Whenever I think of this possibility, I am always reminded of that part of the lyrics of the Philippine National Anthem:
“Lupang hinirang, duyan ka ng magiting, sa manlulupig, di ka pasisiil.” (Land dear and holy, cradle of noble heroes, never shall invaders, trample thy sacred shore.)
The national anthem was composed by Julian Felipe and was first played by the San Francisco de Malabon Marching Band during the proclamation of Philippine Independence by Emilio Aguinaldo on June 12, 1898 at what is now known as the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite.
The nationalism that the song incites in me goes deep into the annals of Philippine history, down to the time of the Katipuneros against the Spanish colonizers; the brave Filipino guerrillas against the Japanese invaders; and the bloodless EDSA Revolution against the Marcos dictatorship.
China invasion on Philippine territory
Now, we have China invading Scarborough Shoal, which is some 130 nautical miles off the coast of the Philippine Archipelago. According to the United Nations Law of the Sea, the shoal is well within the 200 nautical mile limit and is therefore part of Philippine territory.
The latest is a report that a fleet of some 29 Chinese fishing vessels were poaching on Philippine waters. The Chinese fishermen were escorted by armed Chinese warships but the Philippine Coast Guard could only watch and make a report so as not to initiate an armed conflict.
But how far will Filipino tolerance go? So far, the Philippines has summoned the Chinese ambassador to protest China’s establishment of a military garrison on the disputed Paracel Islands in the West Philippine Sea.
“China claims sovereignty over nearly all of the West Philippine Sea, which is believed to hold vast amounts of oil and gas, while the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam each claim portions,” it was reported by Philippine Star Newspaper.
Philip Bowring, a Hong Kong-based journalist wrote in Wall Street Journal that Beijing is re-writing history to justify its claims over disputed waters. Manila wants to resolve the matter diplomatically under the U.N. Law of the Sea Convention but Beijing does not agree obviously because it knows its case is weak.
Only one nervous trigger finger is needed
The current situation is rather tense. There is a limit to tolerance. At this time, only one nervous trigger finger from either side may start an armed conflict between the Philippines and China in the disputed waters. Surely there will be casualties but never shall invaders trample our sacred shore!
Will there be another Lapu-Lapu against Limahong, the Chinese pirate who invaded the northern islands of the Philippines and tried to seize the City of Manila in 1574? Only time will tell.
What are the chances of a small nation against powerful China?
In an armed conflict, it’s almost nil. But wait, we have allies like the United States and Australia. Will they come to our aid?
Chinese goods have a strong presence in both nations. I once commented in one of my editorials: “Is there anything I can buy in Australia that is not made in China?” Loida Nicolas Lewis, a Filipino American has started a global campaign to boycott China-made products.
In the Philippines, the nation’s economy is controlled by “Chinoys” (Chinese Filipinos). We have Henry Sy of SM Shoemart; John Gokongwei of Robinsons Group; Lucio Tan of Philippine Airlines, just to mention a few. Will these business tycoons support their host country in case of hostilities? No one knows at this time.
One thing is certain. Filipinos will die in the event of an armed conflict in the disputed waters. But they will never surrender what is rightfully theirs.
- Dino Crescini