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LIFE MATTERS: The Real Issue in the West Philippine Sea

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By Col. Dencio Acop (Ret), PhD

The West Philippine Sea issue is not about the Philippines siding with China or the US. It is about standing for Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity upheld by the rule of law. I came across the position advanced by President Duterte and his minions demonizing the US while praising China. The apologetics in favor of China at the expense of long-time ally the US seemed so strange coming from a national leader who is witnessing China’s creeping invasion of his country. There is no more glaring evidence to this than the permanent presence of so many unwelcome Chinese vessels in our Exclusive Economic Zone in the West Philippine Sea.

China is dominating the Philippines in every possible way and in a manner that the US never did. The attributions denigrating the US while edifying China are in fact the other way around. I wrote an article entitled ‘Understanding China: Its Strengths and Weaknesses’. The conclusion of that article after weighing all evidences seen globally is that the new world order envisioned by China will actually lead to war, possibly even the expected Third Great War. In fact, anyone who understands the gray area operations of the Marxist-Leninist approach will readily recognize that the world as engaged by China is already at war. Xi Jinping is the 21st Century’s Hitler. While the Western democracies championed the human person’s pursuit of happiness and self-determination, China’s proposed new world order is anchored on a dominance by force and through fear. Its Belt and Road Initiative alone has already managed to antagonize every partner China engaged with. How can the world adopt a new world order that hates than loves. The same claim thrown by the Duterte administration against the US. Only that in truth it is the other way around.

Now, let us address point by point the President’s claims. First, he said that if we choose the US, we choose war. Because the US allegedly sells arms and has repeatedly been in wars. But truth is, all arms manufacturers and distributors naturally sell arms. Including China. We cannot blame the US for being in wars for that is the fate of all superpowers since before Christ. In fact, China is making its own wars now as it aspires for global dominance. But if we look at developments in the West Philippine Sea, it is China that is fanning the flames of war as it does with Taiwan. It is China that has 287 maritime vessels in our EEZ where it is widely believed that these are in fact militia vessels and therefore armed. If armed foreign vessels force their presence into an area of sovereignty by another country, the act is one of aggression and may be addressed by the offended nation as an act of war. The logical thing to do is ask the foreign vessels to leave and have them inspected for arms. If it is proven that arms are on board unwelcome foreign vessels within our waters, that is a clear violation of international law and the international community of nations can intervene. The problem is that President Duterte shifted our multilateral engagement (Arbitral Award) to a bilateral one with China thus putting us to a great disadvantage. But truth is any armed attack on the Philippines also constitutes an attack on the United States by virtue of the Mutual Defense Treaty. It will also automatically invite intervention from the United Nations as all three nations involved are signed members.

Second point made was that China exports different quality products (from consumer items to infrastructure) while the US sells only inferiorly manufactured arms. Whoever advised the President into saying this is poorly informed and inaccurately biased. The US has for many years exported to the Philippines almost all kinds of products, arms included. The general quality of imported US products has been known to be excellent that is why Filipinos developed the ‘stateside’ mentality preferring US-made products over other imports including domestic products. On the other hand, Chinese products, while relatively inexpensive, have also proven to be inferiorly made, even counterfeits. As China is known to be very good at imitating original products thereby suffering frequent copyright infringement and intellectual property lawsuits.

Third point said was that ‘the US likes to create hatred, turmoil, war, deceptive investments, and then take a lot of wealth back to the United States or the American dream’. If I were not educated and widely read, I probably could be deceived by such statement however brazenly a lie. Fact is that the more credible parts of the claim are probably true. Only that they actually pertain more to China than the US. Just take a look at what is happening within the Philippines today courtesy of China. There are lots of duplicity and deception creating confusion leading to anarchy and chaos. We once had a mining client in Davao Oriental and I saw how Chinese operators mined our minerals and ore straight back to China without regard to local laws, livelihood opportunities, and sustainable development for us Filipinos.

Fourth assertion was that ‘Americans like to promote their democracy and human rights everywhere when in fact it is a truly evil country, human rights violator, and anti-democracy’. Again, if I were not educated and widely read, I may be deceived. The human rights records of both the United States and China are well-documented. Anyone who takes time to read will easily find the claim untrue. Moreover, the US as a democracy is transparent with its human rights records while China hasn’t been. How can a centralized regime, which puts priority in the Chinese Communist Party over individual citizens, be too revealing when it does not trust its own people? How can a democracy be anti-democracy? It purely does not make sense. But authoritarian communism being anti-democracy sounds more like it!

Fifth assertion made is that the US cannot coexist with China because while the latter wants peace, the former creates chaos so it can promote its war policy. And that China merely wants peaceful coexistence through trade, science and technology. Again, the statement is so full of China but biased against the US. China itself is not a peaceful nation. Even if it has rarely been the aggressor in the past (because today it is clearly the aggressor in the Philippines, Taiwan, and throughout the South China Sea), its history does not mean it was devoid of wars. Only that China has not won them that is why its ego is bruised and wants payback from the world. What do we call China’s war-like tendencies in the West Philippine Sea? Being the commander-in-chief, President Duterte should be the first to know. Because it is his chief responsibility and accountability on behalf of the Filipino people.

Sixth point claimed is that ‘China’s path is mutually beneficial and win-win, while Americans just like to walk their own path’. Again, the records of dealings with other countries over the years by China and the United States are well-documented for the world to see. I honestly cannot see how China’s dominance and actions over the Philippines can be construed to be ‘win-win’. From all accounts, it is a ‘win-lose’ in favor of China. That is what a bilateral relationship does unlike that of a multilateral engagement. In the former, the bigger more powerful state can bully the smaller weaker other. But in a multilateral engagement, other countries can come to the defense of the weaker state as in the 2016 Arbitral Award and potential support from the United Nations and the United States. In the current bilateral relationship with China, it is China that is exhibiting ‘it just likes to walk its own path’. Again, take a look out to the West Philippine Sea. Certainly, Filipinos do not have a say to China’s forced occupation and claims to their maritime assets.

Finally, President Duterte, on behalf of China, said ‘China is absolutely capable of building human justice and conscience towards a true community of human destiny. I honestly do not know what the President is talking about here because all I can see is the lack of a sense of justice and conscience from China. One of the real problems associated with communism is its atheistic character which puts it beyond the bounds of any moral code that has always been part of our Filipino heritage. All our legal codes are actually inspired first by our moral code. These codes have always defined our culture, social norms, and way of life. They are who we are as a race and people. Our manifest destiny. Now I really do not know what this other destiny is that the President always enthusiastically endorses on the matter of China. As things begin to unfold, there seem to be less and less room for the beloved country we once knew.

#LifeMatters #OurCountryMatters

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