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On this Dangerous China-Philippines Standoff

By:Cesar Torres


On this Dangerous China-Philippines Standoff

  Ask Our People~ 

Are they Willing to Die for the Sake of their Country and their Honor?               

7 September 2012 


his is a rhetorical question, of course. With terrible implications. But supposing the Philippines will defend Panatag and other areas that are definitely part of Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea, such as the Municipality of Kalayaan in that Island Group, and the Chinese will react with violence, and fire on the Filipinos who are just legally defending our territory, and then the violence will escalate to the point that China will use its massive force to subjugate us, are the Filipinos willing to die for the sake of our Homeland and our honor?


Terrible thought. But it could end this way — thousands, even millions of Filipinos dying…. And resulting in the disappearance of the Philippines from the map because China wants to prove to the world that it is the “Middle Kingdom” ( all over again. And that whatever China wants, China gets. It will not countenance anyone barring its way.


For those who are seriously concerned about China`s behavior with respect to our miserable country, I think this is now the time to ask our countrymen if they understand the meaning and the implications of the following lines in our National Anthem which they have been singing with intense fervor since they could sing:


Lupang Hinirang,
Duyan ka ng magiting,
Sa manlulupig,
Di ka pasisiil.


And to emphasize that patriotism, love of country, can result in the ultimate sacrifice    one’s life — we sing with passion:


Aming ligaya, na pag may mang-aapi
Ang mamatay ng dahil sa iyo.



Initial Impresssions and Childish Dreams


Earlier, when China started this confrontation with the Philippines and other countries bordering the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea, I expressed my thoughts to a very close friend, a Filipina, who has Chinese roots like millions of us Filipinos, like my wife, my daughter, my son, my three grandsons who are all Americans. I consoled my friend that China might be flexing its muscles, hoping to right the wrongs heaped upon it.  They want to become the "Middle Kingdom" all over again, after being brutalized and carved up by European, American, and Japanese imperialists.


Aside from righting historical wrongs, China has to ensure that food and other basic needs for its 1.37 billion population — and their succeeding generations for thousands of years to come — shall be assured. Survival and self-preservation are the primordial laws of life, except for the Islamic suicide bombers and the Japanese heroes who volunteered to go inside the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima in 2011.


Initially, I was imagining that China, this mammoth, gargantuan country with the biggest population in the world at 1.37 billion, and three million soldiers which can hurl atomic weapons anywhere on earth, was just acting like a giant cat, playing with a scrawny, sickly, starving and mangy mouse, the Philippines.


The cat is a behemoth. But unlike other cats, such as man-eating lions and tigers, the tiny emaciated mouse was used to its presence. They have been interacting with each other for a long time already, almost back to the dawn of history. The race of the Philippine mouse, even thought that the behemoth creature was their guardian, and would protect them from harm. Hence, the mangy mouse was not afraid.


Nevertheless, it did not escape the attention of the Philippine mouse that in March 14, 1988, some 88 Vietnamese mice were killed by the Chinese PLA when there was a violent confrontation in the Spratlys.


True. Like any other nation-states, the Mammoth China had its national interests to take care of. It has to feed its 1.37 billion mouths for one. It has dreams of grandeur among the 193 countries of the world. And never again would it allow itself to be carved into several pieces of territorial properties under several imperialistic spheres of influence.


Millions in the Philippines had the illusion that China would interact with its neighbors in ASEAN, in an exemplary manner, an example of civility and diplomacy. Unlike the giant Killer Whales or the Orcas, it was not going to play with the poor and defenseless ever-smiling dolphins like the Filipinos, tossing them to the air, and then ripping them apart.  


China was going to pursue and protect its national interests in a civilized and reasonable manner, by adhering to international law, without bullying and brutalizing small countries, and killing Vietnamese soldiers and threatening Filipino soldiers and innocent civilians.


As dreamers, perhaps I and a million others conjured two ideal agreements with China in connection with the territories owned by the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea, such as the Panatag Shoal after their contradicting claims have been mediated.


Scenario No. 1 -- The Dream Scenario for the Philippines


For the Philippines and the world, China will apologize to the Philippines, and confess that their bullying of the Philippines was a mistake. And that the Central Committee and the Politburo had tried and convicted the persons responsible for that embarrassing mistake.  It was not right that they prevented the unloading of tons of bananas from Mindanao resulting in thousands of Filipinos being hungry. They will allow the unloading of tons of bananas from Mindanao. And to resolve differences between the Philippines, Vietnam, and other countries, it will take the lead and agree to international mediation and conform to the Law of the Sea.


China will initiate an agreement with the Philippines and Vietnam, and other stakeholders, that a regional treaty for the sustainable and environmentally sound utilization of the marine and other resources of the South China Sea will be undertaken by the nations of the “Pacific Community”. This would be the “Great Harmony”, “da tong”, in the conception of Confucius.


Scenario No. 2 -- The Confucian Great Harmony Scenario


In this scenario, the 1.37 billion Chinese led by the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army will chide the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia for their lack of respect and faith in the superior culture and civilization of the Chinese Communists and Capitalists. The Chinese will swear on their lives and on their honor that they only wanted “Harmony” in Southeast Asia, especially with the members of the ASEAN, without denying the special relations between the ASEAN countries such as Philippine dependence on its former master, America.


Again, an apology to the Vietnamese and the Philippines will be offered. Henceforth, they will be guided by the “Law of the Sea” and Arvid Pardo’s immortal declaration that the oceans should be the common heritage of mankind.


They will not only seek harmony in Southeast Asia, especially in the West Philippine Sea, they will seek harmony all over the world.


They will be a guardian of the peace all over the world, and will vote in the United Nations Security Council based on what is civilized, befitting their claim that they are the Middle Kingdom, between heaven and earth and those peoples and nations below them are barbarians.


In initiating an organization that will ensure that the resources of the West Philippine Sea, the Spratlys and the Paracels, shall be nurtured and safeguarded as the common heritage of the people in the ASEAN and China, China will request that the Security Council shall create a Task Force to be headed jointly by the Philippines and Vietnam. And that China will abide by the recommendations of the Task Force.


Indeed, how pleasant to contemplate if the two scenarios are possible.

But we know they are unrealistic. Sort of escapism, wishing for the moon because the other alternatives could be horrible.


An Uncomfortable Realization


One does not have to be scholar on China, or be a Flaming Revolutionary inspired by the Thoughts of Chairman Mao like the Vanguard of the working class in the National Democratic Front or capable of spouting by rote without even thinking, all the quotations in that famous book beloved of Filipino activists and revolutionaries not so long ago, “The Little Red Book” to realize that appearances and impressions can be deceiving and that among nation states, there are indeed no permanent friends. Only permanent interests.


An honest-to-goodness effort to understand what is happening in China, and what it might do to sickly, mangy, malnourished, and hungry mice like the Philippines, will reveal that China is not the cuddly, fluffy, cute, black and white creature, with big eyes that looks so lovable and huggable, the world famous Panda.


The small mouse hiding in a graveyard in the Philippines which serves as its home, and now afraid to even attempt a miserable squeak, has realized that the Panda is huge and dangerous. It has claws and teeth that can rip the mouse apart, that it may not be satisfied with feasting on bamboos anymore. It covets the richness of the West Philippine Sea. It is not a creature to be petted. It is a dangerous animal. Period!


Because of this imperative drive to take care of its 1.37 billion people, note, that even if the Chinese are being condemned, insulted, and maligned by most of humanity for protecting regimes that are committing barbaric atrocities and genocides in some parts of the world, they are uncaring and oblivious to these maledictions. They don’t care what the world thinks of them. They are benefiting from these regimes. They want to ensure that their voracious appetites for raw materials and resources are met, hence their treaties and agreements with countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America.


I had a change of mind when I read the e-mail of a former President of the UP Medical Alumni Society of America (UPMASA), Dr. Seb Kho. Like millions of Filipinos he has common genes and DNA as Confucius and Shih Huang-Ti. His email was suffused with such desperation on what China was doing, that after reading his post, I clicked on Google Earth to situate China, and the countries bordering it, in case it decides to own all of Asia.


Then there was Robert Ceralvo’s unrelenting warning: "NO TO CHINA AGGRESSION NOW!" But he and all of us know, that to concretize this “NO”, the ramifications and implications are gut-wrenching and mind-boggling.


Of course, I have been reading Rodel Rodis’ articles. This future mayor of this Chinese-dominated San Francisco in California is so passionate, unrelenting in his fight for Philippine national interest with respect to Panatag, the Spratlys and the West Philippine Sea. More than anyone else in America and the WWW, he stands out as the untiring advocate for this cause.


However, how I wish that he and the members of his group can tone down on citing the billions of barrels of oil under the West Philippine Sea, the potential resource that belong to the 103 million Filipinos and their descendants, as a vital and primary reason why thousands or millions of Filipinos might be mowed down by Chinese submachine guns to fatten the sharks and the giant clams in the West Philippine Sea.


There other attributes of a country and a people, not just money or oil under the West Philippine Sea or marine and fisheries resources that the Chinese, the Japanese, the Filipinos, and the world covet. For a nation, there are unquantifiable attributes such as honor, national dignity, and pride as a respectable country. But of course, to Filipinos who are rolling in wealth, the impoverished and wretched Filipinos cannot eat honor, national dignity, and national pride. They prefer oil and gas.


But hitting me like a slap on the side of my head, dashing my belief that China’s attribution to itself as the “Middle Kingdom” could be justified, and that it was not a brutal, barbaric, bully, because it had claims of being civilized, was the article published by Reuters on August 2, 2012. Entitled “First came the diplomatic offensive, then the flexing of military muscle,” the article opened my eyes to the reality that China is indeed not the cuddly, huggable, cute Panda after all.


After going through the Reuters article several times, the message seems beyond contention. Unless there is a radical change in the thinking and the position of the controlling power in China — which could be temporary anyway — the Chinese might have calculated that a few thousand or million Filipino, Vietnamese, and Chinese lives can be dispensed with in the pursuit of their long-range national interest with respect to the Spratlys and other islands in the West Philippine Sea.


Is this a figment of my imagination? Frankly, I fervently hope that it is.


But from historical sources and Henry Kissinger’s “On China,” his newest book, the following stare me in the face:


  • At the height of the Korean War, the Chinese were going to fight the American and UN forces, including the Filipinos, with their “human waves”, risking being bombed with atomic warheads by the Americans.


  • Kissinger further related that at the height of a possible atomic confrontation between America and the "Communist" USSR and China, Mao Zedong assured Nikita ‪Khrushchev that China was willing to sacrifice 300 million Chinese in case there was an atomic war between the US and China-USSR.  ‪Khrushchev was appalled. He could not believe Mao and the Communist Party of China would go to that extent. He made a quick detente with the Americans.  He was convinced that Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist leadership were crazy.


The Horrible Reality


In an article by Drew Thompson, entitled “Think Again: China’s Military” published in Foreign Policy Magazine, the following seems uppermost with respect to the Chinese military and the world:


  • China`s Military is a growing threat.
  • China`s Armed Forces are the biggest in the world.
  • It is not true that the PLA is slow, conservative, and backward.
  • China`s military has global aspirations.


And if America has the “Monroe Doctrine”, China would expect to have dominance in North and Southeast Asia and the South China Sea where 50% of the world’s trading vessels pass through.


Consequently, if China is indeed the brutal bully that it is, then, the Filipinos and the Vietnamese may have to prepare themselves to confront a terrible possibility — The Blood and Death and Democide Scenario for the Filipinos.


In this scenario, we imagine China forcibly occupying all the islands and shoals and reefs owned by the Philippines and claimed as part of its territory.  China will shoot Filipino civilians inhabiting those islands and will sink Philippine ships found in the area.


It will dare the Philippines, Vietnam, the remaining countries composing ASEAN, and perhaps America, to intervene. And see what happens.


In that case, Vietnam will of course fight. Twice in the history of Vietnam and China, Vietnam has defeated the Chinese invaders. During the Vietnam War, when due to American short-sightedness, a high estimate of 5 million Vietnamese died and are still dying. The Vietnamese will not just keel down and die just because this time, it is their fellow Communists, the Chinese who are their enemies, and not the American capitalists.


Will the Filipinos offer their lives, like the Vietnamese in defense of their country and their national honor? This is the question that we should ask and answer ourselves.


Assuming that the Americans will authorize their soldiers to engage the Chinese in a limited warfare — which many say is unlikely — this could lead to Henry Kissinger’s  “duel of the century.”


Can this “duel of the century” occur? I think the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army will decide.


But for the 103 million Filipinos, they have to know what is in store for them. President Aquino and the Leadership should present to our people the gloomy possibilities that await us.


Can the Filipinos and their friends and allies assist in preventing this by not buying goods manufactured and produced in Mainland China? Our fellow advocates, such as Rodel Rodis and his USP4GG advocates, believe that this will prevent China from urinating on the faces of the Filipinos.


If our country were not what it is, perhaps this giant bully would not treat us this way. But look what they have done to Tibetans? And to their own people.


Can the global “Prayer for Peace” last August 21, 2012, held in places in several time zones all over the world dissuade the Chinese Communist Party and the 2.7 million soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army to desist from bullying the Phillippines?


Aside from what patriotic Filipino organizations all over the world are advocating and what the Philippine government is pursuing in the national interest, I think civil societies, honorable international organizations, the Philippine government should ascertain what the Filipinos prefer concerning the appropriate response to the brutalization and bullying of the Chinese.


Since we are just scared and ignorant but concerned Filipinos, and not privy to the diplomatic initiatives and maneuvering being undertaken by our leaders in the government, we can only hope that there is no basis for our worst nightmares in the hands of this giant, cruel bully.


In the meantime that we can still consider ourselves as an independent and sovereign state and for the sake of our succeeding generations — if there is still a future for our people — there is nothing wrong in learning from the lessons of the Vietnamese in defense of their honor and their land. As George Santayana reminds us: “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.”


Hence, it might be the sacred duty of our leadership to ask our people if they are aware of the meanings of the stirring lines in our national anthem and the possibility that they shall be singing them when we respond to this spectre in defense of our honor and national dignity — due to the ultimate insult by the Chinese to a once proud people in Asia, the first to fight against foreign oppressors.


Subalit ngayon ay mistulang Bayan ng mga Api.


[*The author was a former faculty member of the University of the Philippines before he joined his family in San Francisco in 1985. It was only in 2008, when he became a naturalized American citizen. On the very day he took his oath as a Naturalized American, he took his oath also as a Filipino “Dual”. A former staff member of the State of California where he got a “Sustained Superior Performance Award” in 1996, the only Filipino given that award that year, he was also active in the Filam Community, even writing as a columnist of the defunct “Filipino Insider.” He is one of the original convenors of a global Filipino movement for peace and “national self respect” which has been institutionalized in a group composed of Filipinos all over the world — the “Confederation of Worldwide Filipino Associations” or “CoWFA” for short, with the “Worldwide Filipino Alliance-Pangdaigdigang Alyansa ng Pilipino Inc.” based in the Homeland as its core organization. The ideas presented in this article are those of the author alone. They do not reflect the organizations that he might be a member of.]

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