|Photo from Inquirer|
Commentary of an Academic
(Copyright @ 2019 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).
China’s offensive maritime militia surrounding the Philippines’ Thitu Island presents ‘a winner takes all’ strategic maneuvering that upends the rules of naval warfare and creates a force multiplier amidst tension in the West Philippine Sea. Mere presence of dozens of movable Chinese vessels calls for direct confrontation and advancement helmed by Xi Jinping as he orders a consolidation of all the onshore and offshore territories, natural or artificial islands, big or small sources of resources, as long as everything redounds to the six national interests accounting to state sovereignty; national security; territorial integrity; national reunification; China’s political system established by the Constitution and overall social stability; and, basic safeguards for ensuring sustainable economic and social development. The first three national interests push forward China’s core objectives to arbitrarily cement its own rule of law in the South China Sea against any territorial dispute and maritime claim among the belligerent claimant-countries.
China's success of building the sea wall contributed to the massive terraforming accomplishments that buoys up in the expansive Chinese Lake conjoined with militarized acumen and economic perspicacity. It certainly cultivated a complex security environment that weak nation-states were caught in surprise and shock beyond China’s calculated salami-slicing attack. The attack by stratagem boils down to Chinese strategist Sun Tzu’s wisdom, to wit, that “the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them.” This psychological warfare it pertains plainly tries to intensify the conflict in and around the contested islands that takes shape as naked military aggression in perplexed form.
The Philippines’ policy of silence on asserting the arbitral award of the Arbitral Tribunal hounds the rapprochement of President Rodrigo Duterte on China’s encroachment in the West Philippines Sea. The recalibration of foreign policy in pursuit of defining the Philippines’ national interests strengthens more the giant neighbor’s gray zone strategy. This geostrategic ambiguity falls between the wartime-peacetime spectrums. As China, a neo-imperialist power, sophisticatedly applies a non-military, non-kinetic and unconventional means to achieve long term political goals by exploiting available means of national power to attain political objectives employing ambiguous expanse of the peace and war continuum.
The same political fumbling and fearfulness has put to trap Rodrigo Duterte’s unsophisticated strategy in dealing with Xi Jinping’s erudite scheme that offered a mixture of both danger and opportunity. It sums up Southeast Asia’s populist leader eavesdropping to his own defeatist and proverbial rhetoric that the Philippines has become China’s province and that the giant neighbor “is already in possession” of the contested waterway. China recently downplayed its civilian activities plunked with the deployment of weather stations and permanent rescue ship including military aggressiveness despite the reported deployment of missile launchers and radar-jamming equipment on its artificial islands. For the time being, Beijing’s naval diplomacy can be summed up as a glossy promotion emanating from its international economic footprint on “Maritime Silk Road Initiative’ aimed at enhancing China’s good neighborliness policy by creating a peaceful and harmonious environment within the region. On a strategic level, it may also extend the speck of mining opinions through forum shopping from small-state neighbors to discuss uncertain maritime zone delimitation set by the ocean’s constitution through the UNCLOS. In the end, China plays the game genuinely on its advantage that even bigger and lesser powers in the region react to its military actions and strategic policies.
Duterte's futile proposal of sending troops on a suicide mission against the well-prepared Chinese army navy would only wolfhound the bloody 1968 Jabidah massacre that killed Moro recruits by Filipino soldiers aimed at training a special commando unit to spread havoc in Sabah, the Philippines’ claimed territory from Malaysia, thus igniting more serious security threat that strengthened Moro insurgency creating a major flashpoint on national security. A clandestine mission should not even be announced before it can be done. It may even become a mockery of sermon among observers. Clearly, the Jabidah massacre may be different in context as to the use of soldiers for suicide mission in Pag-asa island that debunks a clever message on the use of naval warfare. However, the prognosis of Chinese aggressiveness and unforgiving ‘a winner takes all’ strategy addresses a realist foresight that President Duterte simply ignored and naturally mismanaged in his oblivious thinking that by befriending China, the Philippines’ claimed islands would remain untouchable.
The Filipino diplomatic protests against Chinese illegal activities and bullying can strengthen the country’s stand to protect its national sovereignty and territorial integrity in the international community. The recent grievance by two former Philippine top officials against Xi Jinping through an enclosed communication addressed to the International Criminal Court sends a solid 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.