Over the past several years, Philippine sovereignty has been greatly eroded as a result of the sustained and systematic economic encroachment and military intrusion by superpower China. Since 2016, China has heightened efforts to strengthen its position and foothold in the country. It is accelerating its plunder of Philippine marine and mineral resources and is rapidly increasing its military presence within the country’s marine territory. China has succeeded in doing so through the collaboration of the Philippine government under Rodrigo Duterte.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) calls on all patriotic and freedom-loving Filipinos to unite, stand firmly and act with a deep sense of patriotism to defend the country’s sovereignty and national freedom against China’s intrusion and intervention. This call is of great urgency in the face of China’s high-handedness and outright disregard of the country’s territory, exclusive economic zone, environment, food security and people’s livelihood.
Economic encroachment and plunder
China has been conducting large-scale encroachment on Philippine marine and other mineral resources within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and extended continental shelf (ECS). China has expressed outright contempt for the 2016 final ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) which dismissed as baseless China’s claim of historic rights over the South China Sea and which recognized the Philippine’s EEZ and ECS under the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).
In disregard of the Philippine EEZ, China has stepped-up fishing activities in the West Philippine Sea. This is part of China’s state-funded distant water fleet operations across the world to serve its domestic demand and its export of fish and other sea food. Large-scale fishing operations by China is resulting in overfishing and a decline in fish stocks, specifically of high-value fish such as tuna and groupers. Chinese fishing vessels are, moreover, notorious for harvesting corals, sea turtles, giant clams and other endangered marine wildlife.
In April, it was reported that around 200 Chinese sea vessels were swarming around Thitu island in the Spratlys. Since February, at least 85 vessels have been seen anchored around Pag-asa island. Chinese vessels have also been swarming Kota and Panata islands. The presence of large numbers of Chinese vessels, reported to be carrying naval militias, intimidate and prevent Filipino fishermen from venturing out in these waters, thus, denying them of their source of livelihood. Widespread anger of Filipinos over the presence and encroachment of Chinese fishing boats in Philippine seas was sparked recently by the Recto Bank incident last June 9 when a Chinese fishing boat rammed a Filipino fishing vessel and left its 22 crew floating at sea.
Chinese fishing activities as well as land reclamation have caused widespread destruction of the marine environment, including corals which serve as feeding and breeding grounds for fish resources. In its 2016 ruling, the PCA found China guilty of destroying around 124 square kilometers of corals in the West Philippine Sea.
China has openly coveted the vast oil resources in the West Philippine Sea which it estimates to be worth as much as $60 trillion in reserves. It has put forward a 60-40 deal to share oil resources in the area west of Recto Bank, within the country’s EEZ. Duterte has quickly expressed willingness to approve such a deal. Considering the fact that the country has all rights over the area, such a deal is anomalous and utterly lopsided. The country can freely choose when, how and with whom to carry out the drilling of oil in the area ensuring that it serves primarily the country’s interests.
Without permission from Philippine authorities, Chinese sea exploration vessels were recently spotted within Philippine territorial seas, in all likelihood, searching for more resources to plunder.
Large areas and islands are being overwhelmed and practically taken over by China. This includes the 32-hectare island off Cavite which is planned to be developed as “POGO island” (Philippine Online Gaming Operations, where Chinese capitalists run gambling operations which are illegal in China and employ tens of thousands of Chinese workers who suffer from oppressive and exploitative conditions). It is also planning to “develop” the Grande and Chiquita islands off Zambales with $298 million worth of projects including 80 high rise buildings. A large Chinese company, meanwhile, is planning to transform the 70-square kilometer Fuga island in the Babuyan group of islands into a $2-billion “smart city.”
Earlier this year, the Duterte government granted a telecommunication franchise to a consortium including the state-owned China Telco, which would give the Chinese government access to Philippine communication facilities, a nationally strategic infrastructure. Another strategic infrastructure, the country’s electricity grid, is already partially controlled by the Chinese government through the State Grid Corporation of China.
Since 2015, China has built several military facilities in the West Philippine Sea in violation of Philippine sovereignty and the UNCLOS. The act of building and militarizing these artificial islands constitutes imperialist aggression. The military facilities occupy the Panganiban reef which was recognized by the 2016 arbitral ruling as part of the Philippine EEZ, as well as the Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) and Zamora reefs, which were adjudged part of international waters which no country can lay claim to.
China’s military facilities in the Spratly islands are described as “the most advanced of China’s bases” in the South China Sea. They include runways capable of landing Chinese bomber planes, hangars for at least 24 combat aircraft and four large planes, radars, high-frequency antennas and other communication facilities, missile shelters and launchers, lighthouses, multistory buildings and so on.
China has repeatedly displayed aggressive behavior over the military facilities issuing radio warnings and threatening consequences against Philippine and other vessels which have flown or sailed near these facilities.
China continues to maintain two Chinese Coast Guard ships around the Scarborrough Shoal (Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc) preventing Filipino fishermen from entering the lagoon to fish. There have been several incidents of Filipino vessels being driven away or boarded and their catch taken away by armed Chinese police. Panatag is within the Philippine EEZ albeit considered by the PCA as a traditional fishing ground of Filipino and Chinese fishermen. Duterte claims he had an agreement with Xi Jinping that Filipino fishermen will be “allowed” to fish in the area but has failed to demand the withdrawal of the Chinese coast guard nor has he acted decisively against Chinese violations.
Over the past few months, at least eight Chinese war ships, including aircraft carrier Liaoning , have sailed without due notification through the Sibutu Strait, an international sea lane that is within Philippine territorial waters. This clearly undermines Philippine territorial rights. In violation of international sea protocol and display of disrespect for Philippine territorial waters, Chinese war vessels have turned off its lights and automatic identification system in order to avoid detection which typically indicate non-friendly intent.
China has been able to strengthen its economic and military power in the Philippines with the collaboration of the Duterte government since 2016. Duterte has openly declared his fealty to China in exchange for $19 billion secret loans to fund large-scale infrastructure projects which absorb surplus steel and cement from China. Duterte has repeatedly proved himself a traitor to the Filipino people.
In 2016, kowtowing to Chinese powers, Duterte set aside the final ruling of the PCA which dismissed China’s “nine-dash line” claim. Duterte raised no protest against China’s building of military facilities in the Spratly islands. He has practically surrendered to China’s control and “possession” of the Panatag Shoal. He has raised the spectre of a losing war to justify his refusal to undertake political, diplomatic and judicial courses of action to more firmly and vigorously assert Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights.
Officially, the Duterte government has merely issued tame and sham diplomatic protests which have been largely ignored by China. Invariably, Duterte has toed the Chinese line to exonerate China of incidents of intrusions which violate Philippine sovereignty. He has failed to castigate China for having its war vessels and survey ships non-innocently pass through Philippine waters.
In just two years, Duterte has visited China four times. Each time, Duterte and his large retinue of big business friends, politicians and family members have received imperial treatment. Business deals and state agreements have been forged. Most of these deals have been kept secret. Duterte is set on going to China a fifth time this month where he is set to commit ever greater acts of treachery. He has announced plans to raise Philippine rights as recognized by the PCA. The mendicant Duterte, however, is merely putting up a purposeless drama to overstate his importance as he has already prejudicially declared he could do nothing if China insists on refusing to recognize the ruling.
Among the loan agreements which have been exposed indicate onerous terms of payments with interest rates set at 2-3 percent (as opposed to 0.25% to 0.75% interest rates of Japanese official development assistance). The absence of transparency in the forging of these deals strongly suggests high-level and large-scale bribery similar to that received by Arroyo in the 2007 NBN-ZTE deal by big Chinese monopoly bureaucrat capitalists.
Duterte and his cohorts have strong ties with the Chinese Triad drug syndicates. While Duterte mounted the so-called “drug war,” the supply of shabu from China in the country continues to rise. Smuggling is handled by Duterte’s military appointees in the Bureau of Customs whom he has praised for “knowing to follow my orders.”
Duterte’s mendicant and doormat policy has emboldened China to carry out more aggressive encroachments and intrusions in the country.
Duterte’s security and defense officials have been increasingly vocal in raising concerns over China’s military build-up and how its military posture, though described by China as defensive, can easily be turned offensive. They have denounced China’s bullying. They are also wary of China’s encroachments in the surrounding islands which can be used as an offensive springboard. The rising number of Chinese nationals (last year numbering 1.2 million tourists and 200,000 with work permits) has also been described as a national security concern.
The country’s national security is also set to be undermined by the entry of state-owned China Telco and Huawei Technologies Co. which plan to dominate and control the country’s communication infrastructure through its dummies (Dennis Uy and others).
Security concerns raised by the AFP are mostly reflective of increasing US wariness over rising Chinese influence in the Philippines and South China Sea. Although subservient to the US, dependent on the US military and serving its hegemonic aims, Philippine defense officials invoke questions of sovereignty in the hope of winning the support of the people.
To the Filipino people
It is the patriotic duty of every Filipino to fight for the country’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity as long as the Philippines remains a semicolonial country, whether under US overall imperialist dominance, or whether China displaces the US by any degree or whether these two imperialist powers collaborate to keep the Philippines a nominally independent country.
In the face of heightening Chinese economic and military expansionism, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) calls on the Filipino people to unite and valiantly resist China’s intrusion and encroachment on the Philippines. This forms part of their overall struggle to achieve genuine national freedom and social justice.
This is of great urgency as the country’s sovereignty is further being eroded by China as it challenges US imperialism for dominance in the Philippines and the rest of Asia-Pacific.
This struggle must aim to regain full sovereign control of the West Philippine Sea and all the resources within the country’s EEZ. Demand China to withdraw its Coast Guard vessels from the Panatag Shoal so that Filipino fishermen can freely fish in the area, together with Chinese fishermen.
The Party urges the people to call for the dismantling of all Chinese military facilities in the Spratly islands and demand the withdrawal of all Chinese forces from these artificial islands.
The Filipinos can demand China to pay a $105 billion remuneration for the 124 square kilometers of damaged corals caused by their land reclamation (in the same way that the US was made to pay $1.97 million for damage caused by the USS Guardian to 1,000 square meters in Tubbataha Reef in 2013) and at least $70 billion in back rent for the years of illegal occupation of sea features in the Philippine maritime territory and EEZ (in the same way that the Philippines demanded the US in 1988 to pay rent for the US military bases). They can demand China to be subjected to the pertinent UN bodies and have its assets in the US seized in favor of Philippine demands. China’s liabilities of more than $175 billion owed the Philippines are indeed far greater than the onerous loans it has extended to the Duterte regime.
Furthermore, the Filipino people can demand China accountability for the Recto Bank incident and push for the removal of all Chinese fishing vessels from the country’s EEZ. Seek a stop to China overfishing and an end to the large-scale catching of endangered marine wildlife. Demand a stop to the display of force by Chinese war vessels in Philippine seas. Demand a stop to China’s exploration activities within the country’s territorial waters and EEZ.
Demand that the terms of all loan agreements with China be made public and call for the cancellation of those deals that are detrimental to the interests and welfare of the Filipino people. Call for a revocation of the franchise granting state-owned China Telco license to operate a telecommunication company in the Philippines. Demand a stop to the environmentally destructive infrastructure projects such as the Chico River and Kaliwa dam projects, as well as to large-scale mining of black sand and other minerals.
Unite to raise the country’s flag as a symbol of the national struggle and isolate Duterte’s government of national treachery. Duterte’s betrayal of the national interests will cause his further isolation. Call on all patriotic forces in the government, including those in the military and police, to act in consonance with the people’s cause.
The struggle to wrest back control of our seas–the country’s territorial waters and EEZ, is currently one of the crucial battlegrounds. Thus, the Party exhorts all Filipino fisherfolk and fishing boat operators to unite and act in large numbers and be at the forefront of this struggle. The collective actions of the Filipino fisherfolk must be supported by every Filipino patriot.
The Filipino people must draw international support for their cause. They must call on the Chinese people to support the Filipino people’s resistance to defend sovereignty against affronts by their repressive and expansionist regime. They must encourage all peoples and their governments to give all forms of support–diplomatic, political, legal, moral and material, to the struggle of the Filipino people to get back their seas from China. However, they must declare firmly and clearly, that this is primarily a fight of the Filipino people. They must forewarn any country against military interference. China’s military power, no matter how big, will prove ineffectual in the face of a united Filipino people.
The Party challenges the Filipino young intellectuals to serve as the beacon of Filipino patriotism and be the force of nationalist rebellion against foreign intervention. Study and popularize the writings of the stalwarts of Filipino nationalism and help unite the Filipino people. Go among the millions of people to inspire and militate them to act and rise up as one.
The Party must be at the vanguard and core of the Filipino people’s struggle wrest back their seas and resist Chinese violations of the country’s sovereignty. The Party must take lead in uniting the entire people into a broad national patriotic front.
The Party must expose the Chinese government as an imperialist government. The thin veil of “socialism with Chinese characteristics” can no longer conceal the brazen acts undisguised imperialism including outright grabbing of features in the EEZ of the West Philippine Sea and building of military facilities in the artificial islands.
The Party must expose and denounce China’s drive to control spheres of investments and influence, as well as trade routes, sources of raw materials and cheap labor which result in national oppression and violations of sovereign countries. It must expose China’s aggressive export of surplus capital in the form of loans and foreign investments which overwhelm and dominate underdeveloped countries such as the Philippines. The Party must expose the global crisis of capitalism and the rising economic and military conflict among imperialist powers which is rapidly accelerating onto open conflict and wars.
The Party must link the struggle against China’s incursions and encroachment to the Filipino people’s struggle for national and social liberation. The prevailing semicolonial and semifeudal system in the Philippines has made it vulnerable to Chinese expansionist policy. Under several decades of US neocolonial rule, the Philippines remains backward economically and dependent militarily. US domination in the Philippines has made the country vulnerable and susceptible to Chinese drive for imperialist domination.
The Party must rouse the Filipino people to fight as a single-minded patriotic force against China’s drive to dominate the Philippines. A united Filipino people will serve as a strong force to defend and uphold national sovereignty. The Chinese giant will prove no match to the resilience and correctness of the Filipino people’s patriotic cause.