WHILE much of the attention of the public eye is still focused on the war between Israel and Hamas as well as the still ongoing and brutal conflict between Russia and Ukraine, there seem to be indications that closer to home, here in southeast Asia, tensions are also rising because of several actions and maneuvers done by China just recently.
One of these is the deliberate and intentional collision initiated by a China Coast Guard vessel against a Philippine supply boat during an operation to resupply the moored LST BRP Sierra Madre (LS57) at the Ayungin Shoal (also known as the Second Thomas shoal) in the disputed Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea just this month of October. This latest attempt by China to intimidate Philippine maritime vessels by blocking or even colliding with these boats shows its utter disregard for the safety of Philippine sailors and a blatant show of force as a way to express its illegal claim of ownership over much of the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
The Philippine government was quick to file several diplomatic protests to assail the said action of China and under the administration of President Bongbong Marcos alone through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) 122 diplomatic protests have already been lodged over the aggressive activities of China and its bullying and harassment of Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea. The president himself went out of his way to order for the conduct of a probe on the Ayungin incident but as everyone knows by now China does not and will never play ball with the Philippines.
Another disturbing incident involving China is the sailing of its Chinese flotilla led by its aircraft carrier Shandong in entering the Pacific Ocean through the Bashi channel which is a waterway that separates Taiwan from the Philippines. The grave concern right now of Taiwan is that the recent military flexing and posturing by China along its borders might “lead to a sharp escalation in tension and worsen regional security.” (https://www.philstar.com/world/2023/10/27/2306971/chinas-aircraft-carrier-group-enters-western-pacific-taiwan)
These military movements by China near Taiwan as well as its constant bullying and intimidation of Philippine maritime vessels in the South China Sea can only be seen as some sort of war mongering by China against its neighbors and certainly a cause for grave concern not only by the Philippines but all other countries having an interest in the South China Sea.
But while the attention of the world is held at the moment on conflicts raging in the middle east and in Europe, China has ramped up its aggressive behaviour here in Asia and if no one, maybe not even the United Nations or the United States, will be able to prevent its belligerent actions early on, then things will definitely get real for countries in South East Asia, particularly those who have already experienced the hostile acts of China such as the Philippines.
If there is one comforting development in all of this it is the assurance by other countries, apart from the United States, that the Philippines is not alone in its struggle to protect its maritime borders and preserve its sovereignty over islands in the West Philippine Sea.
If there is ever a time for the country to call out its friends in this time of urgent need then now is as good as any to quickly establish formal alliances with friendly countries such as Australia, Japan, Vietnam and even Canada. Or even Taiwan with agreements for mutual defense in case China decides to do the unthinkable and destabilize the region. These agreements can be patterned after the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the United States established in 1951 where one country is prepared to come to the defense of the other country by virtue of said pact.