WeChat QR Code

Home>Events>>News & Events

Philippine infringement and provocation in South China Sea will inevitably backfire

2024-05-01 10:55:51       source:NISCSS

April 30, 2024

Two Philippine vessels, one from Philippine Coast Guard and the other from Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), illegally intruded in waters off China's Huangyan Dao (also known as Huangyan Island) in the South China Sea on Tuesday. The China Coast Guard (CCG) has taken necessary measures such as following up, using water cannons as a warning, blocking and expelling the illegal intrusions of Philippine vessels.

In order to safeguard its territorial sovereignty, navigation security, and the safety of Chinese fishermen in the waters near Huangyan Dao, China also deployed floating barriers at the entrance to the lagoon of the island.

The Philippines has continued to stir up trouble over Huangyan Dao and the Ren'ai Jiao (also known as Ren'ai Reef) in the South China Sea, taking provocative actions and turning maritime frictions into a global spectacle. 

Some Philippine politicians making political shows, screaming about "democratic values" and the "rules-based international order" while calculating the interests and exchanges with allies. Most are interested in garnering media attention, faking accidents and deliberately making its vessels to the front and center of sensational news stories, in attempt to win more attention and shape its own version of story across the world. 

Some are staging "academic shows." With or without legal ABCs, they are insisting that the South China Sea arbitration ruling is international law, despite its numerous flaws and violations of basic principles of international law.

Unsurprisingly, the small cabin of the Philippine BFAR vessel was again crowded with journalists and filming equipment. During the Philippine vessel's intrusion into the waters despite Chinese warnings, the Philippine journalists with phones and cameras even pushed and shoved each other to get the best vantage point, in order not to miss any "exclusive photo." What they care about is sensationalism, gaining clicks and attention online, and using maritime friction to support the Philippines' "cognitive warfare" against China.

Not far from the Philippine BFAR vessel, there were many Philippine "fishing boats." The "fishing boats" are organized and directed by the Philippine government. They don't fish, but wait for the official vessels to arrive to provide them with "fuel and supplies." They serve as props for the Philippine official vessels' provocations and are used as background actors to escalate maritime frictions.

Judging from the actions of the Philippines at Huangyan Dao, one can see clearly that the Philippines has not fundamentally recognized the importance of returning to negotiations to manage disputes and enhance mutual trust. Instead, they see the disputes as a tool against China. The so-called concern for fishermen's livelihoods is just an excuse for the Marcos Jr. administration and a facade for some Philippine politicians to garner international sympathy. 

In fact, it is the provocations and infringements by the Marcos Jr. administration that have escalated maritime frictions, affecting Filipino fishermen. During the former Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte's administration, China made special arrangements for Filipino fishermen to fish near Huangyan Dao, leading to calm tensions and foster the effective management of disputes between China and the Philippines.

From a political perspective, various levels of consensus and understanding are interactive, inseparable, as well as essential components of the "gentlemen's agreement" between China and the Philippines. In other words, the "gentlemen's agreement" is not a simplex content but something complex, including placing disputes in the appropriate position in China-Philippines relations, not to make the dispute the whole of the bilateral ties, setting aside the South China Sea arbitration ruling, managing disputes through bilateral consultations, coordinating information release, promoting maritime cooperation. It also included the Philippines' promise to tow away the illegally grounded warship at Ren'ai Jiao, temporary arrangement for the Philippines to deliver humanitarian supplies to the warship, and allow Filipino fishermen to fish near Huangyan Dao under certain conditions.

Getting too deeply involved in the illusory show, one will eventually face a harsh reality. This applies not only to individuals, but also to the Philippines. The situation will not unfold according to the playbook the Philippines has designed. Each infringement and provocation by the Philippines will be met with strong countermeasures from China, including water cannon warnings. There is no so-called geopolitical intent behind China's countermeasures, as the fundamental principle is that China is steadfast in defending its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights, resolving disputes through direct negotiations with relevant parties, managing maritime disputes, avoiding crisis escalation, and promoting temporary arrangements for joint resource development. 

The stability and continuity of China's South China Sea policy are rooted in its interests in the waters and a clear understanding of the essence of the South China Sea issue. It will not be swayed by any individual country's narrative spin, nor will it fall into the trap of self-denial due to temporary fluctuations in international public opinion and maritime tensions. 

The author is deputy director of the Institute of Maritime Law and Policy at the China Institute for South China Sea Studies.