West Philippine Sea from asitimesblogspot.com.au West Philippine Sea from asitimesblogspot.com.au

“SAMUT-SAMOT-SIMUT-SIMOT” (Gossamers and Flying Ants) by Norma Hennesy

OPINION:

WHERE ARE WE AT THE WEST
PHILIPPINE SEA CONFLICT?

History could not have foreseen that a group of reefs and islands, mere dots
along what history has seen as most important trade route
for world commerce, long known as
South China Sea, would become a set of crucial ball bearings that
would test the integrity of the smaller
nations laying claim to it, namely: the
Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei and the extent of hegemonic agenda of China.
The overlapping sovereignty claims to the 51 small islands and reefs
sparked up the conflict, spurred on by the assumption that the disputed
location is a reserve of substantial natural resources – oil, gas, deuterium
and marine life.

Facing mounting criticism at its act of
‘elbowing aside’ its smaller neigbours by bullishly creating artificial lands on half-submerged reefs and then building structures over them, China has defended its
controversial move that the construction was to “improve the living and working conditions”
of personnel stationed there and to “better safeguard national territorial
sovereignty”.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hua
Chunying further sweetened this up by claiming that “The construction would
allow China to better meet obligations such as disaster mitigation, scientific
research and navigation safety.”

One blog referred to the dispute over the
Spratlys as a ‘tinder box’. Perhaps it
was an over- presumption. Were it at a
time of global economic clime when majority of the world’s
economic giants are not
cosying up with China in
whose grip now their balls are
dangerously noosed around with, it
couldn’t have been less than a dart on bull’s eye. But as things currently stand, where the
balance of global economy is largely at the mercy of China, the Spratlys is
China’s testing ground at how far it can throw its weight around and get away
with it. The Spratlys case is China’s barium test at how
far it can push about and wield its high handedness at the
United Nations where, with its major
veto power, the only reprimand that it has
the risk of getting is a slight
slap on the wrist.

China, despite its record of sub-human
handling of its population, has gotten away with undermining the human and
civil rights of its people while it offered to play godfather to other
countries by supplementing and boosting their economic booms.

PART 1 - REALITY IS:

China’s
historical claim to the islands is weak and it is resorting to military
muscles to keep a key role in the
Spratly Islands dispute. Where it did not resort to military intimidation,
China established itself to be an
economic giant, offering supporting roles to all those that suckered up to its
favours and technically creating a dependency on itself. The world had better wake up and learn. China
is the oldest surviving civilization.
It is so because it has out-fooled, out-played, out-witted and
out-tricked all other societies that challenged it.

As China
continues to build its economic dominance around the globe (based on a
purchasing power parity basis), its rise as manufacturer, merchandise trader
and holder of foreign exchange reserves,
other countries are falling prey
with their dependency on China’s
patronage and their use of China’s cheap
labour.

It has been upping its global economic
influence in more ways than one; such as its creation of a new $100 billion New
Development Bank to assist developing countries
(along with Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa) and its launch of a
new $100 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment bank in October 2014.

Currently,
even the US is in a position of dependency on China. Not only that China is a
major export market for the U.S., but
46% of US’ more than 4.5 trillion publicly held debts is owned by foreign governments, with China
owning 1.2 trillion of that in bills, notes and bonds – according to the US
Treasury. This is roughly 8% of publicly held US debts, and is the third
largest debt bulk behind only to the 3 trillion Social Security Trust Fund
holdings and the approximately 2 trillion Federal Reserve. In other words, it will not be a good idea
for the U.S. to antagonize or alienate China!

Suffice
to say that we can’t be going too far to beg the European nations to hold our
hands in asserting our claims over what we own!

As things stand, the European Union holds a
new vision for its relationship with China.
It will be broader, higher and stronger, considering that the trade
between China and Europe exceeds US$ 615 billion and Chinese investment in
Europe has already reached US$9.41 billion in 2014 alone. “During his historic visit to the EU last
spring, President Xi Jinping proposed to build a China-EU partnership for
peace, growth, reform and civilisation and thus bridge the Chinese Dream and
the European one.” He then later reiterated this direction and vision
for China-EU relations in a phone conversation and was received well by the
other side.

Indeed, those circumstances bring no hope for
a blond-blue-eyed big brother coming to the rescue. So forget the thought of colonial advocate
government embarrassing China on our behalf.
And the wiser we are to realize that.
We need to draw our lifeline from within our core. The more integral our sense of independence
is, the stronger will be our chance of gaining supportive alliance as regards
to asserting our rights over the Spratlys.
The strength of our position will be based on moral grounds! In going by this angle, it is the hearts of
peoples around the globe, and not their governments that we seek appeal from!

Far out?
We do not have to go too far.

Last
May, reacting to the st ern warning from Australia’s Defence Minister
Andrews that Australia is ready to join the United
States and other countries to push back
against China’s militarisation in the South China Sea – (renamed West
Philippine Sea in the Philippines), Admiral Sun Jianguo, a deputy chief of
staff of China’s People’s Liberation Army,
issued a firm statement that
“…China’s actions were “out of step” with international norms”; that the
questioned construction that China was doing on the reclaimed areas was “justified, legitimate and reasonable”,
and that “the projects are for the purpose of providing “international public
services” including maritime search and rescue, research and environmental
protection.” Reinforcing the Chinese bullish stand in the conflict, Ambassador
to Australia asserted China’s position by saying that Beijing is firmly
determined to safeguard its sovereignty. Ma Zhaoxu claimed that China’s
sovereignty over the islands in the contested waters “is indisputable.”

Sensing
half-heartedness however in
Australia’s stance, on its own, over the
dispute, China hatched up a carrot to dangle for
Australia, which, in its
current weak GDP growth and barely moving economy, Australia thinks it could not say no to. Playing the magi from the East, bearing the
gifts that could prop the economy of Australia, China presented a midyear
Christmas offer of trade agreement.
Under this Free Trade Agreement, Australia’s export to China is set at $107.5b

as against $52.1 b import from China.
Weeks (weeks!) after the
veiled warning previously issued
by , Australia’s Defence Minister Kevin Andrews that “…other countries in the region will respond
if Beijing persists (in its island-building and militarisation of South China
Sea)”, Australia was suddenly in
tete-a-tete with China, signing
the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement on June 17.

So, if we are scouring for some big brother
to fight our fight, to speak for us while we cower behind, it is a sad state of
affair indeed because we must stand on
our own.

The United Nations is China’s turf, being one
of the five permanent members with veto powers and is currently in sweet tete-a-tete with Russia which has openly
announced its backing for China. The US
may grumble but can’t dare go beyond that, considering its debt to China. It simply cannot afford another ‘conflict’ to
waste its economy on.

Enter the Sultanate of Sulu, which is part of
the Autonomous Region of Mindanao. The
Sultanate includes as part of its territorial realm Sabah, Palawan and Spratlys
hence, befuddling further the socio-governance aspect of an
already politically faction-ridden Muslim region of the country. The Sultanate has been re-asserting the re-delineation of its
territorial parameters as it actively engages in autonomy in its talks with
Malaysia. With this situation at hand,
the Philippine voice over its claims in the region presents itself as lacking
core integrity as one voice and one people.

Being in
any dis-array, political or social, is not something we can afford.

We need
to turn to our own internal strength and establish a respectable integrity as a
people. We have to get off the ‘needy
role’ in the global arena, and take a stand for ourselves. The current government has to firm up its
grip of the people. We have to be
seen capable of handling our own.

PART
2 -
POST ARBITRARY HEARING AT THE HAGUE

The
Philippines took the path of taking its case against China’s 9-dash line over
the South China Sea under which it lays claim of the waters of the region, to
the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague.

The
position that the Philippine team presented
at the Tribunal, which interprets
UNCLOS has been for the
invalidation of China’s 9-dash
line claim over the South China Sea and not
‘matters of sovereignty’ or
‘territorial claims’, not even about lands but, according to Jardeleza, about ‘maritime
waters.’ Sovereignty issue and
territorial claims fall under the Court of Justice which
entertains cases only if parties in the
dispute participated. China refused.

During
the hearing at The Hague this week China sped up its reclamation of disputed islands
in the South China Sea, building on those the Philippines and Vietnamese claims
as part of its territory.

China’s
interest on the Spratlys is more than what it appears to be. The 9 dash line
that it was insisting about gives China control of the region despite that the
maritime area it is claiming are waters surrounding the other small claimant
countries. China’s full-pledged control and hegemonic claim of the area will
guarantee its eventual full domination of the Philippines, the surrounding smaller
countries in the Pacific, all of Asia, all of the east and FARTHER AFIELD!

It
cannot be stressed enough that the Philippines’ importance to the world is
related to the balance of powers among the world’s dominant nations. The
PHILIPPINES’ GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION AS THE PADLOCK AND GATEWAY to the east renders
it important to the preservation of that status quo! Whichever gains control of
South China Sea gains the ease to expand control and extend domination. So
while the Philippines is resisting China’s short term and long-term designs of
usurping itself, it is doing so for itself - and that is to preserve its
independence. The world’s interest on the Philippine independence is more than
that. It is to preserve the world’s current status quo where the democracy
-believing nations are indeed FREE and dominance is not concentrated on one
imperialist nation ruling the world.

China is
a mighty member of the United Nations with veto wielding powers and has
obligations under international law to respect if not epitomize decent conduct and not breach the 2002 Declaration On the
Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, adopted by the foreign affairs
department of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Considering that the disputed Spratlys have a complicated
historical territorial background that
can be considered political in nature,
will the possible suggested resolution to the current South China Sea
Territorial conflict - which is a ‘creation of joint development zones’ amongst
all claimants: the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia ,
serve its purpose to stabilize the status of the area? Or, is there any chance for a workable system of collaborative action and joint use of the
available resources to be devised ?

The disputed
territory involved other nation-claimants as well that it is not presumptuous
to think that perhaps it would have
added weight to the Philippines’ argument
were the other neighbouring
claimants’ have enjoined their
affirmed say on the matter or
their statement on their position .

While Brunei, Singapore and Taiwan kept quiet,
Vietnam, has expressed position
similar to that of the Philippines
against China’s 9 dash-line.
Curiously, it has, also on its
own, embarked on actions that suggested political
motion of establishing closer ties with the united
States. Vietnamese students in Geneva,
Switzerland, also recently roused
supportive endorsement in
its protest against China’s moves of
changing the status quo in the region.

In a
more recent news, the usually quiet Malaysia about the territorial issue
changed its tune and expressed
disapproval at the intrusion of a Chinese Coast Guard Ship into its
waters north of Borneo. Malaysian
Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein warned during a security summit in
Singapore in May, of the danger of a
deadly conflict arising and escalating.
China has dispatched a three-ship flotilla to James Shoal at the southern summit of the Nine-Dash line
in January 2014 for the second time in a year and Malaysian Armed Forces Chief Gen Mohd Zin was
critical of China’s stance of not coming publicly and announce their business in their surrounding waters.

Perhaps
realizing the soft angle of its claim
over the territory on the basis of history, China changed tunes from assertion to playing the ‘aggrieved’ as it
continues to show defiance against third party arbitration and insisting
instead on bilateral talks with the Philippines.

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