Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Tactician

MANILA, Philippines —Finding itself in a territorial dispute with powerful China without one warship to call its own, the Philippine government heaved a sigh of relief, on Wednesday, after China declared it would not use force to settle the controversy in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Philippine Daily Inquirer

Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near

Sun Tzu
The Art of War

Pity how the country responds to threats from Beijing.  Now, we must call ourselves "tiny" and "defenseless" simply because we don't have a warship in our navy. The Humabon, a frigate-class vessel doesn't count.  Being more of a floating museum rather than a boat with guns, as Senate President Enrile puts it, just one torpedo from the Haixun 31 and we're done.

This is a far cry from a century ago. I remember reading a passage in a history book that tells of the colonial government sending its submarines to augment the forces of  US Navy. It was the eve of World War I and the United States was about to go to war. Since the islands were too far to be involved in the affairs of Europe, our warships sailed in defense of Washington.

But then and now are different times. Self-interest means that nations act not because of ideals but on what it will gain from doing an action. By now it is clear that the US will never come to our aid. We will be on our own should a shooting war sparks in the South China Sea. If the Humabon sinks for one reason or another, I bet the Chinese would merely shrug the incident and claim that it was us who baited them in the first place.

Let us keep in mind that Haixun 31 is a maritime patrol ship on a visit to Singapore. It was the press release circulated by Beijing. The party mouthpiece added that the ship will conduct surveys and inspections of Beijing's possession in the South China Sea. We should take the words at face value. I do not know why we have to tell the world that we sent our navy to patrol those waters, when we could deny our movements and keep the Chinese in the dark.

Is it really to assert the country's sovereignty?

Is it to tell the world that we're not pushovers despite having no modern warships?

Is it our way of telling our American allies that we need help?

I've been a computer gamer for as long as I remember. Whether its space opera, fantasy or alternate history, the strategy genre always catches my fancy. You see, the rules never change: protect your possessions not with words but with weapons. If  arms are required to show your strength, match your rival's technology even when you don't have the numbers. The Rajah Humabon and Haixun 31 are generations apart. It's like showing someone your grandpa's phonograph when he is playing Katy Perry's "Last Friday Night" on Iphone 4.

If  I were the government, I will end the rhetoric now and brush aside the issue of Spratlys. There is no need for such distraction. The country is in the pangs of hunger and the people are better off with more food on the table than claiming some uninhabitable islets west of Manila. Let Vietnam do the saber rattling and the military exercises. The country will benefit from it - one way or another. Until Beijing starts claiming Palawan and Batanes, I'd remain a happy camper.  Let's invite the Han tourists to visit the country and ask them to invest. Let's also continue apologizing for poorly handling the Quirino Grandstand hostage last year. We must so; we still have loans to pay thanks to GMA and OFWs to send to the mainland to keep the dollars coming.

Besides,  Beijing is becoming a superpower and the US is on the decline.

The sooner we see this truth, the better we can adjust to changes.  


Xall Percé said...

Sending that museum was a comic act. When will we realize that we're humiliating ourselves to the world?

Or we just need another winning fight from Manny Pacquiao so that we'll have something to be proud again?

Désolé Boy said...

I think I have to disagree with you in this kuya. Our claim over Spratlys has been set back too far by previous administrations (except for Ramos')and it's high time we go back to the right tracks in order to, well not really settle coz it's still too far from that, but yeah, for the lack of better term "settle" the matter.
It is true though that the government should end the rhetoric but I don't think of it as a distraction. It definitely should not be the top most agenda but probably should be considered as one among the government's long-term agenda. What will happen to those Filipinos who are inhabiting some of the islands? Yes, there are actually Filipinos living there. In fact, lately, they also held a barangay election the same time we did.
We may have the weakest resources but hearing some foreign relation analysts lately, we have the strongest claim over Spratlys and even China knows that. See how they are telling us to settle this bilaterally without intervention from UN and other international forces? China is an important ally, I know that, especially in matters of economic deals. But I don't know. Sorry kuya for sounding like preaching/lecturing here. Please don't hate me, hehe. ;D

Wilberchie said...

The government is looking into the use of the vast oil deposits in Spratleys, that's why all the countries are fighting for the islands to be part of their sovereign.

Gawin nalang country yung Spratleys para matigil nah!

Sean said...

love the article. but i would have to agree with db and the points that he raised, including the issue not being a distraction, on this one. sending the lone museum of a ship seems comical, but somehow i personally felt proud of the david vs. goliath gesture. i have lived in China for quite a while and they can be racist and classist even among themselves. once you let on that they can push you over, most will. re the hostage incident, i have apologized to those who see it as a mishandled situation. but i definitely fought back to those who told me that my kind are cruel and cold-blooded murderers. well, short of proving that their statement is true. re palawan, they may actually indirectly lay claim to its resources via regular trading means at the expense of its natural beauty. peace mugen :)

Leo said...

what if we won over China in our quest for supremacy over Spratlys? I don't think our country can handle the oil exploration because of lack of funds. Or, if ever we get to explore the island, will it be an assurance to end the surging oil prices in the market???

I agree with Mugen. Let's brush the issue. Let's all move on and help the country resolve the concerns of poverty.

Peace. :)

Anonymous said...

well then there's the matter that the West Philippine Sea is being disputed because of the potential oil and mineral riches in the area. So in my opinion, it has to be defended for strategic reasons. Understand that we also have other problems to deal with but that's just something we have to deal with as well, same as China's got their own internal problems. imo.