China’s thinly disguised invasion of Philippine territory through its illegal land reclamation of the country’s exclusive economic zones (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea is sparking even stronger anti-China sentiments in the country.
Under its nine-dash line policy, China is asserting ownership over 90 percent of the West Philippine Sea, including the EEZ and continental shelf of the Philippines, and neighboring countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei.
According to Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate, vocal critics of both Chinese and US intervention in the Philippines, this is a preposterous theory without any real legal, historical, and moral basis.
The two lawmakers have penned House Resolution 2031 which asks the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and National Defense to look into the actions required to defend the Philippines against China’s expansionist intrusions in the West Philippine Sea.
“We are also asking both Houses of Congress to launch a diplomatic offensive to get other countries to protest the instability caused by Chinese aggressive acts in the region,” the resolution of the two patriotic legislators read.
Contrary to the commonly-held view that the Philippine Left is a pawn of China, it is in fact the only movement that has consistently stood for the assertion of our national sovereignty whether against China or the US.
Not only have Leftist lawmakers issued resolutions, statements, and speeches condemning Chinese bullying, groups like Bayan Muna, Gabriela, and Anakbayan, among others have repeatedly organized rallies against the China’s expansionist policy in the West Philippine Sea.
It is no secret that the Left in the Philippines is inspired by Mao and the Chinese revolution which meant empowerment of the masses, land for the peasants, industrialization and jobs for everyone, free education, health, and other social services, and an independent foreign policy.
But with the takeover of Deng Xiaoping’s gang of capitalist roaders after the death of Mao in 1976, its economy has been increasingly privatized and its orientation changed from serving the needs of the Chinese people towards earning profit for a few capitalists.
That China claims entitlement to all territories within the nine-dash-line in a map published by the Kuomintang regime in 1947 uncannily shows that the current Chinese government has more in common with Chiang Kai-Shek than with Mao Zedong.
This is the reason why the Philippine Left is not pro-China: the Chinese ruling party has repudiated Mao’s socialist legacy, restored capitalism, and presided over the reappearance of poverty, inequality, corruption, and an imperialist foreign policy.
“Cute Little Submissive”
One does not counter oppression by simply substituting one oppressor for another oppressor. But this is exactly the approach of those who use the tension with China to promote US interests and justify the massive return of US bases in the Philippines.
And yet as Rep. Zarate points out, relying on the US geo-political agenda in the Asia-Pacific does not assure that the US will defend the Philippines in the event of actual conflict since it has bigger economic relations with China.
“The US owes China at least US$1.28 trillion and has a total of US$579 billion in trade with China, compared to only US$17.6 billion with the Philippines,” he said.
Even Philippine Solicitor General Florin Hilbay reaffirmed during oral arguments at the Supreme Court on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that there is no guarantee of the US defending its ally from attacks or invasion.
In truth it is because of the Aquino government’s indecisiveness in the face of outright Chinese provocation and complete puppetry to the US that China is so aggressive and has no hesitation about belittling the Philippines.
For all the toxic pro-China rhetoric, a Chinese tabloid did hit the mark when it called the Philippines the “cute little submissive” of the US in Southeast Asia.
Its scrutiny of the value of US defense commitments is even more damning: “After… all these years, Manila has gained only a handful of second-hand weapons and an empty sense of security, let alone any real enhancement of its army’s combat capability.”
Neither China nor US
The only realistic prospect for the Philippines of countering Chinese expansionism is the charting of a course independent of both Chinese and American imperial interests.
But the Aquino regime and the halfhearted ruling class of big compradors, big landlords, and corrupt bureaucrats that it represents cannot be expected to stand up for the country’s national sovereignty against all forms of foreign domination, Chinese or American.
In an exclusive interview with Manila Bulletin columnist Tonyo Cruz, National Democratic Front of the Philippines Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison said that this can be achieved by transforming strong anti-China sentiments into a widespread protest movement.
Sison condemned the Aquino regime for taking no decisive steps to discourage the Chinese reclamation of Philippine seas, continuing to beg the US and even Japan to put up military bases in the Philippines, while allowing Chinese enterprises to plunder the country.
Stronger protests, Sison said, can call for the ban and nationalization of foreign enterprises that plunder and prevent the development of the Philippines. It can push for national industrialization in order to build a self-reliant economy and defense capability.
He moreover floated the idea of greater cooperation with the country’s Southeast Asian neighbor’s, saying “the next best option is to unite with Vietnam and other ASEAN countries in opposing China’s arrogant claim of over 90 percent of the South China Sea.”
Failing to assert its own destiny, the Philippines will continue to be “the Sick Man of Asia” regardless of its ruling classes’ delusions of having become the next rising tiger — a country forever under the orbit of foreign powers.
Note: I wrote this article for the Philippine Online Chronicles.