The Chinese dragon’s hunger for black gold relates to its continuous growth as an economic powerhouse. China imports seventy percent of its oil needs – supplied mostly by Russia. Fearing the prospect of disruption of oil supplies and being hostage to the demands of supplier countries, China is recklessly embarking on grabbing the rich oil resources of the Philippines and it’s neighbouring countries.
To justify its intrusion into the territories of neighbouring countries, the dragon has engaged in spinning a fictitious tale on why it supposedly owns everything in the area. The fairy tale goes this way: “About 2000 years ago, an ancient Han Dynasty map showed the limits of Chinese territory
which included us owning all of the territory in the South China Sea (also known as West Philippine Sea). Therefore, all of these areas are ours. Never mind that they were designated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as belonging to other countries.”
Does China actually have a Han Dynasty map indicating ownership of everything in the South China Sea in this area? So far, it has not shown this map to the public. It may be that some kind of ancient map exists. There are hundreds of old maps. Do any of these say China owns territory belonging to the Philippines and other countries?
While the Chinese have been coming to the Philippines since ancient times as traders selling their stuff or as pirates like Limahong robbing and pillaging the locals – there is no historical proof that the Philippines was ever a colony of China or that China ruled the Philippines or even some parts of it.
Even if we assume that such a map exists indicating a claim by some dreaming Chinese officials that it owned Philippine territories, was that then actual or legal ownership? Not so if in fact no such ownership ever happened except maybe in the imagination of some ancient Han dynasty megalomaniacs.
To illustrate the absurdity of China’s claim: Let’s say Italy found an ancient map that shows that the Roman Empire owned most of Europe and some parts of Africa and Asia, can the Italian government now claim these countries and territories belong to them? Governments and national territorial lines keep changing. That’s a reality every nation has to live with.
The Chinese position is so ridiculous that I doubt that even the Chinese government seriously believes that they have a legitimate claim which can properly be defended in the United Nations International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).
China’s refusal to bring her claim to ITLOS by itself indicates an admission of the absurdity of her position. Any fool can see that the Chinese government is just using a convenient fairy tale to justify her intrusion into neighbours’ territories in an attempt to grab their oil and other resources.
Recently, Chinese fishing boats and research vessels have been intruding deep into Philippine territory and into waters known as Scarborough Shoals which are just off Zambales.
Pursuant to the United Nations Law of the Sea, a country owns all of that territory within 200 miles from it’s baseline. The Scarborough Shoals are just about 125 miles off the coast of Zambales.
The Philippines issued a diplomatic protest to China but instead of respecting the Philippine position – the Chinese sent more fishing boats into the area including armed patrol boats – together with a response from China’s Deputy Foreign Minister Fu Ying that the Scarborough Shoals are theirs and that it is the Philippines intruding into Chinese territory. Adding the insult to the injury is like saying: “So? What can you do to me if I slap you in the face?”
What does this aggressive Chinese position mean?
Here’s my take on this: It means that China is testing the Philippines’ resolve and reaction to Chinese intrusion – as well as observing American response to the situation. China is not worried about the Philippines’ military capability. It practically has none compared to China’s mighty naval armada and air force. But the American military is no paper tiger. If America gets involved, China will likely reconsider its options.
The United States has a legitimate interest in preventing China from using bully tactics to take over the energy and marine resources of the countries in the area. It can enter into partnerships with the Philippines and other countries in the area for its own energy needs. Political stability and peace in the region are also preserved with the United States using its military might in maintaining the balance of power and keeping the sea lanes open.
Last year, on June 11, 2011, the US Senate passed a resolution condemning China’s increasing use of force against smaller countries in the area and affirmed the US’ willingness to use its military might against Chinese aggression.
For diplomatic and other reasons, the US has to announce that it cannot take sides in the conflict between the Philippines and China. However, American policy makers are aware that U.S. interests compel its continued alliance and goodwill with countries in the region. Standing by doing nothing while China gobbles up the resources of neighbouring countries sets a bad precedent and encourages China to be bolder in carrying on more bullying military adventurisms.
It is unfortunate that the Chinese government is resorting to these gorilla tactics to rob smaller nations of their valuable energy and marine resources. While the global community should rightfully be happy for the people of China who went through so much suffering before the present prosperity – China should not pursue continuous economic well-being at the expense of weaker nations.
What should Filipinos do against the onslaught of China’s threat and use of military might?
It would not be prudent to confront China militarily. That would be like David confronting Goliath without his slingshot or like a poodle confronting a tiger. But there are other ways to fight.
Everyone knows that China’s intrusion into Philippine territory is motivated by its thirst for oil. Any decent human being knows that it is immoral to steal property that belongs to another especially when the use of force is involved. It is immoral when individuals do it. It is likewise immoral when nations do it.
What the Philippines needs to do is seek the support of other nations and press the United Nations to seek a resolution of this trespassing and stealing of resources issue. Alone, the Philippines is weak. But together with other nations in condemning China’s immoral attempts at territorial grab, the Philippines can be strong.
The world must be made aware of China’s immoral adventurism and of her attempt to steal the patrimony of other nations through threats or actual use of its military might. The Philippines must wage a relentless campaign with the global community in condemning China’s disrespect of other nations’ property rights. China must also realise that it gains more respect and friends by respecting other nations.
In line with this important objective of defending Philippine territory and resources, the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG) and supporters have organised a worldwide protest against Chinese intrusion into Philippine waters. On May 11, 2012, at 11:30 A.M., protest demonstrations will be held in front of different Chinese Embassies and Consulates around the world.
Now is the time for all good Filipinos to show genuine concern for the Philippines. Preserving the country’s energy and marine resources can mean a brighter future for millions of Filipinos.
- CCTV anchor ‘claims’ Philippines for China (chinadailymail.com)
- Chinese Goverment denies army at ‘combat readiness’ (chinadailymail.com)
- Filipinos Rally Against China’s Claim to Shoal – New York Times (nytimes.com)
Global Nation Note: Atty. Laguatan is honoured by the California State Bar as one of only 29 lawyers officially certified continuously for more than 20 years as an Expert-Specialist in Immigration Law.