29.6 C
Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Beyond words

- Advertisement -

WE HAVE repeatedly heard President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. say the Philippines “will not lose an inch” of territory, in face of continuing maritime tensions with Beijing in the South China Sea.

The 66-year-old President was glasslike in saying the country “has seen heightened geopolitical tensions that do not conform to our ideals of peace and threaten the security and stability of the country, of the region and of the world.”

The other day, the Philippine Coast Guard underlined that statement, saying it is committed to sustaining a presence in the West Philippine Sea to ensure China does not carry out reclamation activities at Escoda Shoal.

Last weekend, the PCG deployed a ship to the shoal – also known as Sabina Shoal – where it accused China of building an artificial island amid an escalating maritime row, adding two other vessels were in rotational deployment in the area.

Sabina Shoal is only 140 kms from the shoreline of Palawan, and is clearly within the Philippines’ 322-km Exclusive Economic Zone.

What has happened that the country’s giant and heavily populated neighbor should have the impudence to build an artificial island beyond its exclusive economic zone?

We heard the former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, unambiguously, say in an interview: “I think they (the Chinese) are in the process of making markings because they destroyed the coral reefs, maybe that’s the first phase.”

We agree with Carpio the Philippines should bring the matter of the Chinese destroying the coral to the tribunal of the United Nations on the Laws of the Sea.

At this point, the Philippines should stop the reported reclamation being undertaken by China of the Sabina Shoal and Pag-asa Cay.

The shoal, a sandbank or sandbar just below the surface of the water, is 75 nautical miles or 140 kilometers from Palawan and within the Philippines’ EEZ.

On a recent patrol, the PCG discovered piles of dead coral on Sabina Shoal which it said suggested a sign of a possible attempt to create an artificial island.

“The fact that they destroyed it, that’s already prejudicial to us because that’s our EEZ and the coral reefs are important for the ecosystem for fish to thrive,” Carpio said.

Also of concern is the distance of Sabina Shoal to Reed or Recto Bank which is believed to be rich in oil deposits, also within the Philippines’ EEZ.

We need to listen to Carpio’s warning: ”If we allow (China) to build on Sabina Shoal then they will harass us in Reed Bank because they have a base (nearby).”

In 1985, China constructed what it claimed to be shelters for fishermen within Mischief/Panganiban Reef inside the Philippines’ EEZ.

These have since been developed into a base where its ships harass Filipino vessels.

How much longer must the Philippines extend its patience against harassment tactics by an out-and-out bully?


Popular Articles