China at the Spratlys

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By Ver F. Pacete

As I See It

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


WE SEEM to agree (again) that there will be U.S. military bases and stations in the Philippines. We are reminded of the 1947 Military Bases Agreement signed by Manuel A. Roxas and Paul V. McNutt. The accord had a life span of 99 years. The two biggest military installations in the country were Clark Air Base in Pampanga and the Subic Naval Base in Zambales.

On Sept. 16, 1991, the Philippine Senate rejected a treaty that would allow an extension of the stay of the U.S. bases in the Philippines. During that time, we believed that we do not need the American forces in our soil. We want to uphold the sovereignty of our national territory. We believe we could protect our national economy and patrimony. That was my belief also. It was a popular sentiment also that the U.S. bases in our country would pose a threat to national security. During World War II, Japan bombed Camp John Hay in Baguio City.

Why do we entertain the idea that it is best if the American bases are here again? Is it because of China’s growing military presence? Is it because of the perceived Cold War? We cannot hide our thoughts in our shadows. Our military and economy are weak. We cannot sustain our national pride. We need the coat of Uncle Sam as our mantle of protection. That is not reality but that could be a dream. At least, Filipinos still dream.

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Who lured the Chinese to be there at our Spratlys? Our government is the answer. In 2002, the U.S. was strongly backing us to be an active member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). During that time, America already knew that China was a rising dragon. That dragon was ready to devour dozens of isles in the South China Sea. Vietnam, Philippines and China made claims that they own the area (in part if not as whole). The Philippines wanted to play a stellar role. It prodded Asean and China to sign an agreement, a “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.”

The bright guys in our government thought that their master stroke would stop China from growing horns in the South China Sea. We could not be certain on what really happened but after two years, Juan de la Cruz divorced with Asean on its stand and decided to deal with China alone. It was a rush decision. Barry Wain reported an observation in “Far Eastern Economic Review” (January-February 2008) something that could be of interest to us.

“President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s hurried trip to China in late 2004 produced a major surprise. Among the draft of agreements ceremoniously signed by the two countries was one providing for their oil companies to join a seismic study in the contentious South China Sea, a project that caused consternation in part of Southeast Asia.”

Wain added also that the Philippines made breathtaking concessions in agreeing to the area for study, including parts of its own continental shelf not even claimed by China. Through its actions, Manila has given certain legitimacy to China’s legally spurious “historic claim” to most of the South China Sea. Now, who is feeding the Spratlys to the dragon? Ask PGMA for the answer.

The Philippines (forgive me) played a Judas role here by signing a pact with the dragon contrary to what Uncle Sam and the Asean block expected. It is just like saying, “The Philippines ceded its territory to Chinese exploration.” The exploration agreement was a top secret but accidental leak can always happen. No secret remains a secret forever . . . even Pandora’s Box can be opened.

Barry Wain wrote, “For years China and the Philippines kept the details of the exploration agreement secret. The designated zone, a vast swathe of ocean off Palawan in the Southern Philippines, thrusts into the Spratlys and abuts Malampaya, a Philippine producing -gas field. One sixth of the entire area, closest to the Philippine coastline, is outside the claims by China.

Is this not dangerous? This is very, very dangerous. The danger is now upon us. PNoy’s government here may want to become a hero. We want to modernize our Armed Forces of the Philippines. We want to buy new jet fighters, helicopters, or we may even dream of having nuclear submarines to protect our sovereignty. Those who came ahead of PNoy brought closer the mouth of the dragon to our country.

Why did past government allow virtual foreign incursions in our occupied (though disputed) islands and also in our territorial shelf? Billions my friends, billions.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 25, 2014.

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