Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 12 May 2012


If countries were people with their heights determined by land area and their weights determined by population, China would certainly be a Goliath to the Philippines’ David—except that the physical differences between the two would be much, much greater than those of their biblical counterparts. Even if the Old Testament’s Goliath had been nine feet tall (although the experts think he was closer to seven feet), as opposed to David’s maybe 5’7” at the shortest, and the giant’s weight had been three times that of the young boy (15-17 years old), that difference would pale in comparison with China’s Goliath and the Philippines’ David.

China’s land area of 9.6 million square kilometers would make it 32 times taller than the Philippines (300,000 sq km); its population (1.3 billion) would make it 14 times heavier than the Philippines (94 million). A really daunting difference. It must have been daunting for the biblical David, too, but the point is that he didn’t turn tail and run, which would have given victory to the Philistines on a silver platter. And, of course, he won. Given the difference between China’s Goliath and our David, we may not win. But our  turning tail and running now will just give China victory on a silver platter. Plus, we may not be able to live with ourselves, however we try to rationalize things. Plus, of course, we would have let Inang Bayan down, particularly since we regularly sing to her that: “It is glorious, ever, when thou art wronged, for us thy sons to suffer and die.”

Nevertheless, it would be instructive to find out exactly how China rationalizes a situation that, from our point of view, leaves no doubt whatsoever of its hegemony and/or imperialism. And one would be amazed that as far as China is concerned, we are the bad guys. It has been forbearing, but we are “pressing” it “into a corner” so that its only recourse is to stand and fight. It also claims that Philippine warships have been harassing its fishermen since 1990, with the April 10 incident being only the latest in this string of harassments. We have “played tricks” and “triggered disturbances.”  And since 2000, by its count, at least 32 of its fishing ships were “chased, robbed or detained” by the Philippine Navy.

The tiny David, bullying the giant Goliath. The harassment being in the form of chasing, or robbing, or detaining.

Just listen to China’s version of what happened on April 10, as recounted supposedly by the captain of one of its fishing ships: Nine Philippine soldiers, seven of them carrying rifles, and riding on an inflatable raft, boarded his ship, and made him and his crew (total 16) stand on the deck under the hot sun for four hours while they searched the ship. The captain apparently still had not recovered from the “shocking encounter” with the Philippine Navy, even after three weeks from returning home.

And to the Chinese government, we live in fantasy land, because we are mistaking its “forbearance” for “timidity.” At the same time, its story of being harassed, robbed, and pressed into a corner, played tricks on, detained, is an objective, factual account.

China calls it Huangyan Island. We call it Bajo de Masinloc. We say that the area has been delineated as Philippine territory in Spanish maps dating to the 17th century. China says that this same area has been delineated as its territory in its maps dated several centuries ago.

But what about the fact that Bajo de Masinloc/Huangyan is only something like 230 kilometers away from Zambales while it is 1,200 km from the nearest major Chinese land mass? Only think of how long it would have taken Chinese boats several hundred years ago to go to and from the area. Tiny boats. No refrigeration. What would be the point of using the place as fishing grounds? No one has given a satisfactory reason.

But isn’t Huangyan, at a distance of 1,200 km from China, outside of its exclusive economic zone (200 miles or 320 km), while it is well within that of the Philippines, as we claim?

Not to China, which thinks that our territorial claim is “untenable” because, quoting from the director of the China Institute for Marine Affairs under State Oceanic Administration, “there is no such principle in international law that determines territorial ownership by geographic distance, and this theory based on geographic distance … has no basis in international law and judicial practice.” And if the Philippines’ theory was upheld, he says, the world map would be totally redrawn.

The example he gives is that the British Channel Islands are less than 12 nautical miles off the French coastline at their nearest point. What he fails to point out is that the closest distance between the English mainland and France is only 22 miles. So obviously, the 200-mile economic zone cannot apply.

The kicker here would be: If China really thinks that the Philippine “rhetoric” is untenable in terms of international law, why doesn’t it want to go to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea? Tsk.

But China isn’t the only one that makes a claim and doesn’t want to put its money where its mouth is. We have also been treated to the spectacle of the United States, which claims that we have a mutual defense treaty with each other but won’t put its money where its mouth is. But that’s another story.

A pox on both of them.