Dr. Jay Batongbacal of the University of the Philippines’ Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea (IMLOS) criticized anew the administration’s take in China’s militarization of the South China Sea, locally called West Philippine Sea, following the statement of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque that the Philippines will “thank” China one day for the artificial islands it has built once it leaves the disputed waters.
The marine expert said that the statement demonstrates the administration’s “total lack of concern and understanding” about the nation’s greatest national security challenge.
“One day, the government claims that there is nothing that it can do about China’s activities and facilities; the next day, it claims to remain with ASEAN in expressing concern over militarization and reclamation; the following day, it says that we will one day thank China for these islands if we can get China to leave,” Batongbacal said.
According to Batongbacal, China’s occupation and militarization in the contested features in the West Philippines Sea are the same as “having your rich neighbor post a heavily armed guard next to your gate because that neighbor is afraid of your relatives.”
“He doesn’t let you come near the guard, which means you can’t use much of your front yard, although you can still pass through the gate,” he said. “He assures you that the guard is not directed at you, but does not care about you and your family even if he starts shouting or pointing his guns when your relatives visit or pass by. And as days pass, he adds guards, installs machine guns, places a tank, and regularly sends motorcycle goons by your gate, so that at any time he can close that gate. Your family feels threatened by the guns, is afraid to be in the yard, and gets nervous every time they pass the gate.”
“Each day he does so he assures you that he has no problem with you, and promises you candy or money to placate the members of your family; sometimes he even gives a little of it. Will you even think of thanking your neighbor?” he added.
He said that the administration does not have any plan or strategy in dealing with its territory, and that “it is just bluffing and making things up as it goes along.”
“Filipinos don’t want war, it’s true. But I don’t think Filipinos want to look like idiots and cowards, either.”
Earlier, Batongbacal also slammed Roque’s claim that Filipinos cannot afford to explore Benham Rise, saying it is “completely wrong,” “based on ignorance,” and a “serious disservice” to Filipinos.
The maritime law expert was pertaining to the statement of Roque that Filipinos do not have the potential or financial means to conduct the research in the Philippine Rise for it is too costly for an all-Filipino team.
Batongbacal said that the statement of Malacañang is meant to “disempower” Filipinos and their capability as a people. He added that Philippines is “not a nation of beggars for small change, even if it is from a country as a big and rich as China.”