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‘Our line in the sand’

AS I first made a prediction back in 2016 in this column, sounding the alarm, of an impending reality unfortunately coming to pass. Scarborough Shoal (SS), also known as Panatag Shoal, will be taken by China. A few days ago, the Mayor of Sansha, Xiao Jie, announced there would be monitoring stations built in six islands and reefs, to include SS of the northwestern Philippines. Hainan Daily newspaper seconded the announcement by stating, this was “among the government’s priorities for 2017”.   

China does not act by accident. That developments in the Philippine strategic landscape, to be specific, West Philippine Sea, was all along part of China’s ever-patient and hibernating ambition. Timing is everything when conditions have ripened. Sun Tzu guides, “The bow is stretched, and the arrow released at the most propitious moment”. In 1992, the US Military Facilities were voted out the country by our Senate. This may have awakened the Sleeping tiger, given the emerging and changing balance of power and politics in East Asia. There are perilous consequences to the undaunted creeping invasion of China in WPS. One of them is that Beijing has carefully studied our responses, to include Scarborough, and has concluded on announced helplessness, our “creeping accommodation”.

Heretofore, Chinese exploration on Benham Rise is not “innocent” and was only to be expected. While we proclaim our inability to wage war against a behemoth, the Damocles sword hangs – where do we draw the line? Where and when do we make a principled stand? Will an incident be an invitation for war we did not initiate? Is China ready to go to war over an incident? And how will the world view such bullying action? During PNoy’s term he consulted with then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on WPS. The latter counseled, “We cannot do anything Mr. President. For as long as we did not start the incident, we must make a stand. Maybe 200 or 2,000 soldiers may die. But what can we do, it is the way it is”. Panatag is the fine line in the sand. While we disdain war, there are duties and consequences to preserving territorial sovereignty and more, our “self-respect”. (Erik Espina)

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Written by Tempo Online

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