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Politics & Law

Manila stuns the world by standing up to Beijing

Soldiers in Philippines US Joint Training Exercise

Gone are the banquets extolling the “golden age” of Sino-Philippine relations that had marked the past decade. Instead, relations today have sunk to an all-time low with armed vessels from both states staking out Scarborough Shoal – a tiny atoll in the South China Sea that sinks at high tide except for one rocky outcrop – which both say is theirs.

What has caught the world by surprise is the refusal of the Philippines – whose most powerful warship is a second world war-vintage former US destroyer – to cave in to China’s demand to leave the atoll 220 kilometres west of Luzon, even if the face-off was described by former Philippine foreign minister Domingo Siazon as “between an elephant and an ant”.

Observers point to three main reasons for Manila’s tougher stance towards Beijing. Foremost was the sea change in Washington’s attitude to getting involved in the South China Sea dispute, Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms told the South China Morning Post.

He noted that last year the US announced that Asia would be the fulcrum or pivot of its foreign policy. “This places the Philippines in a geo-strategic role. Remember, the presence of US bases here gave the US a strategic advantage in conducting its wars in Vietnam and Korea.”

He added: “As China raises the ante, the Philippines has no choice but to strengthen US ties.”

Yesterday, in ceremonies marking the end of the yearly Balikatan military exercises involving US and Philippine forces, Manila’s military chief Lieutenant General Jesse Dellosa told US Ambassador Harry Thomas: “As we bring our shared history of co-operation into the future, it is paramount that we agree on synchronising our structured responses, protocols and mechanisms to scenarios and situations in areas of common concern and mutual interest.” Teresita Ang See, president of the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies and an influential leader in Manila’s ethnic Chinese community, believes Washington has encouraged Manila’s defiance. “I really see the US hand behind it,” she said.

The second factor was the belief by Philippine officials that China was bent on grabbing territory from Manila because of possible oil and gas deposits. “If we don’t watch out, Scarborough Shoal could go the way of Mischief Reef” which Beijing seized from Manila nearly 20 years ago, warned Lauro Baja, a retired Philippine permanent representative to the United Nations.

“We failed to take what I call aggressive action then,” Baja told the Post as he expressed regret over what had happened during his watch.

This lesson is not lost on the present government. A senior government official who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “This is not being bold. We are doing what any sovereign government would do when its territory is being encroached upon by another country. Any self-respecting government would do the same.” The official added: “The truth is, there’s nothing in the Spratlys [or Nansha islands also claimed by China] but coral and endangered beautiful fish. There are no oil resources there.

“The resources are in Recto Bank which China started claiming only after the previous administration [of former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo] entered into a Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking with China in 2004,” he said.

Today, the administration of President Benigno Aquino is tendering 15 oil exploration contracts. Of these, two blocs were part of the area once covered by the undertaking, Energy Undersecretary Jose Layug confirmed. He stressed, though, that these were in northwest Palawan and well within Philippine territory. He said bids for both blocs would be awarded by July 31, despite China’s protests earlier this year at the inclusion of these areas.

Finally, two sources pointed to “cultural nuances” behind the current stand-off. Unlike former president Arroyo, who was very comfortable dealing with the Chinese, Ang said Aquino was more at home with the Americans. “He spent the best years of his life in the US. He will not exchange his hotdogs and pizza for siopao [steamed buns] and misua [noodle soup].”

Casiple agreed that both leaders had different perspectives on the Chinese. “Remember that GMA [Arroyo] had strong Chinese connections.” As a student, she founded the Philippine-China Understanding which pushed for diplomatic relations with Beijing. In contrast, he said, Aquino lived for some time in the US and the presidency of his mother, Corazon, was saved from a coup attempt by the US.

Raissa Robles
South China Morning Post

About chankaiyee2

Author of the book "Tiananmen's Tremendous Achievements" about how with the help of Tiananmen Protests, talented scholars with moral integrity seized power in the Party and state and brought prosperity to China. The second edition of the book will be published within a few days to mark the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Protests All the parts in the first edition remain in the second edition with a few changes due to information available later and better understanding. There are also some changes for improvements of style. The new parts are Chapters 12-19 on events in China after the first edition was published: The fierce power struggle for succession between reformists and conservatives; Xi Jinping winning all elders’ support during his mysterious disappearance for 2 weeks in early September, 2012; and Xi Jinping Cyclone. Chan Kai Yee's new book: SPACE ERA STRATEGY: The Way China Beats The US An eye-opening book that tells the truth how the US is losing to China. The US is losing as it adopts the outdated strategy of Air-Sea Battle while China adopts the space era strategy to pursue integrated space and air capabilities: It is losing due to its diplomacy that has given rise to Russian-Chinese alliance. US outdated strategy has enabled China to catch up and surpass the US in key weapons: Hypersonic weapons (HGV) that Pentagon regards as the weapon that will dominate the world in the future. Aerospaceplane in China’s development of space-air bomber that can engage enemy anywhere in the world within an hour and destroy an entire aircraft carrier battle group within minutes. Anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, anti-ASAT weapons, stealth aircrafts, drones, AEW&C, etc. The book gives detailed descriptions of China’s weapon development based on information mainly from Chinese sources that the author monitors closely. U.S. Must Not Be Beaten by China! China is not a democracy. Its political system cannot prevent the emergence of a despotic leader or stop such a leader when he begins to bring disasters to people. A few decades ago, Mao Zedong, the worst tyrant in world history did emerge and bring disasters to Chinese people. He wanted to fight a nuclear war to replace capitalism with communism but could not bring nuclear holocaust to world people as China was too weak and poor at that time. If a despot like Mao Zedong emerges when China has surpassed the US in military strength, world people will suffer the misery experienced by Chinese people in Mao era. China surpassing the US in GDP is not something to worry about as China has the heavy burden to satisfy its huge population, but China surpassing the US in military strength will be world people’s greatest concern if China remains an autocracy. US people are of much better quality than Chinese people. What they lack is a wise leader to adopt the correct strategy and diplomacy and the creative ways to use its resources in developing its military capabilities. I hope that with the emergence of a great leader, the US can put an end to its decline and remain number one in the world. China, US, space era strategy, air-sea battle, space-air bomber, arms race, weapon development, chan kai yee


34 thoughts on “Manila stuns the world by standing up to Beijing

  1. Reblogged this on Craig Hill.


    Posted by Craig Hill | April 29, 2012, 6:34 pm
    • Keep reporting on these important stories. I haven’t seen these in the papers I read. I was in the PI
      back during the Vietnam war and went to Hong Kong for an R & R during the Cultural Revolution. I’ve
      been following news from SEA since then.


      Posted by jackandmarilynerickson | April 29, 2012, 9:19 pm
      • I am glad that you are interested in my post. I will keep on posting.


        Posted by chankaiyee2 | April 30, 2012, 12:01 am
      • Hi..Chan Kai Yee. How do I order a copy of your book “Tienanmen’s Tremendous Achievements” Do you know of a book dealer who stock your book ? I live in Perth, Australia.


        Posted by ozivan | May 7, 2012, 9:49 pm
    • The mischievous instigator’s role of “Big Brother” has once again reared its ugly head . . . never learning from its past mistakes & defeats in the Middle East or way back in its involvement in Vietnam & Korea. Dominance is no creed for peaceful co-existence. Co-operation & respect for others’ sovereignty should always be observed.


      Posted by Paul | May 7, 2012, 8:18 am
  2. Thank you for the wonderful post!


    Posted by jennysserendipity | April 29, 2012, 9:27 pm
  3. keep us updated..


    Posted by ariel | May 1, 2012, 7:18 pm
  4. Probably the most concise, factual and unbiased article I’ve read coming from a Chinese side on this SCS issue. Good read. 🙂 Thanks.


    Posted by Jn Dureza | May 1, 2012, 7:56 pm
  5. Kindly check facts here. Currently the most powerful warship in the Philippine Navy is not a WW2 destroyer but a Hamilton Class Coast Guard cutter recently acquired from the United States. It is the BRP Gregorio del Pilar. A 2nd Coast Guard Cutter will be added this year which is the USCGC Dallas (WHEC-716).


    Posted by Michael Andaya | May 2, 2012, 8:56 am
    • Apologies for any errors; the information is received from Reuters. However, Coast Guard and Navy are possibly regarded as separate services.


      Posted by China Daily Mail | May 2, 2012, 9:10 am
      • Yes they are separate services… however I just want to let you know that the ship that faced off with 2 other Chinese vessels is a Philippine Navy ship (BRP Gregorio del Pilar) that was acquired from the U.S. Coast Guard which concurrently is the flagship of the Philippine Navy and at the same time their most powerful ship. Do your research and check facts. That’s your job as a journalist.


        Posted by Michael Andaya | May 2, 2012, 10:20 am
  6. Nice Article, im a filipino and i have been reading chinese news regarding this standoff and all i see are biased articles against my country. i feel that chinese people are misled by chinese news media. So far your articles are the most UNBIASED reporting coming from china. Keep up your good work, I hope chinese people will understand and not resort to violent means we are all asians and should work together. My country and China has a long history of friendship and trades and chinese trying to fled china during your revolutions often seek refuge to PH that we embrace with open arms such that some Filipinos actually has significant chinese ancestry. We dont want war but most of your chinese media are feeding false information that inflames the minds of your people.


    Posted by CyberPinoy | May 2, 2012, 2:25 pm
  7. good read. it has keep me informed. thanks for the article. i hope they’d come up to a peaceful compromise/understanding to prevent an unwanted and unnecessary conflict between the 2 countries.


    Posted by ningetje | May 2, 2012, 7:24 pm
  8. Reblogged this on Catholic Glasses.


    Posted by Catholic Glasses | May 6, 2012, 11:31 pm
  9. So happy to have found this article – and so important that it’s here! Thanks for sharing it with the world…somehow maybe if we all do, people will start paying attention 🙂


    Posted by Zen and Genki | May 10, 2012, 1:55 am
  10. The surge of nationalism in China has its historical background. It is not against the Philippines but against the United States. China has a century of history of being bullied by foreign powers. As a result, China is now making every effort to enhance its national strength to avoid a repetition of its sad past.

    In spite of popular indignation, Chinese elite who run the country has the wisdom to refrain from resorting to war to resolve the issue. I have given a detailed account of their thoughts and plans in my post “The Mystery of China’s Restraint in South China Sea” on May 3, 2012. The development of events proved the correctness of my prediction.

    1. Using force to resolve the issue will set China’s image as a bully in the world and cause China to be isolated.
    2. The greatest mystery: China’s plan to establish an Asian co-prosperity sphere in Asia. As I have mentioned several times the driving force behind foreign affairs is national interest. The marine area under disputes between China and the Philippines perhaps has rich oil and gas that may generate proceeds that are huge for the Philippines, but merely substantial for China with a foreign exchange reserve of US$3 trillion.

    However, for China the establishment of the Asian co-prosperity sphere will bring China much more benefits. China needs natural resources and cheep labor from its neighbors for its further development and the huge Chinese market resulting from its further development will provide great opportunity for its neighbors. What China and its neighbors will gain from the sphere will be much greater than the oil and gas in the disputed area which only covers a part of the South China Sea.

    China will never be able to establish such a sphere if China sets an image as a bully and becomes isolated.

    On the contrary, if China and the Philippines find a win-win solution to the disputes, China will have an image of a great country that considers other countries’ interests in dealing with them. It will not only facilitate accomplishment of the said plan but also contribute to its successes in Africa.


    Posted by chankaiyee2 | May 13, 2012, 10:17 am
  11. Reblogged this on oyiabrown.


    Posted by OyiaBrown | May 20, 2012, 12:39 am
    • I still hope and believe that the issue will be resolved peacefully in a win-win manner. Neither China nor the Philippines and United States will be a winner in a war. If any one tries to solve the issue by force, there will be eternal confrontation between the two sides as the loser will try to revenge whenever it is possible. A peaceful solution will be once for all.


      Posted by chankaiyee2 | May 25, 2012, 6:01 pm
  12. Chinese imperialism?


    Posted by Gnstr | May 27, 2012, 2:35 am


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