FIRING LINE: A lesson from Indonesia

FIRING LINE: A lesson from Indonesia

By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

We should look to our neighbor Indonesia in admiration after it protected its territorial waters successfully from Chinese intrusion. It is a feat that our country still has to achieve since the government refuses to invoke our legal victory in the West Philippine Sea.

Indonesia’s armed forces recently reported that Chinese ships encroaching on the vicinity of the Natuna Islands in the South China Sea had left the area.

Based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Indonesia, like the Philippines, has exclusive rights to its resources up to 200 nautical miles from the islands.

China’s nine-dash line claim, which the arbitral tribunal in The Hague invalidated in its July 2016 decision, goes beyond Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) from the Natuna Islands.

Indonesia filed a diplomatic protest over the presence of a Chinese coast guard vessel suspected to be engaged in illegal and unregulated fishing activities in the Natuna waters.

But how did Indonesia drive China away from its waters? First, it posted on its website the July 2016 ruling, which the Philippines won in the West Philippine Sea, indicating that China’s historical claims are not legal.

Indonesia then ordered 120 fishers to operate in the Natuna waters in response to China’s infiltration of its EEZ. They were told to exercise their rights as citizens, defend their country, and show that the waters belong to them.

The Indonesian military also deployed fighter jets and eight warships to patrol their islands apart from the earlier deployment of around 600 personnel from their navy, army, and air force to regularly patrol the area.

More importantly, both military and fishermen had the support of their president, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who visited the islands to distribute land certificates to locals and meet hundreds of fishermen.

Indonesian military then reported that after Jokowi’s visit, Chinese vessels left the area.

Opposite to Jokowi’s reaction, our President Digong has been consistent in his position that the Phiippines is not equipped to go to war with China.

He maintained that since our armed forces are inferior to that of China, his “soldiers would be wiped out, and it would be a massacre”.

Digong ought to take a lesson or two from Jokowi.

*             *             *

Suddenly, I remembered what Nigerian poet and satirist Michael Bassey Johnson wrote: “No matter how tiny you look, you can lead huge men if you have what the huge men don’t have.”

*              *              *

SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at

Leave a Reply