JR Lopez Gonzales 4:38 PM 5
“This is Chinese Warship 560. You are in the China territory. Leave the area immediately…‘I will shoot you’”.
Upon hearing this warning through the marine band radio, the three Philippine boats fishing in Quirino (Jackson) atoll, scampered away.
After a short while, the Chinese missile frigate Dongguan, fired three shots at the vessels F/V Jaime DLS, F/V Mama Lydia DLS and F/V Maricris 12. One of the boats had to cut its anchor lines in order to flee from what it sensed was imminent danger.Ringing projectiles hit the surface of the water 0.3 nautical miles away from the position of the Philippine fishing boats.
This was the scenario last February in the hotly-contested area of the Spratlys. It is a group of reefs, islets, atolls, cays and islands in the South China Sea between the Philippines, Vietnam, China, Malaysia and Brunei.
About 45 islands of the 700 islets are occupied by relatively small numbers of military forces from the nearby countries. Of the more or less 160 islands, Vietnam occuppies 25 islands; China, 12; the Philippines, nine; Malaysia, five, and Taiwan, one. Although Brunei does not occupy a single geographical feaure, it has established a fishing zone that overlaps a southern reef.
What may comprise as less than four square kilometers of land area is deemed important in establishing international boundaries. It has been reported that the group of islands is very rich in marine diversity.The closeness to the nearby oil- and gas-producing sedimentary basins suggests the potential for oil and gas deposits, but the region is largely unexplored.
The issue of the Philippines contesting and (eventually losing territory) is not a rare issue. Back in the 1970s, we lost Sabah to Malaysia eventhough historically speaking, it has been long part of the Sulu Sultanate. Sabah state was only lent by the Sulu sultans to the British in 1878.
For so many years, the six countries has been debating and fighting over the ownership of the territories. It even paved the way for the signing of a nonbinding accord with China in 2002 that discourages aggressive behavior. Clearly this was violated on what happened with the three Filipino fishing boats in the Quirino atoll.
The Spratly is just very less than 200 miles from mainland Palawan in the Philippines. Geographically speaking, China is more than 500 miles away from the group of islands, Vietnam is more than 700 miles away are obviously claiming most of the Spratly Islands.
People’s Republic of China, Vietnam and other claimants should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines under the United Nation Conventionon the Law of the Sea. Let me post its provisions with respect to my study of Public International Law: ()
Article 55: Specific legal regime of the exclusive economic zone
The exclusive economic zone is an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea, subject to the specific legal regime established in this Part, under which the rights and jurisdiction of the coastal State and the rights and freedoms of other States are governed by the relevant provisions of this Convention.
The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is the area that extends 320 km or 200 nautical miles form the low-water mark out to the sea. The Philippines has 395, 400 sq. miles of water under EEZ in which it has exclusive jurisdiction over the living and non-living resources in the area. To continue:
Article 56: Rights, jurisdiction and duties of the coastal State in the exclusive economic zone
1. In the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State has:
(a) sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds;
(b) jurisdiction as provided for in the relevant provisions of this Convention with regard to:
(i) the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures;
(ii) marine scientific research;
(iii) the protection and preservation of the marine environment;
(c) other rights and duties provided for in this Convention.
2. In exercising its rights and performing its duties under this Convention in the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State shall have due regard to the rights and duties of other States and shall act in a manner compatible with the provisions of this Convention.
3. The rights set out in this article with respect to the seabed and subsoil shall be exercised in accordance with Part VI.
Article 57: Breadth of the exclusive economic zone
The exclusive economic zone shall not extend beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.
Article 58: Rights and duties of other States in the exclusive economic zone
1. In the exclusive economic zone, all States, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy, subject to the relevant provisions of this Convention, the freedoms referred to in article 87 of navigation and overflight and of the laying of submarine cables and pipelines, and other internationally lawful uses of the sea related to these freedoms, such as those associated with the operation of ships, aircraft and submarine cables and pipelines, and compatible with the other provisions of this Convention.
2. Articles 88 to 115 and other pertinent rules of international law apply to the exclusive economic zone in so far as they are not incompatible with this Part.
3. In exercising their rights and performing their duties under this Convention in the exclusive economic zone, States shall have due regard to the rights and duties of the coastal State and shall comply with the laws and regulations adopted by the coastal State in accordance with the provisions of this Convention and other rules of international law in so far as they are not incompatible with this Part.
With respect to the construction of China in the vicinity of the uninhabited Amy Douglas Bank, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario is quoted to have said that it is “a clear violation of the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the South China Sea.”
In line with this, last month, President Benigno Aquino III warned the Chinese defense minister of a possible arms race in the region if tensions worsened over disputes in the South China Sea. The Philippine government even warned China that it might increase its military capabilities.
Last June 5, the Philippine ambassador to the US, said he has asked the national defense department and armed forces back home to provide him with a wish list of military equipment they will need to shore up the country’s defense capability.
My question is: conceding that we might be able to purchase hand-me-down weapons from the US, would we still have a fighting chance against the almost 3-million sturdy Chinese Armed Forces? My guess is, in the event of skirmishes over the islands, the Chinese could squat us like flies. We are no match and it’s the reality even if their ammos are basically Made in China.
The United Nations Website, “UNCLOS”. <www.un.org/Depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/part5.htmexclusive>