Monday, 30 July 2012

SPRATLYS CONFLICT: CHINA’S BULLYING & EXPLOITS




by Earlie Doriman
The Spratly Group of Islands
(photo from economicroadmap.com)
How lawful is the Philippines’ claim to the Spratly Islands that it should continue to fight what it believed rightfully belongs to the archipelago? With the mighty China on the opposite platform, how could a small nation evenly confront one of the biggest military-based countries in the world? Just two important questions before I begin my own viewpoints on the Spratlys conflict. The first query requires factual bases from the two neighbouring nations, the Philippines and China, to prove their legitimate sovereignty over this group of more than 750 reefs, islets, cays, and islands located in South China Sea or West Philippine Sea. The second question rather weighs up how asymmetrical the fight is between a tiny nation against a powerful republic that could aggressively harass and bully its adversary.



The Long-Term Dispute
What legal rights do the Philippines have over the Spratlys? The first official representation of the Philippines in the disputed islands of Spratly was in 1933, when a Filipino senator protested France, as the European colonizer asserted its 1887 ownership of the coral reef-rich areas of Paracels and Spratlys. This protest went into parliamentary discussions but the U.S. government did not pay serious interest to the claim. The Philippines being a colony of America at that time was unable to put forward documentation of events, nevertheless the action provided historical basis of an earliest declaration of ownership. This fact was overlooked by both Vietnam and China who made claims of the same group of islands immediately after that time (Chen,1979)
It can be noted that numerous European sailors including Richard Spratly ( to which the name is obviously taken from) surveyed and occupied Spratlys and the rest of the closer islands around. But their interests did not last long. It was however being re-claimed in 1933 on behalf of the French colony Vietnam but was confronted with protest from the Philippines. So, it was not only after the Second World War that the Philippines declared interest of the Spratlys as suggested by China.
At the onset of World War II, Japan occupied these areas and made it its military base but surrendered back the islands when the Japanese were defeated during that war in 1945. The defeated imperial government of Japan relinquished its rights over the Spratlys by virtue of the Peace Treaty in San Francisco that thus expressed, “Japan renounces all right, title, and claim to the Spratly Islands, Pratas, and to the Paracel Islands”.




The Philippines through the newly formed government of President Elpidio Quirino claimed again the territories in 1946. And in 1947, the Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs declared that the Spratly group of Islands, then called ‘ New Southern Islands’, were part of the Philippine territory. Although the Republic of China took control of the biggest and the only habitable island called Itu Aba after the WW II, it eventually abandoned their claim in 1949 after the end of China’s Civil war that gave birth to People’s Republic of China. The Republic of China re-claimed Itu Aba Island (Taiping Dao according China) in 1956 and allegedly established base at the island only after Tomas Cloma announced and issued ‘proclamation to the world’.
Philippine President
Elpidio Quirino
Whilst there was a higher possibility that the Spratly group of islands had been visited by numerous Chinese fishermen and explorers in the ancient times as what it claimed; it was likely that it would not give any interest to these areas during that period because aside from it being far from the mainland China, it had not showed any economic potential. It could be recalled that most Chinese at that time were merchants and traders rather than colonizers. The non-logical claim of China could spell a different view of all discoveries in the ancient world – if that was the case then the whole of America should be under the sovereignty of Spain since it was first sighted by Columbus, all the islands having been visited by Magellan should also be claimed by Portugal, so on and so forth. But that is not what the international rules provide. Even common sense would not subscribe to that superficiality.
As China’s claim resurfaced, it included in its arguments the myths and maps of the old Chinese civilization, which accordingly considered these groups of islands within their national boundaries. China’s claim therefore is not substantial but merely relied on historical and mythical grounds, which are as ambiguous as the Chinese legends. It suggested in 1951 that Spratlys and Paracels must be considered to be outposts of Chinese National territory because of some ancient Chinese pottery and coins found therein, and in 1958 the People’s Republic of China issued a declaration defining its territorial boundaries which included the Spratlys. But their territorial claim was refuted in 1990 saying that the discoveries of Chinese ceramics and ancient coins were not valid basis to the ownership of the islands, but would probably indicate that there were trade relations in the past between China and Southeast Asia.


What Grounds Do We Have?
Philippine President
Ferdinand E. Marcos
The Philippines is indeed rightful to claim and should be recognised as the owner of Spratlys based on history, geography and oceanography, and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). On historical/political grounds, the Philippine government was first to express its claim in 1933 by denouncing France’s annexation of the islands. Declaration was strongly put forward in 1946 by the Philippine President and was further asserted in 1951 and 1952 when Japan relinquished its rights and ownership of the Spratlys and Paracels.
On the basis of geography and history, Ferdinand Marcos in 1978 issued a presidential decree declaring the entire Spratlys as part of the Philippine territory by virtue of its proximity and archipelagic baselines; and that; “they do not belong to any state or nation, but by reason of history; indispensable need, and effective occupation and control established in accordance with international law”. Furthermore, the claim is reiterated by President Fidel Ramos during his term stating in toto: “ I would like to clarify that the Philippines does not only claim eight islands in the Spratlys but owns all islands and waters in the Spratlys as defined in the presidential decree issued by former President Marcos”.
Philippine President:
Fidel V. Ramos
The UNCLOS resolved and supported the geographical grounds by the Philippines to claim the Spratlys. It stated that, “ A coastal state could claim two hundred nautical miles of jurisdiction beyond its land boundaries”. These oceanographic grounds could not be invoked by China; as it is not an archipelagic state. Other nations claiming these islands could also not use this argument because their land boundaries are not close to the 200nm limit as provided in UNCLOS. The Philippines is the nearest to Spratlys amongst the other claimants.


Bullying and Harassment by China
So China thought this is the best way to scare away weaker nations. Whilst China is presently considered a massive military power, it continues to increase and modernize its military force by developing more technologically advanced and powerful weaponry. Is China deliberately using a more bullying and intimidating strategy? The double digit incremental in China’s military spending this year at 12.7 percent is a suspicious attempt to strengthen their national defence, which definitely emphasized safeguarding sovereignty, security and development interests. Is invading the Spratlys amongst these development interests and sovereignty issues?
Although China has expressed peaceful solution and negotiations to settle the Spratly dispute, their recent actions provide a different colour. The current tension they initiated within these islands could be classified as harassment and exploitation against other claimants including the Philippines and Vietnam, which honestly do not have the military capability to defend their respective installations if China would indeed resort to a forceful exploit.


Why is Spratlys so important to China now? There are obviously two logical motives. Firstly, the People’s Republic of China discovered in 1968 that huge reserves of oil and natural gas could be extracted from these islands and the massive product of commercial fishing. Secondly, Spratlys is an ideal location for China to put up its surveillance installations to observe naval vessels travelling through the expanse of West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). These interests are very significant to China’s monster economy and military power. These are the same reasons why it has deliberately use intimidation and threats to other countries pursuing sovereignty and economic interests in Spratlys.
Since the early part of 1970’s, China had been using force against smaller countries that maintained interest over the Spratlys and Paracels. In 1974, the People’s Republic of China forcibly took over the Paracels from Vietnam. Sometime in 1988, Chinese navy fired and sank Vietnamese transport boats. In 1995, the Philippines protested against Chinese attempt to occupy the Mischief Reef, an island very close to Palawan. How many hundreds of Filipino fishermen were being arrested and jailed by China because of illegal fishing. Due to these conflicts, the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) came to an agreement to inform each member country any military activities in the Spratlys and Paracels, and construction of any structure was banned. This accord was immediately violated by China as it silently continued annexing parts of the islands.
Conflicts have at least calmed down a bit in the past few years but in the recent weeks China spurred a new round of trouble when couple of Chinese naval ships stalked Philippine ships around the islands of Spratly. Not only that, the Philippine Air Force planes monitoring the area have been threatened by Chinese fighting jets. This led the Philippines to bring the matter to the United Nations attention. Last month, Chinese naval vessels opened fire at four Vietnamese fishing boats operating within the region of Spratlys and Paracels. These actions by China constituted gross bullying and harassment, which obviously impair agreements on peaceful resolve to which China vowed to cooperate. The Tripartite agreement signed by three nations namely China, Vietnam and The Philippines which was also aimed at developing cooperation between these nations towards development, stability, and peaceful undertaking in the Spratlys, was in many occasions violated by China.
It is with deep uncertainty that international intervention could help appease the situation, but the Filipino people sincerely believe that peaceful means to settle the dispute is still the best option on the table. As long as it can, the Philippines has to continue to stand and fight what legally belongs to it and the Filipinos must support what it deemed right for the country. As the entire world calls for the pleasant resolution of the Spratly conflict, China must stop its harassment and bullying towards weaker nations and become earnest if they truly desire to a peaceful settlement.

References:
1. Wikipedia
2. King C. Chen, China’s War with Vietnam, 1979 pp.4344
3. Historical Evidence to Support China’s Sovereignty Over Nansha Islands.
4. Hurwitt, Mara C. “U.S Strategy in Southeast Asia: The Spratly Island Dispute”.
5. Kathrina Alvarez @ Sunnex
6. Abelgas Val G. “ Spratlys; Where Does Aquino Stands”.
7. http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Spratly_Islands
8. http://www.spacewar.com/reports/China_will_pursue_powerful_military_wen_999.html
9. http://www.chinamilitary.net
10. http://www.spratlys.org/collection/claims/vietnam/vietnam2a.htm
11. Palatino, Mong; “The Spratlys and the Philippine Claim”
      through http://www.upiasia.com/politics/2008/03/26/the_spratlys_and_the_philippine_claim/2587

53 comments:

  1. Alain from Dubai. U.A.E.21 June 2011 at 09:37

    nice one sir..

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  2. Hi Alain,

    Thanks for dropping by..

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  3. The Philippine government should fight on this this long-time issue. Nice one again Earlie :-)

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  4. Hi Jay,

    Thanks a lot..spread the campaign so Filipinos could understand what we fight for. Knowing history and and our rights will certainly give substance to our diplomatic battle against China's bullying.

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  5. Just by simply looking at the map, you could already see that these islands are closest to the Philippines. China is just taking advantage coz they know they're powerful.God will make them pay for their greed..

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  6. Exactly Judy, It is very unreasonable for China to claim Spratlys. China is taking advantage because they know the Philippines is so vulnerable.
    Thanks for dropping by.

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  7. Hi! Thank You! This was very enlightening and well-written. Helped me a lot in my PolSci homework! :D

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  8. Hi Florence,
    You are welcome..and i am glad i am able to help.
    thanks for your time.

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  9. Now everything makes sense. Thanks for this information. I just hope a law can be made so that no more weaponry can be developed. As long as there's firepower, there'll be war.

    If everyone believes that anything can be resolved by a peaceful negotiation, then there's no point creating destructive weaponry anymore.

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  10. China must stop what they're doing. They only have to look at the map. It's really obvious. You're right Earlied, using history as a basis isn't reasonable at all, what's important is the PRESENT. If God's gonna move spratlys to a different location like in the north pole, would they still use their historical basis? What a very funny strategy.. tsk tsk tsk.. foolish.

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  11. Hi Doodleduz,

    Spot on! Their motives are just too self-serving. China has to respect other nation's obvious rights. Well, I might just be barking at the wrong tree again...how could their leaders learn the importance of respect if they don't in fact respect their own people. China has been the worst holder of numerous human rights violations.

    Truly tsk tsk tsk.

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  12. great writing earlied ,i dont know what is the benefit of the world council if such injustice acts are being done in all over the world by different countries,

    such cold wars leads towards the huge destruction,

    god bless

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  13. Hi Baili,

    Sorry for the late reply..I was honestly very busy the past days and could not truly find time to respond to comments and drop messages to my favourite blogs like yours. But anyway, thanks for your time to comment.

    It is a plain fact that developed countries have the tendency to exploit and abuse weaker ones because the developing nations are easy targets of bullying..It is a very sad truth.

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  14. very enlightening. thank you for this, although it leaves a feeling of heaviness. it makes me think that local dispute is nothing compared to global one. what an ordinary working citizen like me can do to help our plight? the first thing that comes to mind is stop patronizing anything that is chinese. anyway, their products always have safety issues.

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  15. Hi Anonymous,

    That is one thing that Filipinos and the Philippines should look seriously too - buying substandard Chinese products. In fairness, not all 'Made in China' products are poor in quality. But it seems like a mockery that Chinese products in poorer countries are poorest in quality. Here in the UK, Chinese products are so patronized but they are of good standard. However, the ones that they export to the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia are considerably low class and poor. Another exploitation in a deceiving form. Tsk Tsk Tsk.

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  16. very informational sir,,finally i could finish my assignment regarding on this issue,,

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  17. You just did an exhaustive research about this issue and as a Filipino, I'm so much enlightened that indeed our claim for the Spratlys is lawful. I hope China will finally stop bullying the Philippines and start packing up to leave us in peace. Thank you for the information, earlied!

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  18. Hi Lita,

    Thanks for your message. I read a lot about this because the issue interests me deeply. And because i found out that the Filipinos have all the legal rights of ownership to the group of islands, I wished to share it so other kababayans might be enlightened too.

    Thanks Lita for dropping by..

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  19. Philippines must prepare for any possibilities...china's basis of claiming will definitely not stand against ours...Use of force is imminent in this issue especially that we are very much vulnerable militarily. If we stand up together against China our chances of winning would be higher. It is timely now that we help establish funds to strengthen our military forces through allocation of other government funds to it. A lot of our politicians money which are obviously taken from people's taxes were just used in the hobbies like casinos & weekly derbies...even through these monies we can be able to purchase sophisticated weaponry to defend our claim.

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  20. well said and detailed explanation earl nice research :-)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Alex..not a very quick reply from me though..just very busy these days

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  21. well said and nice explaination earl .. good research :-)

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  22. Please read the other side's reasoning to be fair:

    http://www.spratlys.org/collection/claims/philippines/

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  23. I cannot believe this has been a looong dispute. Chinese indeed are bullying other countries. Tsk.

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  24. Didn't know this has been a looong dispute. China does seem to be bullying other countries.

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  25. Replies
    1. i hope miracle plus double effort...dont just rely only to miracle and our government should take care of this seriously this for all of the Filipinos

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  26. such great insight, sir. well researched. i do hope that this conflict will be resolved soon. it's been so long already

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  27. This is a very good point as presented from the result of in depth research on the issue: the PH and the China. This is large scale issue for that matter. The claim for Spratly's island has already been long due, but yet it still is being resolved until now. Que pasa?

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  28. Sensible article... Hmmmm/// How can a small country claim these islands from giant China? Well, daanin sa diplomacy and I hope so Sabah will be returned to the Philippines after Malaysians have claimed it.

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  29. The question is, what can we do against China? This conflict will only result to war or conflicts. The Philippines now is in a big dilemma whether to stick beside America or plunge into the deep water of China.

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  30. David versus Goliath? Our tiny but proud country Philippines is disputing ownership of these islands against mighty and powerful China. Will we be victorious like David? Possible but unlikely.

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  31. Dapat ipaglaban natin kung ano ang sa atin. :D

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  32. we should guard this one after they took it what next will they do to become more powerful

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  33. Very informative post sir! Yeah this is long overdue... And we have a little chance fighting against a country as big as China . We should be ready for whatever the outcome would be but of course we should do our best to fight for out rights.

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  34. Atin to nasa PH Constitution ung basehan e. Yung 200? miles from PH coasts seas atin.

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  35. A long but very informative post! Sa totoo lang, akala ko nahanapan nato ng solusyon.. It's still ongoing pa ba? The good thing about us, Filipinos.. marunong tayong maghanap ng peaceful solutions. Like, kung pupwede pang madala sa isang mabuti at masinsinang usapan. We always look for any course of action that WOULD NOT lead us into war..

    Ang mahirap lang din kasi, nambubully na pala sila. We are brave people din. We fight back when provoked. Tsk tsk..

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  36. Law is useless against a powerful country

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  37. Mahabang salaysayin talag ito.. bata pa ako pinagaagawan nayang island na yan.. mayaman kasi

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  38. wow! very informative posr. just like sabah, alam ko sa ph dati yun pero ngayon malaysia na. if you check the map, malapit na malapit sa ph ang sabah.

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  39. This is a nice article.
    For me Spratly's really belongs to the Phil.
    But as of now , I heard of news that China as well as some countries who also tend to conquer it is already benefiting in the island..

    well , this is very informative.

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  40. I don't know if we'll get this issue resolved in our lifetime or even down to our kids and grandkids lifetime. Sa dami ng natural resources na maaring makuha sa pinag-aagawang isla mukhang walang magpapatalo sa mga umaangking mga bansa.

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  41. very informative!... basta bmoney, power, resources wala papatalo.. sad

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  42. Very comprehensive and well researched article.

    What happens now then? China has to know that small nations like ours do not just give up easily. If they have to take it...Philippines should not just give it up without giving a good fight or should i say --- Philippines should never give that island up.

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  43. thanks for sharing, and hope this will end

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  44. Wow, that was more than a handful. A long read, but very interesting and informative. The history of this issue has always intrigued me. Although one of my students wrote a paper about this, your article provides more historical info.

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  45. Bullying had always be a problem everywhere. Richer country or sometimes richer individuals tend to bully poor individuals because they test their power. One should always take a stand and be firm so one would not fall prey to larger power or entities or in this case country.

    http://travel-on-a-shoe-string.blogspot.com/

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  46. When I went to World Museum I saw an old Asian Map. If you look at the map you'll see how far the Spartly from China and it was originally belongs to the Philippines. These Chinese are very greedy. If the Philippine government will not take this issue seriously they will get the islands soon. Let us hope NATO will give fair decisions.

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  47. There's no conflict that can't be solve through diplomacy. :)
    It's really obvious that we can't beat China, so why not ask Vietnam and other claimant nations(and even China) to unite and instead develop those contested part of Spratlys, it's a win-win situation. (imho)

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  48. So basically what you're saying is Philippines DOES NOT legally own the Spratly's since they missed their opportunity for any claim because the US who "owned" the Philippines during 1933 expressed no interest in the Spratly's at the time Vietnam (France) declared legal ownership of the Spratly's.

    And in 1935, China disputed the legal ownership of the Spratly's against Vietnam.

    That means there is no "Bully" and Philippines has actually "invaded" the Spratly's that is legally owned by Vietnam or China. Meanwhile, all of these poor Filipinos are being misled to fight for something the Philippines doesn't even have any legal rights to.

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    Replies
    1. who ever u r pi attorney, you're stupid

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  49. Now we see the true color of china, If the aggressiveness of china if left uncheck longer than a decade from now, this monster will crawl every inch of this earth as the locust devours every single leaf of a standing crop.

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  50. Not really surprising given what China has done to both Tibet and Taiwan, guess we are next. China is a HUGE country and it needs a lot of resources to run, and they are hell bent on taking what they want/need.

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