Tag Archives: philippines-china territorial dispute

Will China deal with PH on equal footing? If UN sides with PH, will China honor it?

This is the second of my two-part blog on the Scarborough Shoal standoff. The first one examines the existing PH-US mutual defense treaty.

The New York Times mentioned the territorial dispute between China and the Philippines over certain areas in the West Philippine Sea (or South China Sea) in the May 2 edition of “Room for Debate,” a regular section of the newspaper where experts give their views on the hottest issues of the day. The May 2 edition of “Room for Debate” is titled “Are we headed for a cold war with China?” – referring to the United States government.

New York Times asks, “Are We Headed for a Cold War With China?”

The standoff over Scarborough Shoal and the Spratlys Island should be seen in its proper geopolitical context. Although it appears that China is just after the aquatic resources and potential gas reserves in the West Philippine Sea, the country is actually seeking to dominate the entire area. Dan Blumenthal, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, put it this way: “China has greater ambitions now that it is more powerful. China wants more control, if not hegemony, over the Asia Pacific.”

That obviously is one scenario the United States dreads. But given the tough realities US is facing right now, all they can do is pronounce neutrality on one hand while reaffirming its treaty-mandated commitment to the Philippines on the other. No one among China, United States, and the Philippines can afford an armed military conflict. If China decides to use its military superiority over an impoverished country like the Philippines, it risks being regarded as a giant bully – tarnishing its international image in the process.

Since the Philippines cannot really count on America’s support in the event of a shooting war with China, the only option that Filipino leaders have is to settle the Scarborough Shoal dispute diplomatically. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs has already referred the case to the International Tribunal on the Laws of the Sea (ITLOS) for arbitration, a step China vehemently opposes.

China’s refusal to cooperate means they are not confident of being able to substantiate their so-called historical claims to the disputed areas. Instead of asking the ITLOS or the International Court of Justice to resolve the standoff, Beijing has repeatedly said it prefers dealing with the matter through bilateral negotiations. “Let’s not go the legal way. Let’s do it the friendly way,” high ranking Chinese government officials told Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.

DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario (credits: DFA website)

During bilateral negotiations, each party involved must recognize each other as their equal. Is it realistic for the Philippines to expect that China will deal with it on equal footing? That being not the case, the best way to go is still to ask the abovementioned international organizations to arbitrate the validity of claims raised by both China and Philippines on those disputed areas. Even if China holds a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, the said world body acts under the principle of “sovereign equality of all its members.”

Recently, Henry Bensurto Jr. of the DFA Commission on Maritime and Ocean Affairs Secretariat disclosed during a Senate hearing that a provision in the UN Convention on the Laws of the Seas “allows signatory states to avail themselves of compulsory dispute settlement in cases when consensual mechanisms for settlement fail.” If this is indeed true, then the Philippines should waste no time to utilize this option.

And while the case is being tackled there, all nations must refrain from making any provocative actions in the contested areas within West Philippine Sea. If the ITLOS eventually affirm the claim made by the Philippines, will China abide by the ruling? And consequently, what will the UN do if China continues its aggressive behavior in the disputed territories even after it has ruled in favor of the Philippines? Abangan.

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UP System website attacked by pro-China hackers

Hackers proclaim: “We come from China! Huangyan Island is Ours!” 

The two-week old standoff between the Philippines and China in the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal located in the West Philippine Sea has spilled over into the cyberspace. The website of the University of the Philippines (UP) has been defaced early Friday morning by suspected pro-China hackers. UP is the national university of this Southeast Asian country.

Hackers uploaded a map of the West Philippine Sea (or South China Sea) and its nearby countries in the landing page of the UP website. The map has labels in Chinese characters. The screenshot below was taken by Lawrence Velasco, accounting and finance instructor at the UP College of Business Administration:

The screen grab of UP's defaced website (credits: Mr. Lawrence Velasco)

Velasco discovered the website defacement at around 4 AM. He promptly tweeted certain Philippine media personalities and organizations about the matter, explaining later on that he asked the media to contact UP since he was in France and “didn’t know how to contact the university aside from Twitter.

Mr. Lawrence Velasco promptly alerted media persons via Twitter about the website defacement

Danilo Arao, the University’s Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs, denounced the attack, describing it as “an attempt to deprive the UP community of vital information, particularly the schedule of commencement exercises in nine UP campuses and the April 2012 issue of the UP Newsletter which was uploaded last April 17.”

A downtime notice has since been posted on the UP system website: “The University of the Philippines System website (http://www.up.edu.ph) is currently undergoing maintenance. The UP Computer Center is conducting an evaluation of the website and its contents. This website will be restored to its operational status as soon as the maintenance checks have been completed. Thank you.”

In a phone interview, Arao explained that the website’s security is a “shared concern” of the UP System Information Office and the UP Computer Center. “We’re trying to check the vulnerability of our content management systems,” Arao said.

He added that although the hackers “merely uploaded a JPEG file in the landing page,” they will also look for possible malicious files embedded in the system. He reiterated that the hacking incident is isolated to the UP system website. Arao teaches journalism in the UP College of Mass Communication.

Related news:

China, tumangging dalhin ang isyu ng Panatag Shoal sa international court (GMA News Online)

China summons PHL envoy over standoff at Panatag Shoal (GMA News Online)

Personal: Professor Arao maintains his own website. This blogger enrolled in his online journalism class during his undergraduate days at UP CMC.

Chinese daily calls for action vs Philippines over its ties with US

Must read: Make Philippines pay for its balancing act

– Global Times, January 29, 2012

While Filipinos have remained riveted to the ongoing impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, interesting events are unfolding in the aspect of Philippine foreign affairs. Two weeks ago, four United States senators visited the Philippines “to discuss key issues in US-Philippine relations.”

The delegation was led by Arizona Senator John McCain – the Republican rival of current President Barack Obama in the 2008 elections. He was joined by Joseph Lieberman (Connecticut), Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire), and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Lieberman, now an independent, was Al Gore’s running mate in his failed 2000 presidential bid. He is retiring once his term ends on January 2013. Ayotte, meanwhile, has been mentioned by 2012 Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney as a potential pick for vice president.  Whitehouse, a Democrat, is seeking reelection this November.

Sources within the Department of Foreign Affairs told The Manila Times that discussions centered on terror threats, human trafficking, peace talks, and China’s rising role in the region and the world.  Details about the agreement on the Philippines’ bid to acquire a squadron of F-16 fighter jets were also tackled. The group met with DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario and President Benigno Aquino III. Aside from the Philippines, the four senators also visited Thailand, Vietnam, and more importantly, Myanmar.

In a Twitter post made after wrapping up the Philippine leg of their four-country tour, Lieberman called their visit “a dawn of a new era” in the 60-year mutual defense treaty between the Philippines and US. He called on his home government to continue supporting the Philippine military “especially in maritime domain awareness and territorial defense.”

Joe Lieberman: US must continue supporting the Philippine military "especially in maritime domain awareness and territorial defense"

Speaking to Voice of America’s Simone Orendain, Lieberman reiterated that the tensions over the Spratlys Islands will be reconciled if America maintains and expands its presence in the West Philippine Sea. He noted the recent Philippine acquisition of American-made military ships as a sign of continues cooperation between the two parties.

For his part, McCain said the United States should “emphasize that (it) will do whatever (it) needs to do in order to protect the principle of freedom of navigation, particularly in the West Philippine Sea.” McCain’s non-usage of South China Sea is noticeable.

Ayotte, in an interview with Foreign Policy magazine’s Josh Rogin, said that leaders in Southeast Asia regard the United States as a counterbalance to China. Last week, American and Filipino officials agreed to have more joint military exercises as well as a greater presence of American troops of the country – short of reestablishing the US bases.

These developments have not gone unnoticed by the Chinese media. Global Times, a Beijing-based daily whose parent company is owned by the Communist Party of China, published last January 29 calls on the Chinese government to implement sanctions against the Philippines. This is to underscore their point that “siding with the US is not a good choice.”

China's Global Times newspaper: "Make Philippines pay for balancing act"

The editorial expounded: “Well-measured sanctions against the Philippines will make it ponder the choice of losing a friend such as China and being a vain partner with the US.” One way China can do this, the paper pointed out, is by “cooling its business ties with the Philippines.”

It argued that the East Asian country can also use its economic leverage against other member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.  And as a parting shot to the Philippine government, the editorial wrote: “(China) will not accept a small country in the region creating military tensions by playing a balancing strategy. A price should be paid for violating this principle.”

US TV network ABC News has published an Associated Press report on this on its website, but the Philippine media, undoubtedly very much preoccupied with their coverage of the Corona impeachment trial, has remained largely oblivious to this developing story despite its implications. The challenge now for the Aquino administration is this: how it can effectively assert its territorial sovereignty over the disputed islands without constantly begging for Uncle Sam’s help (which is tantamount to further infuriating China).


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