Thursday, May 13, 2021

How A Tiny Philippines Is Aggressively Standing Up To The Dragon As Territorial Dispute Worsens With China?

Philippines’ Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jnr blasted off China on Twitter on Monday amidst rising Chinese aggression in the Filipino territory of the South China Sea.

Locsin had called China an “ugly oaf” and demanding it “get the f*** out” of Philippine waters. He had called out China’s intentions to make the Philippines a “Chinese province.”

In 2013, the Philippines had taken China to court over the latter’s ‘nine-dash line’ concept infringing on the former’s territorial and sovereign rights after Chinese warships surrounded Scarborough Shoal. The Shoal is about 120 nautical miles from the Philipino coast, well within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The Permanent Court of Arbitration had ruled in favor of the Philippines’ right under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. But China rejected the ruling and has increased its presence in the South China Sea since then.

While Duterte had been trying to cozy up to Beijing since coming to power, those within his administration don’t seem to share the same sentiments. China’s unwillingness to respect Filipino boundaries might have pushed the latter more towards the US.

Duterte had tried cutting ties with the US, probably hoping that it would ease Chinese pressure.

Last year, Duterte had announced his intention to terminate the US-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). But he later reversed this decision by adding extensions to the termination while publicly throwing light on Chinese infractions in the South China Sea.

The EurAsian Time had earlier reported that the Philippines and the US had carried out their annual two-week joint military exercise, Balikatan last month signaling that their VFA is not being terminated.

US Support To Philippines

The Biden administration has also reiterated its firm stand against Chinese aggression against its neighbors.

“An armed attack against the Philippines’ armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific, including in the South China Sea, will trigger our obligations under the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

The Mutual Defense Treaty, signed by the Philippines and the US in 1951, states the two countries will come to each other’s defense in case their metropolitan areas or territories in the Pacific are attacked by a foreign force.

The US has also conducted a number of freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea to counter Chinese claims. A free and open Indo-Pacific is the aim of the US-led QUAD bloc.

Like India, the Philippines also regulates or prohibits foreign military activities in the EEZ. This has the potential to bring the Philippines at loggerheads with not only China but also the US. The latter had performed freedom of navigation operations in Indian EEZ about a month ago, sparking Indian ire.

Last month, there were also multiple reports of the Chinese ‘maritime militia‘ intimidating Filipino boats. Analysts that China uses fishing vessels equipped with sophisticated communication and GPS technology to augment the PLA navy and to threaten smaller neighbors at sea while preventing conventional war.

About 200 Chinese vessels had entered Whitsun Reef, around 175 nautical miles from the Filipino coast in early March and it has been difficult for the Philippine navy to push back all of them. 

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