HomeCommentaryBuild durable Ayungin station to defend Philippine exclusive zone

Build durable Ayungin station to defend Philippine exclusive zone

Ayungin is 105 nautical miles west of Palawan, within 200-mile Philippine exclusive economic zone

Erect a permanent outpost on Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal. It can serve military, fisheries, communications, transport and energy. Sovereign rights will be asserted in the surrounding West Philippine Sea.

Ayungin is 105 nautical miles west of Palawan, within 200-mile Philippine exclusive economic zone. Rocks and reefs ring an 11-mile teardrop-shaped lagoon 27 meters at its deepest, a traditional Filipino fishing ground. It’s at the edge of Recto (Reed) Bank.

Recto is an 886,600-hectare fishing expanse, larger than Leyte or Pangasinan. An Ayungin station can guard Recto’s Sampaguita oil-and-gas reserve. Also, Escoda (Sabina) Shoal 36 miles away where Chinese warships have been dropping buoys.

In 1999 the Navy beached on Ayungin the World War II-vintage BRP Sierra Madre. That thwarted Chinese occupation. Four years earlier China had fortified Panganiban (Mischief) Reef 20 miles northwest and 120 miles from Palawan. Had it seized Ayungin, China would have concreted it and, with Panganiban, controlled Recto.

Rust and brine have eroded the 100-meter-long Sierra Madre‘s steel hull and deck where a dozen sailors hold fort. It remains a commissioned naval vessel. China hesitates to forcibly dislodge it, or else trigger the PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty and incite American military backlash. The MDT deems an armed attack on one party’s public vessel as an attack on the other.

China’s laser-gunning February 6 of Filipino coastguards aboard BRP Malapascua was such an attack. The military-grade weapon fired by China Coast Guard-5205 seared the skin and temporarily blinded crewmen. They were en route to resupply the Ayungin sailors.

Beijing had overstepped its gray-zone tricks. It claimed to have used a harmless device. But the green ray betrayed the military weaponry, ex-Navy chief Adm. Alexander Pama noted. Lower civilian grades are blue or red.

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The 1998 Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons, of which Beijing, Manila and Washington are signatories, classifies two types. It prohibits lasers that permanently blind but allows those that momentarily impair vision. Still, both are military arms.

The CCG takes orders from military higher-ups, said retired general Edilberto Adan, Advocates for National Interest chairman. It is part of the People’s Liberation Army, under the China Communist Party-Central Military Commission. Its vessels have two 76-mm navy-style cannons.

It was an armed attack, former Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio declared. US State Department spokesman Ned Price warned China against setting off the PH-US defense pact. Japan, Australia, Germany, and Canada expressed alarm over China’s provocations.

China claims to own Ayungin and was defending its territory. Yet The Hague arbitral court ruled in 2016 that Ayungin and Panganiban are within Philippine EEZ and beyond China’s.

A new Beijing law authorizes CCG to fire at and storm foreign vessels in the South China Sea, of which EEZs of the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam are part. That violates UN principles on dispute settlement via peaceful negotiation, mediation or arbitration.

The Hague upheld Manila’s right under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Government may build structures within the EEZ.

A permanent Ayungin station can harbor more soldiers. That won’t breach the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration of Conduct in the SCS since Manila will merely reinforce what exists since 1999, said international maritime lawyer Jay Batongbacal, PhD.

For minimal environment harm a jack-up oil rig can be used. It can double as lighthouse and communication tower for domestic and international air and sea navigation. Filipino fishermen may dock or shelter from storm. Mini-hydros can be installed between rocks to generate electricity from in- and outflowing tide.

China propagandists in the Philippine government, industries, academe and media will surely oppose such Ayungin base. They’ll blabber that the US is using the Philippines to instigate war.

Phooey! China will annex Philippine sea features whether or not the US resists. President Xi Jinping, as China Communist Party general secretary, often exhorts the People’s Liberation Army “to prepare for war,” former interior minister Rafael Alunan III reminded. The CCP cloaks expansionism with falsified historical territorial claims.

Beware of what the Chinese language newspaper Wenweipo and news agency Zhongguo Xinwenshe published in 2013: “Six Wars China Must Fight in the Coming 50 Years.” Those are: (1) War to Unify Taiwan, 2020–2025; (2) War to Recover Islands of South China Sea, 2025–2030; (3) War to Recover Southern Tibet, 2035–2040; (4) War to Recover Diaoyutai and Ryukyu, 2040–2045; (5) War to Unify Outer Mongolia, 2045–2050; (6) War to Recover Territories Seized by Russia, 2055–2060.

Jarius Bondoc is an award-winning Filipino journalist and author based in Manila. He writes opinion pieces for The Philippine Star and Pilipino Star Ngayon and hosts a radio program on DWIZ 882 every Saturday. Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LiCAS.news.

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