Philippines to play key role in South Chine Sea dispute

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Philippines was not informed of the operation of a US unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) that was seized off the coast of Subic Bay by China, under the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. 

The UUV was collecting oceanographic data and “conducting routine operations in accordance with international law,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook.

The US has demanded an immediate return of its UUV that was was seized by the Chinese Navy, just before a US navy ship could retrieve the UUV. Cook said a number of radio messages were sent to immediately return the UUV but were ignored by the Chinese Navy. 

“The UUV is a sovereign immune vessel of the US. We call upon China to return our UUV immediately and to comply with all of its obligations under international law,” Cook said.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza said they were only informed of the operation by their embassy in Washington D.C. after the UUV had been taken by the Chinese. He added they have yet to discuss what will be the reaction from the Philippines. 

Philippines central to dispute

A joint US and Australia report by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments has concluded that China is effectively intimidating other parties in the dispute over the South China Sea with a heavy military presence and territorial expansion. The study urges the US and Australia to lean heavily on its allies within the region to pressure China.

South China Sea claims map
South China Sea claims map

The Philippines, traditionally a close ally of the US, took its claims to an international tribunal in The Hague, and won a favourable ruling in what they hoped would amount to an increase in global diplomatic pressure on China, only for Chinese president Xi Jinping to reject the tribunals ruling, declaring it ‘null and void’ and ignoring its legitimacy on a dispute that they desire to solve directly with the countries involved. 

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte during his presidential campaign has insisted whilst he would not get involved in armed conflict with China, that he would ride a jet ski to the nearest point in the South China Sea that is tolerable (to the Chinese) and erect the Filipino flag. He has since dismissed this simply as rhetoric. 

Duterte meeting his self confessed idol Putin
Duterte meeting his self confessed idol Putin

Duterte has initiated a dramatic shift in foreign policy by alienating the US in favour of opening up relations with the Chinese government and recently securing $24 billion in investment and arms. There has also been a thawing in relations with Moscow with Duterte even claiming that his idol has offered him a ‘buy one, get one free’ deal on rifles.

The cozying up to the Chinese government and a tone down in language puts the Philippines in a unique position, having being one of the strongest opponents to China’s territorial claims in the past. Now the archipelago finds itself in a spot to be able to negotiate unilaterally as well as on behalf of other ASEAN nations. 

The Philippines will be ASEAN chair in 2017, allowing President Duterte to set the agenda. Three other ASEAN members, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, currently have overlapping claims to Beijing over the disputed territory that sees trillions of dollars in passing trade and according to experts hosts an estimated 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

While the Philippines has strengthened ties with China and taken on a softer approach, Vietnam – despite being on track to be China’s largest trade partner – has stood its ground and taken an aggressive stance as the country began dredging in the territories, building a new canal in one of its Spratly island reefs and pursuing defense partnerships with the US, Russia, France and India.

Malaysia, similar to the Philippines wary of its dependent economic relationship with China, gave in and agreed to manage the disputes through bilateral talks rather than through international arbitration.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs says Duterte has identified “maritime security and cooperation” as one of his six top interests for 2017.

Tim Johnston, Asia Program Director for the International Crisis Group, has cautioned the agenda may be set not to upset the apple cart. 

“The chair of ASEAN has the power to set the agenda,” Johnston said. “What [the chair] has been used for historically is to cut things out of the agenda, particularly the South China Sea,” he said.

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Philippines was not informed of the operation of a US unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) that was seized off the coast of Subic Bay by China, under the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. 

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Philippines was not informed of the operation of a US unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) that was seized off the coast of Subic Bay by China, under the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. 

The UUV was collecting oceanographic data and “conducting routine operations in accordance with international law,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook.

The US has demanded an immediate return of its UUV that was was seized by the Chinese Navy, just before a US navy ship could retrieve the UUV. Cook said a number of radio messages were sent to immediately return the UUV but were ignored by the Chinese Navy. 

“The UUV is a sovereign immune vessel of the US. We call upon China to return our UUV immediately and to comply with all of its obligations under international law,” Cook said.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza said they were only informed of the operation by their embassy in Washington D.C. after the UUV had been taken by the Chinese. He added they have yet to discuss what will be the reaction from the Philippines. 

Philippines central to dispute

A joint US and Australia report by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments has concluded that China is effectively intimidating other parties in the dispute over the South China Sea with a heavy military presence and territorial expansion. The study urges the US and Australia to lean heavily on its allies within the region to pressure China.

South China Sea claims map
South China Sea claims map

The Philippines, traditionally a close ally of the US, took its claims to an international tribunal in The Hague, and won a favourable ruling in what they hoped would amount to an increase in global diplomatic pressure on China, only for Chinese president Xi Jinping to reject the tribunals ruling, declaring it ‘null and void’ and ignoring its legitimacy on a dispute that they desire to solve directly with the countries involved. 

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte during his presidential campaign has insisted whilst he would not get involved in armed conflict with China, that he would ride a jet ski to the nearest point in the South China Sea that is tolerable (to the Chinese) and erect the Filipino flag. He has since dismissed this simply as rhetoric. 

Duterte meeting his self confessed idol Putin
Duterte meeting his self confessed idol Putin

Duterte has initiated a dramatic shift in foreign policy by alienating the US in favour of opening up relations with the Chinese government and recently securing $24 billion in investment and arms. There has also been a thawing in relations with Moscow with Duterte even claiming that his idol has offered him a ‘buy one, get one free’ deal on rifles.

The cozying up to the Chinese government and a tone down in language puts the Philippines in a unique position, having being one of the strongest opponents to China’s territorial claims in the past. Now the archipelago finds itself in a spot to be able to negotiate unilaterally as well as on behalf of other ASEAN nations. 

The Philippines will be ASEAN chair in 2017, allowing President Duterte to set the agenda. Three other ASEAN members, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, currently have overlapping claims to Beijing over the disputed territory that sees trillions of dollars in passing trade and according to experts hosts an estimated 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

While the Philippines has strengthened ties with China and taken on a softer approach, Vietnam – despite being on track to be China’s largest trade partner – has stood its ground and taken an aggressive stance as the country began dredging in the territories, building a new canal in one of its Spratly island reefs and pursuing defense partnerships with the US, Russia, France and India.

Malaysia, similar to the Philippines wary of its dependent economic relationship with China, gave in and agreed to manage the disputes through bilateral talks rather than through international arbitration.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs says Duterte has identified “maritime security and cooperation” as one of his six top interests for 2017.

Tim Johnston, Asia Program Director for the International Crisis Group, has cautioned the agenda may be set not to upset the apple cart. 

“The chair of ASEAN has the power to set the agenda,” Johnston said. “What [the chair] has been used for historically is to cut things out of the agenda, particularly the South China Sea,” he said.

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid