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TURNING POINT: Avoiding another War Theater

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NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 26 October)—A month earlier China announced the expansion of its territorial waters by adding another line to its 9-line map. The countries bordering the South China Sea were aghast by the provocative move, which is an outrageous defiance of the 2016 ruling of the Arbitration Tribunal of Hague. The Tribunal declared baseless and invalid the self-serving 9-line Chinese invention.

To advance their interest the Chinese must have thought that because the sea of controversy bears the name China since known times, it, therefore, historically belongs to them. China refuses to acknowledge that its name is simply used by ancient cartographers as a reference point in map making being the known imperial power in the region at time past.

For instance, a world map now has also Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, and Sea of Japan among others; but none of these countries never ever dream of claiming the sea that bear their names as their own.

Humiliated, perhaps, by the Hague ruling, China is honing its aggression towards the Philippines as this is the only country that stood on its way anent its claim over the entire South China Sea. It swamps the exclusive economic zone of the country with Chinese maritime militia-fishing vessels that have destructively exploited the marine resources in the area under the heavy protection of Chinese Coast Guards (CCG).

In several occasions, Filipino fishers were forcibly driven away by the CCG from their fishing operations in West Philippine Sea, at times, confiscating their catch. Once, a fishing boat was deliberately rammed and destroyed by a bigger Chinese boat leaving the Filipino crew flailing in the waters. The Chinese even installed floating barriers along Bajo de Masinloc to stop the entry of Filipino fishers into their traditional fishing grounds.

Philippine ships ferrying supplies to the country’s marine station, the grounded BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal, have repeatedly been blocked and water-cannoned by the CCG.

The tension in the area flared up lately when one of the Philippine contracted supply boats, Unaiza May 2, was hit by one of the CCG vessels that made reckless blocking maneuvers. The incident occurred last Saturday, October 21, around 6 o’clock in the morning at approximately 13.5 nautical miles east-northeast of the Sierra Madre.

Not long after, in that supply mission, the PCG BRP Cabra (MRRV-4409), one of the escort vessels to the supply boats, was also bumped by a Chinese Maritime Militia vessel, approximately 6.4 nautical miles northeast of Ayungin Shoal. Nonetheless, The Unaiza May 1 supply boat managed to reach the Sierra Madre.

It should be noted that the Philippine Armed Forces has to engage lighter boats to ferry supplies and fresh personnel to its maritime station in Ayungin Shoal because the place is shallow and cannot be navigated by a naval vessel. The Chinese obstruction of the supply lines to the Philippines’ longstanding marine outpost is blatant interference with the country’s lawful maritime operations.

The Chinese justified their maneuvers as concomitant to their law enforcement in their claimed territorial waters, an assertion that has no leg to stand on.

The Chinese bullying should stop. There ought to be an end to the endless diplomatic protest; it hasn’t dented the Chinese pride and mellowed its aggression. It is futile. It’s high time for the government to condemn to high heavens the unlawful and dangerous provocations of China and bring the matter to the attention of an appropriate international court.

The Chinese provocative aggression undermines regional stability. This hot spot in South China Sea needs to simmer down. No right-minded people want another war theater in our time.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental.)

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