Arbitration proceedings against China: Aquino 3rd regime and big American blunder

Last of 2 parts

This is the second installment (the first was published last Friday) of chapter 9 of my book, Debacle: The Aquino Regime’s Scarborough Fiasco and the South China Sea Arbitration Deception, which deals with this development in detail, with the appropriate citation from the sources. of data. and statements. The book is in print now, for distribution in the first week of January, for pre-order at

CHINA’s massive island-building blitz is one version – of the classic (though not always successful) response to international disputes – the so-called “sunk cost strategy”. This roughly means that a nation would succeed in convincing a belligerent rival not to invade if it invests heavily in weapons and even a defensive wall.

The billions of dollars that China spent to build its man-made islands and the facilities thereon was a strong signal to the United States that any court ruling that China has no claims in the South China (SCS) will be ignored. To vividly illustrate: an elite US Navy team could have possibly captured Mischief Reef before 2013. Now it would take a brigade to capture the massive Mischief Reef facility.

It is astonishing – or a case of colossal stupidity – that the 3rd Aquino Regime, as well as the American strategists who led the arbitration process thought that by “the law” they could cause China to abandon its seven. reefs in the Spratleys, or that the Chinese would do nothing in response to such a “new form of war”. This was a huge miscalculation on the part of the United States, as indeed was the entire Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” policy.

In the first place, they ignored the fact that China had become a superpower and as the famous American historian Graham Allison pointed out, referring to the trial, and even before the prize was awarded: “The great powers do not recognize not the jurisdiction of international tribunals – except in special cases where they consider it to be in their best interests to do so.

Second, the 3rd Aquino Regime and its American backers ignored the story of the Spratly Islands dispute, especially how China had behaved since 1974. The biggest lesson in this story: “Whenever a plaintiff acts to enforce his claim of sovereignty over elements of the region, a competing plaintiff “quickly establishes the facts on the ground”.

It is a diplomatic term that was popularized in the 1970s (which referred to Israel’s decision to settle its citizens in the West Bank which it had wrested from Jordan), meaning the “situation in reality as opposed to the abstract ”. Thus, a competing applicant becomes more aggressive to strengthen its position by building more infrastructure on its claimed land. In this case in the Spratlys, expanding the reef by reclaiming land and adding facilities to the new island.

While the 3rd Aquino government and the United States strongly protested against China’s “island-building” blitz, it was not without precedent. The “island building”, although on a much smaller scale, had been a way for the claimants to strengthen their positions in the Spratley conflict.

Itu Aba

In the case of Itu Aba (Taiping Island), the forces of the Kuomintang Party had abandoned it in 1950, when it decided to concentrate all its forces to defend Taiwan, believing that the Chinese Communists were preparing to invade the last. territory they held. However, when Filipino sailor Tomas Cloma in 1956 claimed all of the Spratleys, including its larger island Itu Aba, calling it his “Freedomland”, the Kuomintang did not just protest against it.

Mischief Reef, before and after the arbitration proceedings against China.

He “established facts on the ground.” The Kuomintang sent a battalion of Marines to secure Taiping and then turned it into a coast guard post with 200 people, a hospital, and a lighthouse. Taiwan then developed it as a Navy garrison and in 2008 had a 1,050-meter airstrip that could accommodate C-130 transport planes.

Likewise, Marcos had planned as early as 1969 the annexation of the same area that Cloma had claimed, in order to secure the Reed Bank, which initial studies by oil exploration companies had indicated that it may contain hydrocarbons in the region. ‘commercial scale.

However, he first “established the facts on the ground.” Marcos invaded and occupied six islands, including Pag-asa, the second largest in the Spratly archipelago. A few years later, in 1978, he issued Presidential Decree 1596 which officially annexed the Kalayaan group of islands to the country.

It was the Philippines, in Marcos’ time, that first reclaimed land to extend an island in the Spratlys, Pag-asa or the island of Thitu, and they were also the first to build a trail. landing in the disputed area.

The Vietnamese did not watch Marcos’ troops invade six entities in 1971, but occupied nine smaller islands and islets in 1974 and 1975. From the 1990s, Vietnam’s reclamation work on these islands expanded their original area of ​​101 hectares.

Malaysia was the latest comer in the Spratlys dispute. After establishing its baselines of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), it claimed that seven reefs and islands of the Spratleys were in its EEZ (exclusive economic zone). Like the Philippines, Vietnam and much later Malaysia, these countries “have established facts on the ground.”


In 1983, Malaysian special forces occupied Layang-Layang Island (Swallow Reef), which is also claimed by China and Vietnam (but not the Philippines). Over the next few years, Malaysia transformed it into a scuba diving resort, with tourist accommodation, including an airport with a 1,064-meter runway.

Taking advantage of the chaos in the Philippines following the “People Power” event in February 1986, Malaysia occupied Antonio Luna (Ardasier) reef in April of the same year and Mariveles reef in November. In April 1999, Malaysia also took control of Pawikan (Investigator) Shoal and Gabriela Silang (Erica) Reef. Malaysia has built structures on all of these reefs and shoals.

After the 3rd Aquino regime filed its arbitration case, China simply acted like the Philippines and Vietnam did in the 1970s: made islands.

Vietnam has also followed China’s lead in transforming its reefs into man-made islands. Beginning in March 2013, just two months after the Philippines sued China, Vietnam added 48 hectares and built additional fortifications on the 13 cays and reefs it had occupied since 1988. It added new landfill equipment. communication, a sports field and enlarged the runway of its airport. on his largest property in the Spratly Islands.

Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative that the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies set up as a hub for anti-China propaganda, claimed Vietnam’s measures were making their islands and reefs more occupied. difficult for China to take.

Supporting documents

But this is actually another of the justifications China has given for its artificial island building blitz. In the case of China, the United States is the main threat.

A 2015 New York Times article reported, “One of China’s most vocal officials in the South China Sea, Wu Sichun, who heads the influential South China Sea Institute, said China has been” forced ”to create artificial islands as a means of self-defense. This view is popular among the Chinese public. “China is forced to do the rehabilitation,” Wu said, “because we don’t feel safe. If you look at the security situation, the United States has stepped up its defense cooperation with the Philippines and it can go on for 10 years. “

Defending its stakes in the SCS had become of paramount importance to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and not because the region is a potential source of oil and water resources.

The region has become important to the CCP because its legitimacy over the past decades has been based on two things. The first was its ability to develop China economically and lift its citizens out of poverty. Second, its nationalism and its success in restoring China to its former greatness, which it considered to have been stolen by Western colonial powers during its “century of humiliation.”

The Communist leadership at the start of the 21st century had clearly succeeded in developing its economy which, according to the World Bank, achieved the miracle of lifting 500 million Chinese out of poverty in just a decade.


The 3rd Aquino regime ignored warnings from China not to allow oil exploration in the Reed Bank. Then he militarily challenged China when he deployed a warship to arrest its fishermen at Scarborough Shoal. He also lodged a complaint with an international body, the first such legal action against him. If he had not reacted forcefully to these challenges, the credentials of the Communist Party as China’s vanguard in maintaining its sovereignty would have been damaged, weakening its legitimacy. Moreover, China was already an economic superpower with which to afford its massive island-building venture costing at least $ 150 billion.

China’s new man-made islands have radically changed the balance of power in the SCS. “The new islands allow China to exploit part of the sea for its own use which was until now relatively out of reach. strengthen its territorial claims than to help it extract natural resources, ”said Mira Rapp-Hooper, former director of the Asian Maritime Transparency Institute.

Aquino, Carpio and del Rosario along with the United States conspired to push China away from the Spratlys through the arbitration process. Instead, the chain of fortifications in the Spratly Archipelago that was China’s response significantly strengthened its presence and in practical terms reinforced its claims to sovereignty over the disputed islands.

China should give this trio its highest medals.

Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao

Twitter: @bobitiglao


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