By: Artchil B. Fernandez
AS THE country celebrated its 121st independence on June 12, 2019, a grotesque incident reminds Filipinos of the current state of Philippine independence. A Chinese vessel rammed a Filipino fishing boat at Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea. After sinking the Filipino boat, the Chinese abandoned the twenty-two fishermen to the mercy of the sea. It was a classic hit-and-run incident.
Fortunately, a Vietnamese vessel was in the vicinity and rescued the Filipino fishermen.
The action of the Chinese is deplorable and reprehensible on several grounds. From a humanitarian perspective, the Chinese act is brazenly uncivilized and inhumane. It is bad enough that they sank the fishing boat of Filipinos. Leaving the victims behind, possibly to die reveals that the Chinese who did this are heartless, with no conscience and have no semblance of being human. They are plain murderers, monsters.
Legally, the Chinese vessel has no business being in Recto Bank. Recto Bank (internationally known as Reed Bank) lies within the 370-km Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Philippines. The 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, which invalidated China’s claim in the West Philippine Sea, recognized Philippine ownership of the bank.
The Chinese vessel was encroaching on Philippine territory and the Chinese crews have committed a crime. It was attempted murder.
Recently, China flooded the area with its maritime militia that militias pretend to be fishermen and harass non-Chinese boats. They have been spotted lately surrounding Pag-asa Island, the biggest island in the area and the seat of the municipality of Kalaya-an. Their presence is obviously to intimidate Filipinos living there.
The murder attempt against 22 Filipino fishermen indicates China is stepping up the pressure and is bringing its harassment of Filipinos to the next level. China is not content anymore with intimidation; it is now resorting to “accidentally” killing Filipino fishermen. It means that “scoundrel” China has become a rogue nation.
Some Filipino officials condemned the latest Chinese transgression in the West Philippine Sea.
“We denounce the actions of the Chinese fishing vessel for immediately leaving the incident scene abandoning the 22 Filipino crewmen to the mercy of the elements,” and incensed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said. “We condemn in the strongest terms the cowardly action of the Chinese fishing vessel and its crew for abandoning the Filipino crew. This is not the expected action from a responsible and friendly people,” he added.
“We don’t treat our friends like that and we don’t expect to be treated that way either,” Senator Panfilo Lacson said. “Nothing short of a hard and serious punitive action by the Chinese leadership against the Chinese Coast Guard crew responsible for the cowardly act against unarmed fishermen could assuage the majority of our countrymen’s strong apprehension about the sincerity of China toward us.”
This is what the Philippines got from being friendly with China. The latest incident is the price the country is paying for Du30’s pivot to China. The growing boldness of China in harming Filipinos in the West Philippine Sea is rooted in Du30’s defeatist attitude in dealing with China and for parroting the Chinese line.
Philippines won a great legal and moral victory in its case in the PCA against China. Instead of asserting that victory, Du30 set it aside in exchange for Chinese loans. To justify his treachery, Du30 swallowed the Chinese line that the war is the alternative course of action aside from capitulation.
War is not the alternative in defending Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea as Du30 wants Filipinos to believe. There are many options available for the Philippines. Rallying the international community to support the PCA ruling is one option for the country. International law holds and maintains the global order and China cannot brush it aside if it wants to be seen as a responsible member of the community of nations.
Du30 and China are lying when they told Filipinos to surrender since war is the only way to resolve the issue. Truth is, China is fearful of war for once it starts as the outcome is unpredictable. It could also lead to China’s own destruction.
Reviewing the last three years since Du30 surrendered to China and became its puppet, Filipinos gained nothing but lost more. Du30’s cowardly behavior only emboldened China to steal Philippine territory and harass Filipino fishermen in the area. Du30’s betrayal allowed China to build and militarize artificial islands inside Philippine territory.
After gaining permanent foothold on Philippine territory, assisted by Du30 silence and cowardice, China intensified its intimidation and harassment of Filipinos, especially local fishermen whose livelihoods depend in that part of the country. With Du30 tightly leashed, China is now trying to prevent Filipinos from making a living in Philippine territory by threatening them with death. The latest hit-and-run incident is just the beginning of a new and deadly Chinese aggression.
In its long and tragic history: foreign powers were able to conquer the Philippines aided no less by Filipino traitors. The silent Chinese invasion is no different, this time the collaborator is in the center of power. Celebrating Philippine independence in this context is shallow. How can Filipinos truly claim to be free when a rogue nation has taken away the country’s sovereignty with the help of their leaders?
Emilio Aguinaldo is very much alive.