CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 23 Apr) – Skullduggery is defined by the dictionary as “sneaky, dishonest behavior; or trickery.” No better word can describe the treacherous, illegal acts of China within Philippine territory just 120 miles (192 kms.) west of Palawan.
This word used to be associated with the notorious pirate Blackbeard and other brigands in the Caribbean; and now also in Somalia where ocean-going vessels get hijacked and despoiled of their valuable cargo.
In other words, skullduggery is a pejorative term, not appropriate for describing honorable behavior or activity of a civilized or diplomatic nature.
Thus, it defies understanding why China—a nation that boasts of being noble, honorable, and an exemplar of civilized conduct—should engage in what is tantamount to brigandage. How else to describe sly thievery and land grabbing in territory that clearly belongs to the Philippines?
Far from the mainland, China is dredging sand from around the coral reefs of Spratly Islands and using it to build up land mass that they then convert into a platform for assorted structures including piers, airstrips, warehouses, and resupply stations for naval and air forces.
In other words, they are converting the area into an outpost for enforcing an illegal claim to ownership of the West Philippine Sea territory and its resources. If they get away with this, they can also claim an additional 200 miles as an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)—enough to claim or annex all of Palawan!
When our government called their attention to this illegal entry, pointing out that they are trespassing our EEZ, which accords with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), they either ignore it or arrogantly wave our officials away in a bullying manner backed by a show of force.
Today, Pinoy fishermen who sail into the waters there to fish, as they and the forefathers have done for ages, they are shooed away. Just last April 13, the Chinese coast guard attacked them with water cannons. Even when it is obvious that the fishermen are merely taking shelter from a breaking storm, their plight is ignored and treated as intruders.
China is turning out to be a bully in our regional neighborhood. Mr. Xi Jinping, just two years into his job as China’s new leader, is behaving like a terrorist, employing brute force instead of diplomacy with a friendly country like ours.
We are a peaceable country. We bear no ill-will or ill-designs towards China or Chinese in general. Our society has been a haven for Chinese expatriates—enjoying our hospitality, living and prospering from our patronage of their enterprises.
No one can deny how we have welcomed Chinese to our shores for centuries, allowing them to survive and thrive, even granting them citizenship. They have virtually unlimited access to our nation’s patrimony and natural resources.
Just this past week, it was revealed in Congress that China’s entrepreneurs hold more than 200 mining concessions/contracts throughout the Philippines.
To the Chinese Government, none of these seem to count for anything! What’s more worrisome is how they utilize the minerals they cart away from our mountains, plains, and coastal areas.
The iron, copper, silver, even gold, and other minerals they get from us may actually be used in the manufacture of munitions and other equipment that can then be employed to intimidate our citizens in areas they covet.
Last year, the Vietnamese reacted angrily to China’s attempt to establish a billion-dollar oil-drilling rig not far from Vietnam’s coast. That incident confirmed China’s economic motive for wanting to establish hegemony in the Spratly Islands.
They want to grab control of our undersea oil deposits there, as well as other marine resources which we have yet to develop for lack of industrial and financial capacity.
Not only does China pursue these mercenary objectives, it does so by showing its ugly, bullying side. And it’s no secret that there’s a military motive as well.
Satellite photos show that their frantic dredging activity (on-going for over two years now) has created three new islands already, with capacity to accommodate and service the requirements of warships. Last November, photos showed one island already 3,000 meters long and 300 meters wide, with docking facilities.
Clearly, this illegal and arrogant Chinese activity is a national security issue. And the sad thing about it is there’s not much that we can do against their military might. We need to destroy the structures before they’re completed; but we don’t have warships or fighter planes.
Sadder still, some observers say that if trouble erupts, China won’t even bother to attack the Philippines because it can rely on the support of numerous ethnic Chinese who have been here for so long and basically control all walks of life.
Yes, it cannot be denied that China enjoys the benefit of the World War II experience when Japan made use of the Japanese traders and businessmen embedded in the towns and cities as their assets and intelligence sources before and during the war.
Given the near total control by ethnic Chinese of our economy and their dominance over business and industry, plus their hold on big and small politicians, law enforcers, and even the underworld, would it be a problem for China to take over or control the Philippines?
This is a question that our brother Chinoys would do well to ponder in view of developments in the West Philippine Sea…and make haste to reassure us about where they stand on this pesky issue.
[Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, Development Academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Government’s Peace Panel; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. Author of books on governance, he is chairman/convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc. [email protected] ]