Taking a stand
Two weeks back, the Philippines hosted the “Balikatan 2023” by allowing the military of the United States of America in conjunction with the Armed Forces of the Philippines to conduct war games in various parts of the country.
The war games simulated an actual state of war. It included the interception of incoming missiles and the actual sinking of “enemy” ships trying to enter the country’s exclusive economic zone. The balikatan exercises demonstrated the military capacity of the U.S. in the event a war implodes in the Far East.
The Balikatan 2023 came at a time when there is renewed tension between the two superpowers of the world in the U.S. and China, which had been aggressively claiming by means force and intimidation territories consisting of islands, isles, and sea channels that fall within the exclusive economic zones of poorer nations and dominating them as its own.
Worst, China has announced its intention of claiming the island of Taiwan as its province by any means possible, notwithstanding that the latter insists on its independence.
The tension of the foregoing events leads many to believe, including some military analysts from the U.S. that, if it does not subside, there might be a war in the Pacific. These analysts are of the opinion that it is only a matter of time.
Of course, in the event a war ensures between the two countries, the Philippines, whether it likes it or not, shall be dragged into it. Should this happen, the possibilities are grim and horrible.
Already, the Philippines is preparing for any eventuality. In the jockeying of spherical position between the U.S. and China, the Philippines has as much stake in the outcome.
For one, most of the seas and islands being claimed by China is within Philippine territory. No less than an international tribunal affirms this.
Only, the Philippines cannot enforce it since it has neither the military might nor the political will to do so. Furthermore, the past administration, despite the criticisms it was getting, leaned in its foreign policy towards tolerance and sobriety in favor of China. It said that this had to be since the country does not have the military capability to defend its own sovereignty. Otherwise, it concluded, many Filipinos will die.
In short, it did not do anything to assert the Philippines’ territorial integrity in the West Philippine Sea in as much that it did not uphold Filipino pride. Hence, we lived in shame.
As a result, Philippine seas and isles were ripped apart by the Chinese Navy turning most of them into bases which they use to drive away Filipino fishermen and other ships navigating the area by ramming them, hosing their crew, depriving them of their livelihood and cheating them of their own rights and interests. Our fishermen’s complaints were swatted away like flies. While their voices constrained the government to file diplomatic protests, all these were in vain. It fell on deaf ears and were given scant consideration by the Chinese embassy.
But things are about to change.
The Philippine government is asserting its alliance with the U.S. It has gotten an assurance that the U.S. will honor the defense treaty it has signed with the Philippines.
Pursuant thereto, the U.S. President has assured the President of the Philippines that the full might and resources of the U.S. military shall come to the aid of the Philippines in the event China commits any act of aggression. Surely, this enquired the ire of the Chinese leadership.
The actions being taken by the Philippine government to defend its sovereignty has caught the attention of China. Perhaps, the balikatan and the invocation of the treaty with the U.S. will deter China from further invading the exclusive economic zone areas of the country.
Perhaps, China will reexamine its foreign policies by respecting the rule of law. Perhaps, it is about time that the Philippines asserts its rights and interests in the Philippine Sea by standing its ground and by refusing to cower in fear every time it is threatened by the Chinese armada.
As a nation, the Philippines deserves to be respected in all aspects of its existence. Its territorial integrity must be upheld. If this must be achieved by means of equal aggression, so be it.
After all, our national anthem concludes in its last stanza, “ang mamatay ng dahil sa iyo.”