Panatag (Scarborough} Shoal staging point of China’s bully against the Philippines: A commentary
Anchor for Allvoices
Republic of the Philippines
On the geographical point of view, Panatag (Scarborough} Shoal 124 nautical miles off Masinloc Coast in the province of Zambales is far closer to the Philippines than it is to China’s mainland. It is within the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
What is the basis of China’s claim on the shoal in question? It is very clear that in terms of “proximity”, it is far closer to the Philippines than to China. Therefore, China cannot invoke the proximity principle as basis of its claim.
Likewise, China has a very vague historical claim on Panatag Shoal. As Philstar reported through Yahoo said, “Meanwhile, a diplomatic cable released by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks said China could not specify a historical document to support its claims to disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea. In diplomatic cable 08BEIJING3499 sent to Washington by the US embassy in Beijing on Sept. 9, 2008, a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) official and a local scholar could not identify specific historical records to justify China’s “Nine Dashes” claim that covers the whole Spratlys and areas within other countries’ exclusive economic zones. MFA Department of Treaty and Law Oceans and Law of the Sea Division Deputy Director Yin Wenqiang told a US embassy political officer on Aug. 30, 2008 that “China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and the adjacent waters.”
Furthermore, “Yin admitted he is not aware of the historical basis for the ‘Nine Dashes’ and only mentioned unspecified ‘Chinese historical documents’ that indicate the basis for China’s claims on territory west of the Philippines,” the US embassy official said as quoted from Philstar’s report.
China could not ascertain the exact historical document through it could base its claim over the shoal as Philstar finally said, “According to Wikileaks, Yang said China’s claims “date back to ancient times, prior to the development of the modern nation-state.” “Neither MFA’s Yin nor Beijing University’s Yang could specify a historical document that indicated the basis for the demarcation of the ‘Nine Dashes’,” the cable added.”
The Philippines’ claim on Panatag Shoal is very much in order because it is within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone as conventionally defined and established by virtue of the Law of the Sea.
If the claim of China could not be ascertained in terms of principle of proximity and historical antecedents, China’s claim is purely viewed as “bullying”. It deployed its fishery and maritime law enforcement ship described as the most advanced on it class. It is the biggest of the vessels deployed to ascertain China’s sovereignty on Panatag Shoal. It indicates China’s designs to prey on smaller and weaker countries like the Philippines. China plays the role of a giant preying on a powerless ant.
China’s continued deployment of force in the South China as remarkably evidenced by FLEC 310 is regarded by Philippine officials as China’s more intense bullying citing one of its tasks is to protect Chinese fishermen. There are four large and five smaller Chinese vessels that operated undisturbed in the area.
BRP EDSA ll, a Coast Guard search and rescue ship keeps anchor in Panatag Shoal to ascertain Philippines sovereignty and as a symbol of defiance of China’s incursion. However, it can only monitor the presence of two Chinese ships like the FLEC 310 and CMS 71 due to the absence of radar-tracking capabilities in BRP EDSA 11.
China’s unusual naval presence in the West Philippines Sea is viewed as a threat to an international sea lane of commerce and trade. Such China’s display of arrogance against the Philippines and to other nations using the vital route incites such countries to become antagonistic to China. Apparently, China induces the United States of America into the contention being a friend with a mutual defense pact with the Philippines.