Five-point approach to manage Chinese and US presence in the West Philippine Sea


Akbayan Partylist today proposed to the Aquino government a "five-point approach" in handling the current territorial dispute with China and the increasing involvement of the United States in the conflict.

Akbayan Representative Walden Bello said that while the government's strong and diplomatic response to the threat of Chinese aggression is commendable, a comprehensive policy framework is needed especially as the conflict increasingly draws in the dynamics of superpowers.

Bello explained Akbayan's 5 point-approach as:

  1. Policy process over free access. The Aquino government must craft a comprehensive, independent, and pro-Filipino foreign policy as fundamental guide on establishing and fostering relations with nation-states. It should also serve as the government's reference to upholding national sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is to our grave disadvantage that we allow foreign powers ease of access to our ports and natural resources without even laying down a decent foreign policy that secures our national interests. We can't put the cart before the horse and expect it to move forward. The government must recognize that these countries have their own interests to pursue. While it is true that we will need all the help we can get from our friends and allies, we should first assess what kind of help we need and ensure that their role in this conflict will not undermine our national interests. This must go hand in hand with a comprehensive review of agreements and treaties the government has entered into with other countries, and the abrogation of agreements and treaties that are clearly unconstitutional or detrimental to national interests. These include all defense agreements and treaties such as but not limited to the VFA and MDT.

  2. Learn from Vietnam. The Aquino government must seriously study the example set by Vietnam, in its efforts to confront Chinese aggression. The Vietnamese government successfully leveraged its relations with certain countries to ensure its tactical posturing in the conflict by upgrading naval defenses with strategic naval vessels and equipment. Vietnam is also quite successful in managing existing geo-political realities even as it pursues new alliances to strengthen its own military and defense capabilities. Although it has made use of established relations with Russia or explored a new found friendship with the United States, Vietnam did so without sacrificing any of its national interests. Vietnam knows how to play its cards right against China. It utilized its relations with superpowers and exploited their intramurals to serve their country's welfare. To paraphrase the Hanoi party committee's newspaper, the best way to deal with Chinese provocations is with a strategy that is both clever and firm, a strategy that recognizes that determination must be matched with flexibility in order to bolster the inviolability of the nation's sovereignty. We must do the same.

  3. Support the anti-China people power rallies. The Aquino government must nurture the existing civilian constituency to assert and defend Philippine sovereignty; it must support the growing strength and the broadening of such constituency. By doing so, the government institutionalizes a resilient civilian component in the assertion of national sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea. The government must partner with social movements and civil society groups to guide the new wave of patriotic fervor that is sweeping the country towards a progressive path. The government must see the full potential of forceful citizen diplomacy for peace and regional stability. Even the symbolism of the militant but nonviolent action on the international stage will be to the nation's advantage. The ingenuity of transborder citizen diplomacy that counters state-driven trends towards conflict utilizes what James Scott calls the "weapons of the weak," a method we must increasingly explore and maximize.

  4. "Bring in the gang." One of the best ways to confront a bully is to stand up and group together. As a result of China's boorish antics in the recent ASEAN meeting in Brunei which isolated it from its members, the ASEAN remains a good multilateral platform to defend our national interest. Instead of letting superpower dynamics dictate the character of the regional conflict, the more prudent approach is to shore up our foreign policy by fostering stronger ties with our regional neighbors, especially those who have similar grievances against China's aggression.

  5. Promote peace. We must push states to resort to diplomatic solutions and multilateral fora to solve territorial disputes, like what the Philippine government has done in bringing up its dispute with China for adjudication with the United Nations' International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas. The Aquino government must also pursue a demilitarized West Philippine Sea to prevent future conflicts and safeguard the area's marine biodiversity.

Firm but flexible, pragmatic yet patriotic

Bello said there is no easy roadmap to address the country's territorial dispute with China. He said even if the points his political party has recommended to the Aquino government were followed, the path towards a peaceful and political solution to the conflict will still be a difficult terrain.

"The points we proposed are not the 'be all and end all' solution to the conflict. However, we are confident that these will put the nation in a stronger position to navigate these 'treacherous waters.' Until the time Beijing and its neighbors have managed to work out a new and progressive regional order, the Aquino government must remain firm but flexible, pragmatic yet patriotic in its foreign relations especially in handling its territorial dispute with China," Bello said.

"The bottomline is our sovereignty. In the 'war of position and maneuver', our sovereign interest must always come first. There is no room for subservience," Bello added. ###

Akbayan slams China’s “counterstrike” threat, urges Pinoys to strike back with global day of action

Akbayan Party-list today slammed the statement issued by the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, The People's Daily, that said that the Chinese government will launch a "counterstrike" against the Philippines for the alleged "seven sins" it committed in the current dispute over the West Philippine Sea.

Akbayan Representative Walden Bello called the statement 'utter lunacy' and pointed out that Filipinos will respond to such threats with bolder civil-political actions.

"This is typical irrational talk usually heard from despotic states that have no patience or respect for international law. Now, no less than the official mouthpiece of China's ruling elite is openly calling for an act of aggression," according to Bello.

Bello warned that Filipinos will not tolerate such threats from China and instead will come together to act against such brazen intimidation.

"Filipinos will not take this sitting down. If China threatens our country with a military strike, then we will respond with a global day of action against threats of aggression," Bello added.

"The only potent weapon we can use is democratic action from an active and militant citizenry. They better brace for protests in front of their embassies and consular offices this July 24th," Bello warned.

It was reported that the overseas edition of the People's Daily said in a front-page commentary that the Philippines had committed "seven sins" in the South China Sea.

These include the alleged illegal occupation of the Spratly Islands by the Philippine government, inviting foreign capital to engage in oil and gas development in the disputed waters, and promoting the "internationalization" of the waters.

China's 'original sin' over current territorial dispute

Bello chided the Chinese government for putting the Philippines at fault in the current territorial row between the two countries. On the contrary, he said, it was China that committed the 'original sin' by illegally occupying Philippine waters and territory.

"The Chinese government is delusional for alleging that the Philippines committed these 'seven sins.' The responsibility for this conflict falls squarely on the Chinese government for brazenly occupying our territory and ransacking our marine resources," Bello insisted.

China urged to act according to its stature, not like a rogue state

Bello also called on the Chinese government to refrain from issuing inflammatory statements and adviced them to act more diplomatically, instead. He said that Chinese citizens should stop their government from acting and talking like a rogue state.

"China forgets that by claiming to be a superpower means it is expected to act according to such stature and treat its neighbors with civility and respect. Issuing threats is the work of rogue states like North Korea, not of a country which is claiming to be the next geopolitical powerhouse," Bello said.

"Chinese nationals should also be ashamed of their government's antics in the region. They're already burdened with strict regulations against civil liberties at home. Should they also be dragged into this international row by their government?" Bello added.

China's state media warned on Saturday that a "counterstrike" against the Philippines was inevitable if it continues to provoke Beijing in the South China Sea, potentially Asia's biggest military trouble spot.

The warning came as ministers from China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met in Brunei, starting Saturday, in the hopes of reaching a legally binding code of conduct to manage maritime conduct in disputed areas.

Akbayan, together with the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG), People Power Volunteers for Reform (PPVR), CIBAC Partylist, KASAPI-Hellas, Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP), Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan (PKSK), Malayang Tinig ng Kababaihan (MATINIK), different faith-based organizations and several other groups and social movements are planning to launch a global day of action against China's expansionism in the region in various cities around the globe on July 24.

The action will coincide with the first year since China's establishment of the Sansha City Prefecture, a garrison northwest of the West Philippine Sea. It was reported that the Sansha City was created to establish control over the area and serve as a staging point for its ship patrols to hound Philippine marine and fishing vessels.

In the United States, Filipino-Americans from all over the East Coast will converge at the United Nations to protest China's occupation of the Ayungin Reef and to draw attention to the arbitral petition of the Philippine government before the UN International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea. They will also launch protest actions in different Chinese embassies in key cities around the world.

Meanwhile in Manila, groups are expected to conduct a big protest rally before the Chinese Consular Office in Makati City.


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