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Philippines socialists call for negotiated settlement to Spratly Islands dispute

For more background to the Spratly Islands issue, see "China, Vietnam and the islands dispute: What is behind the rise of Chinese nationalism?"

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June 10, 2011 -- The Partido Lakas ng Masa (Party of the Labouring Masses, Philippines) condemns any actions that increase military tensions in the region and contribute to a regional military conflict, by countries that lay claim to the Spratly Islands. We are opposed to any sabre-rattling and stand for a negotiated, political settlement of the disputed claims to the area. Therefore we deplore China’s strong-arm tactics and bullying, which undermines efforts towards a peaceful, political settlement, of the disputed claims.

The Spratly Islands, less than four-square kilometres of land area spread over 425,000 square kilometres of sea and usually submerged, probably have strategic importance fuelling the numerous territorial disputes. The area holds significant reserves of oil and natural gas: reportedly some 17.7 billion tons of oil and natural gas reserves, larger than the 13 billion tons held by Kuwait, thus making it the fourth largest reserve bed in the world. In an energy hungry world, these reserves intensify the disputed claims over the area.

Due to clashes over claims on the islands, no successful exploration of the area has as yet been successfully undertaken. It is a productive area for world fishing and accounted for 8% of the total world catch in 1988, a number which has most likely risen since then. China has estimated that the South China Sea holds $1 trillion worth of oil, natural gas and fishing. The region is also one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Tanker traffic through the South China Sea is over three times greater than through the Suez Canal and five times greater than through the Panama Canal.

The history of the various claims is lengthy and contorted. Malaysia has militarily occupied three islands that it considers to be within its continental shelf. Swallow Reef (Layang Layang) has been turned into an island through land reclamation and the establishment of tourist facilities. China and Taiwan claim that the islands have historically been a part of China for nearly 2000 years, discovered during the Han Dynasty in 2 BC and marked on maps compiled from thereon. China also claims that neighbouring countries and European powers took advantage of China’s situation during the revolutionary upheavals to impinge on its sovereignty. Today, China’s Peoples Liberation Army and the Taiwanese government armed forces are both stationed in several islands, including the largest, Taiping Island.

Vietnam disputes China’s claims on the basis that the ancient Chinese records were about non-Chinese foreign territories and that China did not claim sovereignty over the Spratlys until after the Second World War. Vietnam claims the Spratlys based on international law on declaring and exercising sovereignty. Vietnam currently occupies 31 islands. Brunei's claims to the reef are based on the United Nations Law of the Sea. Brunei claims that the southern part of the Spratly chain is actually a part of its continental shelf and therefore a part of its territory and resources.

The Philippines bases its claims of sovereignty over the Spratlys on the issues of Res nullius (literally "nobody’s property") and geography. The claim was Res nullius as there was no effective sovereignty over the islands until the 1930s when France and then Japan acquired the islands. When Japan renounced their sovereignty over the islands, according to the San Francisco Treaty between Japan and the Allied powers signed in 1951, there was a relinquishment of the right to the islands without any special beneficiary. Therefore, argue the Philippines, the islands became Res nullius and available for annexation. The Philippines did not register these claims until the 1970s and annexed the islands in 1978, calling them the Kalayaan Island Group. The cornerstone of the Philippines claim of the Kalayaan islands is that the Spratlys lie within its 200-mile exclusive economic zone according to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Philippines also argues, under maritime law that China cannot extend its baseline claims to the Spratlys, because China is not an archipelagic state.

There are many geopolitical interests at play in the area. These include that of the United States, which has stated that it has "national interests" in the South China Sea. The strategic importance of these islands, in a world faced with rapidly dwindling natural resources and increasingly precarious food security, are fuelling the disputes over territorial claims in this region. In a region which has had more than its share of war and conflict, due to colonial and imperialist aggression, we must reject all and every response which escalates military tensions in the region. We must stand for a negotiated, political resolution, to the disputed territories.

Furthermore, we do not believe the argument that the national sovereignty of the countries involved is at stake over the disputed claims, helps achieve this. The issue of national sovereignty is legitimate only if there are national islanders, an actual islander population inhabiting these islands whose economic interests and culture historically coincide with the interests of a nation state, but this is not the case. Only a small number of military personnel occupy some of the islands.

Sovereignty cannot be solely defined as authority over territories. The Spratlys are simply a disputed territory and therefore must be resolved through straightforward negotiations. To argue, as the various governments do, that national sovereignty is at stake or is being violated is not strictly accurate. It is also dangerous as it raises the stakes and therefore increases regional tensions around the issue.

We also oppose any attempts by the Philippine government and the defence department to purchase military equipment "to better address the Spratlys issue", as described by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)  spokesperson Commodore Rodriguez. In a country that continues to face an armed liberation movement struggling for self-determination of the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao, as well as a guerrilla warfare undertaken by left groups in pursuit of social justice, any "nationwide modernisation upgrade" as proposed by the AFP will inevitably be used by the government against the legitimate struggle of the Bangsamoro peoples and the left. Therefore, any moves by the AFP to purchase weapons under the guise of ‘national defence’ must also be opposed.

 

Comments

Also Paracels

An excellent and well-balanced statement.

One point - the statement is only about the Spratley chain, but the more northern Paracel chain are also in dispute. Possibly the statement avoids this because the Philippines are not one of the claimants in the Paracels (nor are Malaysia or Brunei), but it is still in dispute between China/Taiwan and Vietnam. The fact that China completely occupies the Paracels (unlike the Spratleys where all countries occupy parts) does not mean it is a settled matter; China only achieved this through acts of military aggression.

China's claims about ancient or medieval maps reminds me of other obscurantist claims based on some mythical kingdom of god thousands of years ago being dredged into the 20th century in other parts of the world. There are countless Chinese maps over the last 2000 years which show China's borders ending at the isalnd of Hai Nam. Even the are maps that do include the Paracels (much more rarely, if ever, the Spratleys) do not necessarily indicate they were part of China; European explorers drew lots of maps of places hundreds or thousands of miles from home without this indicating possession.

Nevertheless, the key point is that nothing can be achieved by force, and I agree entirely that stressing the "sovereignty" issue regarding uninhabited islands is more likely to exacerbate rather than calm the waters.

China's 1,000-year-old South China Sea sovereignty

Vietnamese and Filipinos should stop encroaching on thousand-year-old Chinese territory.

----------
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paracel_Islands

"The coast belonged to the Kingdom of Cauchi China. Map of Europe, Africa and ... There are some Chinese cultural relics in the Paracel islands dating from ..."

"China
618~1279

* There are some Chinese cultural relics in the Paracel islands dating from the Tang and Song dynasty eras[12][note 1], and there is some evidence of Chinese habitation on the islands in these periods.[13]."

China's 2,000 year-old sovereignty over Vietnam

"There are some Chinese cultural relics in the Paracel islands dating from ..." and other such irrelevant mythical nonsense.

From 111 BC until 938 AD, Vietnam was under Chinese sovereignty, and there are tons of "Chinese cultural relics" to prove it. Unfortunately, however, there were many violent attempts by the Vietnamese people to violate Chinese sovereignty by rising up and trying to rule themselves. In fact, in 938 AD, they even succeeded! Which just ain't right. To this day, Vietnam is still violating China's 2022 year-old sovereignty over itself.

As for those Roman cultural relics spread all over Europe and the Mediterranean between about 200 BC and 476 AD, well yes it is also about time the governments of Spain, Portugal, France, Britain, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Albania, Greece, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Turkey, Syria etc etc end their centuries long massive violation of Italian sovereignty too. As Mussolini pointed out.

Nationalism and imperialism: The Debate on China

Please see my comment on this issue, posted as a comment to Michael Karadjis's article on the border dispute, at http://links.org.au/node/2145#comment-107476.

worst scenario in case war

worst scenario in case war start between philippines and china:

china will use conventional and traditional war tactics against the philippines.....first...sceanario...the attack of against philippine military and police bases/installations in all identified parts of the philippine archipelago...first attack will be the bombardment or destruction of military or navy support bases or installations in the phillipines located near the contested spratly islands by china mighty air forces...probably by china fighter bombers and fighter jets....then...the sinking of philippine warships by china mighty naval forces....particulary by china submarines...and destroyers...supported by their new aircraft carriers....for information of all, ...china have at present...about 800 submarines ready to defend its territorial sea and land.....then...the bombardment of all philippine military support bases in the mindanao and palawan including some visayan provinces destroying all threat to invading chinese forces and impending invasion of about 500,000 chinese armies....then...then landing of chinese killing armies...probably about 500, 000 to 1, 000, 000 supported by chinese mighty killing armoured machines...armoured personnel carriers and main battle tanks...for information....china have about 20, 000 main battle tanks...and 50, 000 armoured personel carriers....armed with modern killing weapons...with anti-aircraft and anti armour missiles and machine guns made from the soviet union....the killing of chinese military within the territory of the philippines of philippine opposing troops or civilians will be the last scenario....with the target of controlling the philippine central government....malacanang and senate....these are only the worst scenarios that will probably happen in case...the war start.....not different from the war scenarious of world war II.

probable scenarios related

probable scenarios related to spratly islands dispute in the future:

china and philippines will probably...have a an agreement...that is a joint cooperation and exploration...and joint utilization of all kinds of natural resources in the disputed areas of the spratly islands.....

there is a probability that the disputed spratly islands will be declared neutral from all kinds of invasion of a foreign country...the spratly islands, all the islands therein will be declared to be a property equally shared by the opposing countries...china, philippines and vietnam....the united nations...must choose based on the law of nations, law of the sea and law of the territorial integrity of each of the member nations they have or being waged from the beginning of its foundation......the UNITED NATION...must declare who really own the spratly islands....base of the UN CONVENTION ON THE LAW OF THE SEA....BUT I DOUBT...even if the UN declare the true winner of the contest....there will be opposition/s to its declaration of who really owns the spratly islands...the UN must execute and display a very ..intelligent moves and decisions regarding this very sensitive and delicate issue of the spratly islands dispute....there will be war....maybe a short war between contending countries...a very possible players will be china, vietnam, taiwan, malaysia and the philippines...because those mentioned countries have the eagerness, interest, and capability of starting the war or exchange of fire over the disputed islands....

we dont like or we condemn

we dont like or we condemn also any start or plan of war in connection with the spratly dispute....but we agree to the proposal that the philippine government must acquire new weaponries....of all kinds in preparation for war....but...in my own opinion...whatever kind of weaponries the philippine armed forces may acquire in the future...will be no match against the mighty china armed forces....but i agree to the reason that the new weaponries that the philippine government is planning to buy for our philippine armed forces...will be used mainly for defensive purpose...the new weapons...like attack helicopters, submarines, missiles, tanks, fighter jets, etcheteras...must be bought for defensive reason...THAT IS....AGAINST...THE POSSIBLE ATTACK BY CHINA'S FIGHTER JETS PLANNING TO BOMB OF ALL KINDS OF MILITARY INSTALLATIONS SUPPORT BASES IN THE PHLIPPINES...PARTICULARLY BASED IN PALAWAN, MINDANAO, AND SOME VISAYAN ISLANDS. the philippine government must buy ...a some sort of patriot anti-missile missile defense system guarding the airspace from incoming missile of all kinds...ground to ground or ground to air missiles armed with chemical...bacteriological...or probably nuclear or atomic from china. the philippine goverment must also buy submarines and some sort of patrol ships or destroyers....and also a fighter jets, f16 kind....or f35 stealth fighter...also...main battle tanks and armoured personel carriers...to fight against possible invasion of chinese forces in the southern part of mindanao or western part of palawan or mindoro....more anti-aircraft missles and guns must be purchased...by the philippine governent...because of a big possibility that china will or may use fighter jets in the first onset of the war...chinese fighter jets bombers will surely target or bombard all kinds of philippine naval bases guarding the spratly islands...to bombard including military army bases with tanks, logistics...airfields...and all kinds of philippine combat aircrafts that will be a threat to the chinese invading forces.

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