China’s true intentions

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

ARE we seeing a case of one hand extended in friendship and the other holding a dagger?

China, in a rather delayed reaction to the humanitarian crisis in typhoon-ravaged areas in most of Eastern Visayas, dispatched their giant hospital ship to Leyte to minister to the medical needs of survivors of Yolanda. Meanwhile, its recent foreign policy actuations leave little doubt on the inevitability of their applying to the West Philippine Sea the same provocative air defense zone policy that they are now enforcing in the East China Sea. They probably would not even wait for their hospital ship to pull out of Philippine territory before they’d do that.

A report in The Guardian yesterday said China has rejected the United Nations (UN) arbitration process over its territorial dispute with the Philippines. The British newspaper said the step was highly unusual. True, but it was not unanticipated. In fact, as early as in February, this year, China has already indicated, through a diplomatic letter to the Philippines, that it will not participate in arbitration.

The Guardian noted that last week China sent its only aircraft carrier to the disputed waters off the Philippine coast for the first time, indicating an “aggressive approach towards its neighbors over a 2,000-mile stretch that also includes the East China Sea, over which it declared the air defense identification zone.”

Made two weeks ago, the declaration heightened tensions between China and Japan, which are also involved in a similar territorial dispute over a tiny island known as Sensaku to the Japanese and Diaoyu in China. The US promptly sent its military bombers over the disputed air space in a show of defiance as well as solidarity with Japan but has since softened its position in advising commercial aircraft to abide by the new US policy.

China’s lack of hesitation in applying aggression against an economic power like Japan is fair warning to us that a similar move is imminent in the air space over the West Philippine Sea. The deployment of the aircraft carrier, Liaoning, accompanied by two destroyers and two frigates, in Philippine coastal waters betray Chinese intentions.

What can we do against such shameless provocation?

Obviously, we cannot confront the Chinese militarily. Against China’s mighty army, our armed forces are so puny, not even the Biblical story about David slaying Goliath can provide assurance or comfort.

Our only chance was in arbitration but even that China has taken away, knowing that logic and the law are against them. The American attorney that our government hired to handle our case before the tribunal said China’s blank refusal to submit to the jurisdiction of the UN in resolving the issue “marked the first time a state had ever refused to take part in an inter-state arbitration under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.” Trust the Chinese to do the unprecedented in pursuit of its expansionist agenda.

Still, the Philippines will submit its formal case to the UN arbitration tribunal of judges, which will hear the case in The Hague in March, the Guardian reported. Under the Unclos, the tribunal is still required to rule on our country’s complaint even if China does not participate, the newspaper explained.

But even if we win the case against China, what purpose will it serve? Even the Philippine government’s American lawyer has conceded that with China’s boycott of the proceedings, “there is no way of enforcing the ruling.”

By way of consolation our lawyer pointed out that “(t)here is a price to be paid for branding yourself an international outlaw–a state that does not comply with the rules.”

As if China cares.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 08, 2013.


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