Philippines’ illegal occupation of Ren’ai Reef must be ended with determination

By Luo Yuan Source:Global Times Published: 2015-7-21 0:53:07

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The Philippines never ceases being a troublemaker in the South China Sea disputes.

Manila broke away from the agreement with China on bilateral talks to deal with the maritime disputes and sought an international arbitration. Later, President Benigno Aquino made a comparison between China and Nazi Germany in an interview. Recently, the Philippine military has been reinforcing a warship which has been stranded on Ren'ai Reef since 1999. Manila is planning to reopen the Subic Bay military base and station new fighter jets and frigates to ramp up its defense against China in the South China Sea.

The Philippines needs to be informed that these provocations will come at a price, which could be much larger than the benefits it can get through the tricks.

The Philippines is misleading the international community by confusing a sovereign and territorial issue into an issue of sea rights. The nature of the South China Sea disputes lies in which side owns the jurisdiction and sovereignty over certain islands and reefs, but Manila sticks to an arbitration by the international tribunal, which has been clearly stated to have no jurisdiction over territorial disputes.

The Philippines knows clearly that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea defines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of oceans, not lands or islands. Therefore, the problem of maritime rights only comes after the resolution of territorial or land disputes. At the current stage, China and the Philippines are engaged in sovereignty disputes instead of maritime rights disputes. Thus, the Convention cannot be applied to this situation. It is only a misleading strategy that Manila keeps wielding it as if it has acquired legitimacy in the disputes.

As to Ren'ai Reef, it is different from the other disputed reefs and islands in the South China Sea. The sovereignty and jurisdiction of the reef belongs to China beyond all doubt. The Philippines stole the reef shamelessly by deliberately stranding the warship and refusing to drag it away. As a sovereign state which refuses to remedy its mistakes, the Philippines is risking its own international reputation.

The international community has the right to know the truth about disputes over Ren'ai Reef. China should ratchet up publicity on this matter and elaborate on its legitimacy over the sovereignty of the reef. China should make public the official statement that the Philippines made to haul away the "stranded" ship as soon as possible and show to the world how China keeps exercising self-restraint due to humanitarian concerns. In this way the world will have a better understanding of the causes and effects of the disputes.

Meanwhile, China should urge the Philippines to remove the warship and offers a package of options for it to consider. The Philippines can pay China to repair and relocate the ship if it can't move it. China will treat the Philippine sailors on the ship as refugees and give them humanitarian aid. The Philippines should compensate China for the environmental damage the ship has caused around the reef. If Manila denies China's generous offers, China should drive away the ship and reclaim the reef by force.

The methods China can use to reclaim the Ren'ai reef are beyond the Philippines' imagination. It had better fulfill its commitments and leave the reef.

It is an unavoidable duty for a government to defend the sovereignty and integrity of its nation. China decided to get Huangyan Island back because of a series of provocations by the Philippines. Now the situation in Ren'ai Reef is getting to the tipping point again.

The author is the vice president of the China Strategy Culture Promotion Association.

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