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Standing Up to the China Bully

12:05 PM June 29, 2011

As Filipinos in America eagerly plan for upcoming demonstrations in front of the Chinese consular offices in the United States on July 8, the question is asked: why aren’t Filipinos in the Philippines similarly incensed by China’s plans to set up oil rigs in the Spratly islands territory of the Philippines this July?

Do they not know, as Xinhua News reported on May 24, 2011, that the China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) is deploying to the Spratlys its 31,000 ton “Marine Oil 981”, a giant deepwater oil drilling platform that carries out oil explorations up to a depth of 3,000 meters and is equipped with a drill that can go as deep as 12,000 meters?

Xinhua News quoted CNOOC Chairman Wang Yilin as declaring that “Marine Oil 981”, which costs $923 million to build over a three-year period, “will be a good opportunity to strengthen its efforts in deepwater oil exploration and ensure energy security” of China. Yilin promised that “the rig will be installed in the waters of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and begin oil and gas prospecting in July 2011.”

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Why is China in a rush to set up oil rigs in the Spratlys?

In 2000, China represented only 6% of global oil demand but in the decade since then, it has accounted for nearly one-half of global oil demand growth and is now the largest vehicle market in the world.  China has become the world’s largest energy consumer surpassing the US.

To meet China’s growing demand for oil, Xinhua News reported that “CNOOC plans to invest 200 billion yuan ($30 billion) and drill 800 deepwater wells – which they expect to have an output of an equivalent 500 million barrels of oil by the year 2020.”  This target production is equivalent to approximately $50 billion per year.

China had previously assured the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) that it was willing to resolve sovereignty disputes peacefully through negotiations. But now, because of its massive energy needs and because it has determined that the Spratly Islands hold sufficient quantities of oil and natural gas deposits to meet its energy needs, China has changed its tune. In March 2010, China unilaterally declared the entire West Philippine Sea a “core national interest” similar to its claims to Tibet and Taiwan and therefore “non-negotiable”.

China does not recognize the Philippine claim to the Spratly Islands which is based on the geographical fact that the islands lie only 125 miles from the Philippine province of Palawan and, according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas, a nation owns the oil, mineral and other resources within a two hundred mile radius from its base. In contrast, China is 585 miles away.

China’s claim is based on an old map drafted during the Han dynasty in 110 AD, which referred to the Spratlys as the Nansha islands and part of the Middle Kingdom. The Philippine islands, known then as the Mayi islands, were likely also a part of China in the same map.

Filipino Americans’ concern about the hegemonic moves of China in the Spratlys was heightened by the recent disclosure of Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario that Chinese warships had intruded in Philippine territory on at least seven occasions in the last few months.

These provocative activities, together with news of China’s deployment in Philippine waters of its giant oil rig, prompted Loida Nicolas Lewis, chair of US Pinoys for Good Governance, to call on Filipinos throughout the world to “stand up to the Chinese bully” and demonstrate in front of Chinese consulates and embassies throughout the world on July 8.

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It would be strange if these “China Hands Off the Spratlys!” demonstrations occurred all over the world except in the Philippines.

If “Marine Oil 981” was dispatched to the Spratlys by Chevron or another American oil company, the organizations of the Left would be certain to demonstrate in front of the US Embassy to denounce American imperialism. But these same groups will not dare denounce China for a similar transgression, because China has materially supported the new Communist Party of the Philippines (under the ideological banner of Mao Tsetung Thought) since its founding in 1967.

On the other end of the political spectrum, Chinese Filipino (Chinoy) Taipans, who account for 8 of the top 10 wealthiest Filipinos, will also not dare denounce China because of their considerable investments in China.

So when President Noynoy Aquino’s spokesman accused China of violating Philippine sovereignty, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile was quick to berate him and warn him: “Don’t agitate China!”

Two years ago, when a Chinese warship was spotted in Philippine waters, Enrile spoke with his friend, China’s Ambassador to the Philippines Liu Jianchao, who confirmed to him that the Chinese vessel was a “warship.”  Enrile then told Philippine reporters. “Well, they have a right to go through the sea with their warship. China is a major power of the world, like America, Japan, Britain, and the others, and they have the equipment. If we have the equipment, we can do the same.”

But the Philippines can’t do the same because it has only one warship, a WW II vintage destroyer purchased in 1978 called the Rajah Humabon.  When Pres. Aquino dispatched it to the Scarborough Shoal in the Spratlys a week ago, Sen. Edgardo Angara called the move “pitiful” and Sen. Enrile, the Inquirer reported, “cautioned the Aquino administration against agitating China in the explosive Spratly Islands dispute by sending the country’s only warship beyond Philippine waters.”

If Philippine officials, other than Pres. Aquino, are unable or unwilling to stand up to China, then that task will fall on overseas Filipinos to expose China’s aggression and hopefully shame China into backing down.

Please stand up to the China bully and demonstrate in front of a China consulate or embassy on July 8 at 12 noon wherever you are, even if you are in the Philippines.

(If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you are invited to attend a community forum on July 6 at 6PM at the Philippine Consulate Social Hall at 447 Sutter Street. Please send your comments to Rodel50@gmail.com or mail them to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127 or call 415.334.7800).

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TAGS: Diplomacy, Fil-Am, Foreign affairs, natural gas, oil, Protest, South China Sea, Spratly Islands, Spratlys, territorial conflict, US, West Philippine Sea
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