Our neighbor is a bully

Published May 5, 2021, 6:00 AM

by Milwida Guevara

We meet several bullies in our life.  He was the big kid in elementary school who asked for your crayon or else.  She was the teacher who shamed you in front of the class because you did not do your assignment.  He was the office mate who organized a rally against you.  Or he was the Congressman who shouted at you because your arguments were more logical than his.

Bullies use their real or perceived power to intimidate, harass, or threaten us.  One option is to ignore them so as not to cause further trouble.    But such passive stance only emboldens them. They think little of their victim and consider them powerless.  So, they bully their victims even more.  How can they respect someone who is not even capable for standing up for his right?  In their eyes, he is considered a weakling.

This must be how China perceives us. They bully us to the hilt, and in return, they are not reprimanded because we are “friends”.  But friends respect our rights, protect our interest, and treat us with fairness.  They do not claim properties which do not belong to them.  Friends do not intimidate us, or demonstrate they are superior.

For almost 5 years, our government has treated this bully with respect and reverence.  It raised barely a whimper when a Chinese vessel rammed and sank a Filipino fishing boat in the Reed Bank in the South China Sea on June 9, 2019.

Government did not ask for recompense when a Chinese fishing vessel crashed and destroyed almost 42,000 square feet of centuries old coral in the Tubbataha marine park. 

The government ignores the continuous disregard of China over the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal Award, which declared China’s claims on the South China Sea as illegal.

 Government turns a blind eye on the continuous building of structures by China and the deployment of several Chinese ships on our seas with a message that says “Keep out!”

What is at stake in the West Philippine Sea?

The building of artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea destroys the home of hundreds of species of fish, coral and other marine life.  Its economic costs to the Philippines are about   P33.1 billion annually (Onda as cited by Enano, 2019).  More importantly, the destruction of our reef ecosystem is irreparable.

 The deployment of massive Chinese fishing fleet deprives our fishermen their livelihood.  The West Philippine Sea is home to nearly 12% of the fish catch all over the world. How can our government give up such a bountiful treasure?

Justice Antonio Carpio explains that methane hydrate, the fuel of the future is in great abundance in our seas.   Its development will secure a brighter future for our country   

But beyond all these economic considerations is that   upholding our sovereignty over a territory that is ours is our birth right, our privilege and our responsibility.  We owe this to our heroes, to our parents, to our children, and to the God who made us stewards over our land and seas.

As early as grade 1, we teach our children to stand up against bullies.  We tell them that nobody has the right  to harass and frighten them.  If they show confidence and courage, they will be respected. But if they show they are weaklings, their right will continually be ignored. 

The President says we are no match against China who has massive weapons and fleets of ship.  But we are not alone in this fight.  Our neighbors like Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia are equally concerned about being denied the right to freely sail over the seas.  Justice Carpio’s advice is for the Philippine government  to  join forces with them in patrolling the West Philippine Seas. 

This fight is ours too.  We should let our voices be heard and claim our heritage.

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