PH hits Sino ‘bullying,’ sticks to ‘right is might’
The Philippines accused China Saturday of “bullying” in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) after a large Chinese ship harassed two small Philippine vessels at Scarborough Shoal, where the two countries have been facing off each other over territorial rights for nearly three weeks.
China has now 10 vessels in the area, three maritime surveillance vessels and seven fishing boats. The Philippines has two, a Coast Guard surveillance vessel and a Bureau of Fisheries boat.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Raul Hernandez identified the bully as the Chinese vessel FLEC 310, touted to be China’s most modern maritime surveillance ship and which had been thought to have left the area on Friday. Apparently, the vessel just moved out of Philippine sight and returned during the night.
In a statement from the DFA, Hernandez said the FLEC 310 harassed the Philippine Coast Guard vessels BRP Pampanga and BRP Edsa near the entrance to the shoal Saturday morning.
Hernandez said the “speeding” Chinese ship approached the two Philippine vessels at around 20 knots and then veered away, generating a two-meter wave.
“In these instances, the speeding FLEC 310 generated a two-meter wave in her wake, but no damage was inflicted on our two ships, which did not react to the bullying by FLEC 310,” Hernandez said.
“These maneuvers by the Chinese vessel posed a danger to the Philippine vessels, which could mean a violation of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions of Ships at Sea,” Hernandez said.
On Friday, at the closing of joint military exercises between the Philippines and the United States, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Jessie Dellosa pushed for the use of “smart power” in the country’s dealings with neighbors and defense of territory.
“It is apparent that a practical blend of the concepts of ‘might is right’ and ‘right is might’ should be explored, shared among friends and allies, and eventually put to good use,” he said.
Hernandez said a report from the Coast Guard commander, Vice Adm. Edmund Tan, put the time of the “bullying” at around 9 a.m., as the BRP Edsa was relieving the BRP Pampanga.
“At 9 a.m., FLEC 310 approached a stationary BRP Pampanga from her left bow heading toward her, then at 600 yards veered away, crossing past the right side of the ship at a speed of 20.3 knots,” Tan said in the report.
“At 9:15 a.m., FLEC 310 passed by BRP Edsa from her right to the left at a distance of 200 yards and a speed of 20.6 knots,” Tan said.
Tan said the actions of the Chinese vessel “were properly documented.”
The BRP Pampanga left the shoal at around 9:25 a.m. to restock in Manila.
Lt. Cmdr. Algier Ricafrente, Coast Guard spokesperson, said a speed of 20 knots is considered “fast” by seafarers.
“That’s fast. That’s around 20 nautical miles (36 kilometers) per hour. You’ll also have to consider the waves generated by such a speed,” Ricafrente said.
“When you’re swimming at the beach, you’d notice the waves produced by a boat passing by,” Ricafrente said. “What more if you’re near it?”
No to hard power
China’s aggressive action came as the Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) warned hard-liners in the Chinese military against pressing for decisive action to end the Scarborough Shoal standoff.
“[T]here are hard-liners who wish to use hard power,” DND spokesperson Peter Paul Galvez said in text messages to the
Inquirer. “But let us not forget history, that the use of hard power has never resulted in favorable consequences,” Galvez said.
“Nobody wins in that course of action,” he added.
Galvez said soft power, or the political and diplomatic approach, should not be underestimated, as opposed to hard power, or the use of military force.
All civilian ships
Galvez said he was optimistic that the impasse with China over Scarborough Shoal, which the Philippines also calls Panatag Shoal, would be ironed out peacefully in spite of the presence of more Chinese vessels in the disputed waters.
He pointed out that the Chinese and Philippine ships facing off with each other are civilian vessels.
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Scarborough shoal standoff