China believes itself as the owner of the area in the South China Sea (SCS) under its 9 dash line claim.
The Philippines have also laid ownership claim to some islands in the SCS in addition to its Exclusive Economic Zone claim covered by that area which it named as the West Philippine Sea.
Both the Philippines & China have conflicting sovereignty & maritime claims over islands, reefs & bodies of water.
To complicate matters, claimants such as Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia & Brunei have also laid claim to some areas of the South China Sea.
What now ?
We must understand that the perspective by the Governments, the Military and the People of the different countries are based on each of the country’s national interest & pride.
Of late, China has aggressively asserted its claim over areas it believes it owns when it took control of uninhabited areas in the SCS by building artificial islands & occupying them.
For us Filipinos, it naturally pains us to see that territories whom we believe as rightfully owned by the Philippines is & has been newly occupied & controlled by China.
On the other hand, we also need to understand on how the Government, the Military & the People of the other countries think when they see us Filipinos controlling areas in the SCS whom they believe as rightfully theirs.
From our point of view as Filipinos, the apparent soft approach to China’s aggressive moves in the SCS by our Pres. Rodrigo R. Duterte (PRRD) appears as weak & a continued embarrassment to our national pride.
Trying to understand the position adopted by PRRD in his dealings with China albeit unpopular is a position that PRRD is willing to adopt for national interest because of his belief that China is willing to go to war in the event that the Philippines will aggressively oppose China’s territorial expansion in the SCS.
I remember the low relations of the Philippines with China in the latter part of the Aquino Administration where China have implemented restrictions to some Philippine Agricultural products, its restriction to the visit of Chinese tourists to the Philippines, its aggressive restriction in the movements of our Filipino fishermen in the conflicted areas in the SCS.
Short of war, is the Philippines economically prepared to cut ties with China ?
What will happen to our OFWs in China & Hong Kong ? What will happen to the Chinese investments in the Philippines ? What will the Philippines do with the chinese nationals in the country ?
In the event of a shooting war, can the Philippines win even with the assistance of the United States with whom we have a Mutual Defense Treaty ? At what price will the Philippines victory be ? At what consequence will the Philippines defeat be ?
I personally remember our President saying that he would not allow the Philippines to become a battleground of the superpowers.
Yet, despite that sentiment by PRRD, we have a defense treaty obligation with the United States. A war by either of the Philippines & the U.S. could drag the other.
There are many possible scenarios to the SCS issue.
An ideal & achievable scenario for the Philippines is for both the Philippines & China to have a Code of Conduct in the SCS and do joint-economic development in our common areas.
Alas, I pray for China to choose not to treat the Philippines as a weaker country to be bullied but rather to treat us Filipinos as real friends.
Dear China, let us choose friendship.