Tensions have been flaring between the Philippines and China over a topic we know all too well: sovereignty in the Southeast Asia Sea. As China continues to pursue its rapacious claims over the entire sea in Southeast Asia, one country has stepped up to challenge the Asian giant’s “indisputable” claims of “indisputable” sovereignty, which, along with every other claim China is making, are “indisputable.” This gutsy contestation comes from China’s little neighbor to the east, the Philippines.
The incident began in early April, when Filippino authorities spotted eight Chinese naval vessels stationed near the Philippines’ Scarborough Shoal. What followed was a four day standoff between the Philippines and China near Filippino territory, from the identification of the Chinese ships on 6 April 2012, to the near detainment of these vessels on 10 April 2012. To this day, the diplomatic crisis between China and the Philippines remains unresolved, as neither country shows any sign of backing down.
China’s government and state-run media agencies continue to threaten the Philippines with economic and military retribution if the country continues to resist the assertions of the PRC. China has increased, and continues to increase, the number of military vessels deployed near the disputed Scarborough islands, which the Chinese call Huangyan. Tourism from China to the Philippines have been blocked, and the Chinese Embassy in Manila continues to accuse the Philippines of violating China’s “indisputable” sovereignty.
Meanwhile, the Filippino people have gathered in protest outside of the Chinese embassy, sending their message to the Chinese government. They carry with them signs saying “Stop Chinese Aggression Now!”, “China Back Off!”, and the like. The Philippines government has also taken a tough stance against the PRC, standing by their people in the face of Chinese aggression. The country has made military purchases in preparation of armed conflict with the PRC. Weapons have been purchased from the U.S., with further transactions planned with Japan and South Korea.
Even with these new military expenditures however, the Philippines will still be no match for China in terms of military capability. The People’s Republic of China exponentially dwarfs the Philippines in military spending. Materially, the Philippines does not stand a chance against China, the giant to the west. That being said, the Philippines has taken the necessary steps to defend the rights of their people. Though they are outclassed and outnumbered, the Philippines refuse to bow down to the demands of a foreign bully, putting them leaps and bounds above the Communists in Vietnam.
Unlike the Communists in Vietnam, who refuse to stand up to the terrorist activities of the Chinese navy, the Philippines is not afraid to speak out. When the Chinese military kidnapped and terrorized the fishermen of Vietnam, the VCP remained silent on the matter for months at a time. Any attempt by the people of Vietnam to stand up for their fellow Vietnamese were met with heavy repression by the Communist Party in Vietnam. Even the brief protests permitted by the Vietnamese government last summer have been quashed for fear of a vengeful PRC. Put simply, Filippino President Benigno Aquino has resoundingly accomplished what Nguyen Tan Dung was too cowardly to follow though with.
China may be stronger than the Philippines for the time being, but the Philippines has the world on its side. The Filippino people are fully in support of their government in defence against China, and continue to do so with no hesitation. Furthermore, the basis of the Philippines arguments are based on international law, which follow the guidelines of the international community. China’s rebuttal of “indisputable” historical claims remain to be proven, with the recurring term “indisputable” as their only source of defence. As long as the Philippines stays firm in defence of its people, China will have a very difficult time in Southeast Asia.