Artemio Panganiban in his Inquirer piece today “Knowing what drives China in SCS” provides an informative summary of the historical background of the claims by parties in the South China Sea. He sets the theme with a very important context…
To begin with, China avows a long and glorious history that rivals Egypt and its pharaohs, and Greece and its Olympic gods. From the mid-1800s up to the mid-1900, however, China experienced a harrowing decay that forced her to accept shameful, one-sided treaties and the cruel treatment of its nationals. To the traditional Chinese, losing face is worse than losing life.
Seeing things from that perspective makes it easier to see why China is working hard to gain back ground lost over a timeframe most Filipinos fail to grasp. It possesses the might to aggressively work towards achieving that aspiration but, as Panganiban points out, China remains “surrounded by unfriendly and hostile neighbors: Russia on its north; former Soviet republics on its west; India and Vietnam on its south; and Japan, South Korea, and its renegade “province” of Taiwan (all three have defense agreements with the US) on its east.”
What’s significant is Vietnam has the most garrisons in the contested islands but still is not as belligerent to China as what one would have expected. Vietnam has experienced actual conflict with China in the Paracels in the late 70s and actual border conflict on land in the 80s. They understand they’re at a disadvantage so they tread carefully. Vietnam’s foreign policy is aligned in a similar manner as other ASEAN member countries. They prefer to stay within the umbrella of the regional agrrupation. It does not make any sense not to.
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This makes you wonder why the Opposition led by former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario keep on pushing for a belligerent stand against China as was the posture during the administration of former President Noynoy Aquino. That didn’t get us anywhere. It didn’t even gain us brownie points with Uncle Sam in terms of defense materiel and equipment. All we got was another refurbished coast guard cutter and a marine exploration vessel.
What Carpio doesn’t make public is their intent to bring the country back into the US orbit to serve as its mouthpiece in the region. This doesn’t offer any strategic advantage in terms of the the economy and defense. China is now our biggest trading partner in terms of exports and imports. The economy would be the first to suffer. Filipino domestics in Hong Kong would be affected by stricter regulations if China turns the screws on us.
Carpio’s fight is not about sovereignty but more the interests of Manny Pangilinan in oil and gas exploration in the Recto Bank. Carpio’s constant tirades against the administration has the goal of having the public elect a President who would be favorable to his patrons interests. Carpio has no genuine concern for the Filipino people at all.
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