On this day, Filipinos spread out all over the world are holding peaceful demonstrations to protest the continuing acts of aggression by China in Scarborough Shoal that is part of Philippine territory.
Since the stand-off at Scarborough Shoal began over a month ago, the Chinese government has kept insisting on its “historic rights” to Scarborough and other areas that are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, while refusing the Philippine government’s offer to raise the issue for mediation in the proper international tribunals, as provided for by several global conventions and agreements, mainly, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS.
At the same time, China has repeatedly warned the Philippine government against moves that could “escalate” the tension or “internationalize” the conflict—a classic case of speaking from both sides of the mouth because it has no qualms about flaunting its military superiority and has, of last count, kept maritime surveillance vessels CMS 75 and 81, and the fisheries patrol vessel FLEC 310, alongside 30 Chinese fishing boats at Scarborough.
China takes offense that, while hapless Filipino fishermen venture out to sea once more, the Philippine Coast Guard maintains one boat in the area along with a Bureau of Fisheries vessel. China has signalled a readiness to harass and shoo away Filipino fishermen, who for centuries have drawn life from the bounty of the seas off Masinloc in the province of Zambales.
We cannot let pass this series of objectionable actions by China, a supposedly law-abiding member of the community of nations, or risk validating our giant Asian neighbor’s misplaced proprietary sense and embolden it to take further aggressive action—not only against the Philippines, but also against other small neighbors as well.
Let it be clear to all that the Filipino people have no quarrel with their Chinese brothers and sisters, with whom they share centuries of good relations. Many Filipinos of Chinese descent have helped build, and continue to build, our nation. Our protest is directed at the overbearing actions and stance of the government in Beijing, which behaves like an arrogant overlord, even in the homes of its neighbors.
The bounty of the seas—be it in Zambales, or in Recto Bank, or the small islands in the West Philippine Sea where Filipino communities have been growing—is not only for people to benefit from, but also to conserve. And the community of nations, mainly through the UN, have laid down clear guidelines for the conduct of all peoples seeking to harness economic wealth from nature. That is why all must live by set codes, in a rules-based setting at all times.
All we ask is for the Chinese government to respect the rights of its neighbors, even while it needs to assert its national interest. If it continues on this path of obstinate bullying, it will only have itself to blame for the consequences of its folly.