When it comes to Scarborough Shoal and Benham Rise issues, it isn’t one or two times that the Philippines encountered disputes on territory and sovereignty among neighbors in the South China Sea. With the Philippines’ strategic coordinates of 12.8797° N latitude, 121.7740° E longitude, her unique and advancing positioning in the Pacific is considered to be the most sought-after target in leveraging for both military and economic advancement.
The vast, unexplored underwater natural resources of the Philippines and its bottom seabed topography and other mysteries are sources of leverage that when capitalized enough to bolster economic propulsion and military muscles flexing.
What made America too cocky with its military might and intelligence pivot?
Why has Russia become too powerful to flex its might on the face of the planet?
Why has China been too optimistic and tough to exercise its willingness to cooperate while too conceited to display its military vastitude?
You may think of too hazardous reasons to satisfy these questions. But the rest of us may either likely ignore it or leave it alone. There are no other choices but to let it stand.
Other countries are silent and just continue grooming their backyards, while the rest are strategically pivoting their intelligence to either stage an event or make dramas out of it for the advantage of their homeland.
We may be duped or brainwashed. They may be cowed, but our country remains a slut—used, misused, abused, and leveraged by individuals or groups who have no other agenda but to cooperate with all excesses in exchange for private, exclusive benefits. And you folks out there know it, don’t you?
When gaining is losing
The controversial and the most publicized territorial dispute the Philippines embarked on was the Scarborough Shoal dispute with China. In the process, it became the springboard to launch the first-ever Philippine case challenging giant China in the international tribunal.
The international court ruled in favor of the Philippines’ claims. China remained undisturbed by the decision and rather advised the Philippines to go back to a bilateral process and reevaluate its status quo on a power play.
With the decision made by the international court, has the Philippines benefited from it? Too wary to assert that it has with nary a proof! Others would safely say it too early to figure it out. In other words, it has none.
The Philippines may have won the case but lost its face. On the contrary, China may have lost it but gained out of it. China never lost the game. It just started gaining from the perspective of the game.
During the 2016 presidential election campaign, most Filipinos believed that then Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte could somehow fix the territorial conflict by asserting the international court’s decision to be implemented through the arrogance of Jet Ski-ing to Scarborough Shoal to plant the Philippine flag asserting, “This is ours; back off!”
Now, where has his Jet Ski been going? It has now been going to the West, figuratively!
But I clapped both hands thinking President Duterte at that perspective of being practical, mature, and more than decent to choose the side from cocky alternatives. At least he knows where he must stand despite the discomfort it effuses.
Scarborough Shoal and Benham Rise issues: Cooperation as the new weapon
The Philippines has been and long been a member of Asian and global organizations where cooperation and mutual respect for the common good are considered passé. These organizations and their members, themselves, have vested interest each boils down to their advantage.
But what makes these organizations vulturish, cannibalistic, and distrustful could be the threat of becoming one day an adversary, the next day a compadre, and the rest of the days an accomplice.
Depending on what a country could offer in exchange for something advantageous to the other hand while gratifying to the rest of the same hand. Whichever it may be, still greed and malice can coexist. Unfortunately, they even dressed up to feign betrayal with allegiance.
The swarming interest of China in those considered Philippine waters or within territorial sovereignty, especially in the alleged exploration issue on Benham Rise (now, Philippine Rise), could be the best bet for the Philippines to play.
Although China could have been known it already beforehand, that play would be a no-choice play for both countries to strengthen themselves in whatever aspects both have intended to get leverage out of it.
What maritime heritage are we talking about for the Filipinos to be passed onto the next generation, when generations and generations had already come, yet still the Philippine underwaters—believed to have been blessed with natural resources—remained unexplored and unused rather than being realized and profited for good?
What resources for the future generations are we thinking of over and over when we the present are yesterdays’ future generations?
What specific generation are we waiting for when the possibility is high of having the future generation would be likely the same generation of today?
A change of course of action to strengthen first alliances with neighboring countries, the Philippines rather needs deeper cooperation with China instead of flexing legal muscles on territories under fire. China could be the Philippines’ Big Brother. China knows the Philippines more than America does. Sovereignty alone cannot save the Philippines economy nor can it ably arm the country when war arises. ▲
Regel Javines is a former editor-in-chief of an official student publication in a state university. He has been blogging since 2011 writing news and opinion on various social issues; a stringer for already defunct Yahoo! Contributor Network and Allvoices.com. He is also a former content editor and proofreader for various book publishing companies and spent a short stint in The Manila Times as a Deskman for national and foreign business news. See Regel’s posts.