Thursday, April 4, 2019

China Exerts on Hard Power as the Philippines Exhausts on Soft Power Anew in the South China Sea

Photo from ABS-CBN
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2019 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

A throng of Filipino backing has pushed the unconquerable Statement of Support for the Philippines’ onetime Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and erstwhile Ombudswoman Chonchita Morales when a political action posed to challenge Asia’s strongest leader Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China through an enclosed communication addressed to the International Criminal Court.

The two respected leaders lodged a 17-page complaint for environmental damage in the South China Sea and persecution of Filipino fishermen by Chinese officials before the ICC on March 13, two days before the first Asian country officially departs from the independent judicial body, founded under the mantle of the Rome Statute, giving jurisdiction to prosecute global leaders for crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression. 

However Beijing continuously debunks the accusations of the two former top Philippine officials for their (mis)representation and intent that has gained fervor support from Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo as he considered it a “futile exercise” for the right of assertion, notwithstanding the fact that the two state parties are ICC non-members. Undeniably China and the Philippines are archrival maritime competitors in the South China Sea.

The grievance itself becomes a strong reminder echoing the Philippines’ unfinished business at how China treats the Philippines despite a landmark 501-page decided case award it won in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2016 at The Hague. This groundbreaking maritime ruling also proceeds to a conclusion that China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone and held that the big neighbor interfered with Filipino fishermen at Scarborough Shoal as the Chinese reconfigured the status of the features of islands and islets in the contested South China Sea by inflicting irreparable harm to the marine environment that aggravated the dispute.

That episode saw China’s overriding use of muscle flexing of hard power by completing a large-scale land reclamation and construction of artificial islands outwitting the Philippines’ soft power or the use of lawfare overshadowed by evolving events as the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte befriended China to tame the dragon’s potent puffing fires. At the same time, the Chinese aggressive campaign flamboyantly spelled out through economic diplomacy in the form of loans and calculated expansion of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) stylishly packaged to bandwagon with the centrifugal force of Asian century mentality, paving a way for global launching bonhomie of the Belt Road Initiative and Maritime Silk Road. It emerged as a result of the boom and bust of public-private partnerships that felt short in between with a string of fiascoes on debt trap miscalculated by small and middle markets.

But as the Philippines tries again to rock the boat against the Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping, allegedly accused of committing international crimes against Filipino fishermen and Mother Nature, the Chinese politburo initially ignored the complaint and will either refuse to participate in the proceeding or derecognize the jurisdiction, if and when the petition will be elevated as a case, and consequently as a practice, China will not abide by any decision of the international court.

The only recourse that China is good at comes on by exerting a hard power or militarizing the disputed islands to showcase a use of force and constructive occupation over the presence of its hundreds of Chinese vessels near the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea. The satellite image showing its pronounced presence near the Thitu or Pag-asa Island, the largest island claimed by the Philippines, could indicate routine reconnaissance of China’s Navy and Coast Guard forces in our backyard, choreographed as seasonal fishing activities of myriad Chinese maritime militia to guard their interests as the Philippines upgrades its decaying facilities in our maritime territory off Pag-asa island.

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