Philippines trying to find a win-win solution
27 abril, 2012
The Scarborough Shoal is a group of islands located between the Zhongsha and Luzon Island of Philippines, in the South China Sea. The sovereignty over this area, though, is strongly disputed between China and the Philippines. After the Chinese Civil War, both the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan claimed property over those islands, and starting from the 1997, the Philippines added themselves to the list of claimers: the Shoal is 124 nautical miles from the nearest base point in Zambales Province, obviously within the Philippines’ 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf.
The shoal and its surrounding area are rich fishing grounds. A significant number of Chinese fishermen have been arrested by Philippine officials in this area, particularly during 1998-2001.
On the 8th of April, the Philippine Navy reported to have monitored eight Chinese fishing vessels in the Scarborough Shoal, clearly contrasting the Philippine Fishery Codes and the marine environment protection laws. A maritime patrol was conducted over the area, and large amounts of illegally collected corals, giant clams and live sharks were found within the vessels.
While the Philippines seeks a solution through peaceful means, China demonstrates that in their way of seeing things, the standoff in the South China Sea can’t be solved through pacific ways and diplomatic negotiations, and therefore recognizes an aggressive approach as the one and only mean of success. The main issue now is wether the Philippines stands up against China, initiating a potential conflict, or if they simply do nothing and leave their ships exactly where they already are and wait to see what the chinese would do.
So what is the best strategy? The most sensible strategy is for the Philippines to work its way out of it – the Philippines don’t really need to do anything about it. The best possible thing for the government to do is nothing. Drop the anchor of the ships and leave them there. Lets explain this, if the Chinese try to blow them up – let them: the first Phillippines boat to be blown up by the Chinese will trigger the US – Philippine mutual defense pact. The US will have no choice, in such a scenario, as if it acts otherwise, its treaty will loose credibility which will leave the american ‘power’ to evaporate.
This leads to a further issue: the role that the US plays in the situation. The American troops and the Philippines began two weeks of joint drills in the South China Sea and naval maneuvers, known as Balikatan, will last until 27 April. After Philippines voted to remove American bases in the country for twenty years, now they want to grant to the American troops access to ports and airports, in order to prevent the growing power of China. In this way, the United States is also meant to strengthen its influence in the Asia-Pacific region.
As regards the cold conflict taking place in the South China Sea, it’s an evidence that the pressure through threat by the governments interested in the area is susceptible to become a potential mayor threat to the stability of the area. When the waves of the sea begin to move their own direction independently, the quietness of the shore is disturbed by a storm which potential would be the analogy to this situation in which any wave higher than the rest would provoke an aggressive answer that would lead to tempest. So the wisest way of solving the conflict is trying to find a win-win situation in which each side would be benefited. Any other status quo would mean the existence of independent unsatisfied waves waiting their opportunity to wage war.