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PH-China dispute really easily resolved if…

OUR territorial and maritime disputes with China in the South China Sea (SCS) is really an easily resolved one, if one looks at it pragmatically and realizes that is the United States that is making it such a big issue to advance its own superpower agenda, which is to turn the Philippines into the Asian version of Ukraine, a country it will use to advance its agenda in a region it has no business to be in.

In fact, while we continue to refer to the “South China Sea” (SCS) dispute between China and the Philippines, in reality the dispute now, as I explain below, is solely over Ayungin Shoal, a permanently submerged, useless small area that could fit in half of Taal Lake and partly Scarborough Shoal — areas that 99.99 percent of Filipinos haven’t visited and whose location they do not know. Rather than an “SCS dispute” we have merely a dispute over shoals.

Really, do we want to go to war with a superpower over this, or cut trading ties with Asia’s economic superpower, our biggest trading partner?

Unfortunately, American propagandists are adept at stoking emotions against their perceived enemy, that the witless President Benigno Aquino 3rd and his officials made an issue of national pride. “We will not yield an inch,” he repeatedly said, a worn-out cliché recently used by the Taiwanese [leader] referring to Taiwan, and Donald Trump, referring to his about-to-be-confiscated Trump Tower.

“We are Filipinos, we will not yield,” President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. recently said, borrowing from 2008 presidential candidate John McCain’s “We are Americans, we will not yield.”

“We have to stand our ground,” a cleric says, as if the Philippine nation will crumble if we lose Ayungin Shoal.


Gregory Poling, despite being a well-known apologist for US hegemonism and one of the US’ leading experts and anti-China propagandist on the SCS dispute, after looking at the facts squarely, had to conclude in his book “On Dangerous Ground”:

“The most likely endgame in the Spratlys is recognition of the current status quo. Southwest Cay* is the only island to ever change hands between two of the modern claimants. In all other cases, the one who got there first (excepting Japan and France, which publicly ceded or quietly abandoned their claims, respectively) is still within control. Scarborough is best left unoccupied, as it has always been, with a cooperative management scheme for traditional fishing.”

(*The Philippines since 1971 had occupied Southwest Cay, Pugad Island to us, until the Vietnamese were able to take it over in 1975 by tricking the Filipino troops there into leaving their post to go to a party in a nearby Vietnamese-occupied island, only to return the next morning facing Vietnamese guns trained on them on their landing boats. The book is outdated in that Aquino abandoned Scarborough Shoal in 2012, fooled by the US who told him the Chinese had agreed to a simultaneous withdrawal, when there was none).

This is the same view I also advanced in my book “Debacle: The Aquino regime’s Scarborough fiasco and the South China Sea arbitration deception.” I wrote in that book’s concluding chapter:

“As a US Navy think tank* concluded after a lengthy study of the disputes: ‘The reality on the ground is that China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines all permanently occupy features in the Spratlys group; some have done so for over 50 years. These countries may well claim that the length of such occupation strengthens their sovereignty claims, as effective occupation (effectivités) is viewed in international law as one means of acquiring sovereignty over a particular territory.” (*Roach, J. Ashley, “Malaysia and Brunei: An Analysis of their Claims in the South China Sea,” August 2014, CNA Analysis and Solutions, page iii).


The implication in such conclusions is that since there is absolutely no way for the claimants (China, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines) to be kicked out of the features they presently occupy — other than through a totally useless war that could turn out to be devastating nuclear Armageddon — then the first step to peace and cooperation in the SCS is for the claimants to stop shouting to the world “what is ours and ours,” and to declare, even if only informally, that they are recognizing the sovereignty over SCS features of countries which have occupied these.

In our case, we can even bargain for China to return Scarborough Shoal to its status before Aquino’s blunder, as a fishing ground for fishermen from all claimant countries. Forget the Ayungin Shoal dispute. Marcos officials, prodded by the US, have made it a burning issue the Chinese will not give in, or it loses face. Either it sparks a world war, if the Marcos government insists that we fortify the BRP Sierra Madre or it sinks into the sea in a few years’ time, receding from newspapers’ headlines.

Such recognition, of course, will require a citizenry informed of the history of the SCS disputes, and not believing in the US propaganda line that China is a “bully” that grabbed Philippine territories and has been harassing our vessels — which in the Chinese stand, we were intruding into their territory. Which is the reason I have to write so many columns on the SCS dispute.

And if we don’t quarrel with China, the US loses any reason for it to be meddling in the area, except for its need to make the SCS an area for its warships to sail through at will, without having to get permission from any littoral nation.

Marcos should order his officials to spread US-manufactured fallacies — such the nine-dash line as the basis for Chinese claims and that it has been a bully — to stop their blabbering just to be in the headlines or in TV news. Have you ever heard the Vietnamese defense minister threaten China in the very harsh way our defense secretary has so many times?


We are not disadvantaged in giving up our claims to SCS features we do not occupy: We occupy 10 features, four of which are islands and not mere reefs and shoals. We occupy the second-biggest island (Pag-Asa), the third (Likas) and the fifth (Parola). What we need to do is to fortify these islands to make sure the other claimants won’t attempt to grab them.

The US has been prodding us to quarrel with China over the SCS. This is because if we are not in conflict with China, the US can’t justify having nine military bases spread throughout the country, making us targets for Chinese missiles — even nuclear-tipped ones — in case China decides to finally take over its rogue province Formosa, an issue we absolutely have no business meddling into.

Most scholars say Vietnam has the strongest claim as its colonizer France indisputably put the Spratlys under its sovereignty, and then transferred these to the Vietnamese when it gave up its rule over that country. Yet Vietnam has remained quiet over the SCS dispute while building its own artificial islands and ringing its islands with a fortified tower — and attracting Chinese capital 24 times that which went to our country. This is because Vietnam, mainly because of the war that the US waged against it, will never be a US puppet, as we have become first under Aquino 3rd and now under Marcos.

Deng Xiaoping, China’s most revered leader after Mao, was right when he said decades ago that we have to “set aside disputes and pursue joint development” in contested areas, and that “the next generation will have more wisdom” to solve these problems.

Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jameen

    Some Filipinos just use the South China Sea Issue as front of hate but actually they are just colonial minded people who see America as almost their god that whoever the enemy of their god, it is also their enemy.

    Another reason is religious bigotry that believes that Chinese are automatically evil for being godless creatures.

  2. Dorina S. Rojas

    Marcos Jr. is deeply in debt with the US that turning the Philippines into another Ukraine does not bother him at all. He and his family can leave the country anytime even before the war begins and why the hell should he care? Heaven help us that it will not happen, because only heaven can help us now.

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