipment on one of its artificial islands.
I came across an article yesterday by Benjamin R. Punongbayan, the founder of Buklod National Party, and he asked, “If I were the next President, what would you do with the West Philippine Sea?” It solicited plenty of comments which show that the Filipinos are passionate about their territorial rights, and I don’t blame them. President Duterte appeared weak in his argument that the UN ruling was just a scrap of paper fit to be thrown in the trash. The Pilipino people deserve more than that argument.
The President has a solemn duty to protect the Philippines’ sovereignty. If I were the President, I have to be firm and strong as a leader and keep pressure on China.
I will first explore the diplomatic route since war is not an option for lack of vital resources to win it. I will make a case to the UN and ask for our allies’ support. As diplomatic protests did not work, I have to keep on bringing the case to the UN until we get support from other countries to pressure China and abide by the 2016 Arbitral victory that invalidates China’s claims over the South China Sea.
In the meantime, I will build strong armed forces: navy, air, army, and coast guard. The Philippines being an archipelago, is very difficult to defend from foreign aggression, as we learned throughout our history. Besides manpower, we have to have naval ships, submarines, airplanes, and armaments. We might need help from the US, which has the most sophisticated weapons and a formidable array of bombers. We might have to invite the US back to build a military base in one of those islands near Palawan. The US presence could be a deterrent from the Chinese invasion. Whether that is feasible with Biden as US President who is very friendly with Xi Jinping is debatable.
All these ideas cost money which brings us to keep the economy going and bring in foreign investment. Rome was not built in a day! That’s my two cents, but I’m not running for President. However, we can not just sit still, do nothing, and let China usurp our territorial rights on the West Philippine Sea.