“DAVID and Goliath,” whose names drew fame in the Bible’s Old Testament, have come to life again. Around 10 a.m. of April 23, 2023 — not in the pages of the Scriptures but in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), the resurrection happened, according to journalists’ accounts.
In broad daylight, two vessels featured in a near-collision where the 104-meter long China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel with bow number 5201 “Goliath” blocked the path of “David,” the 44-meter Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas (BRP) Malapascua headed toward Ayungin Shoal. The latter was on a humanitarian mission to resupply Filipino sailors and Marines stationed at the Philippine Navy’s (PN) BRP Sierra Madre (LT 57) lain aground in the reef. But it was a far departure from the biblical story that I first heard in a catechism class which tickled my mind about God’s abiding grace as the greatest equalizer.
The episode did not end with the bully giant dead after the diminutive shepherd hit him in the head with a slingshot. The incident could have been a disaster, where if not for the timely and decisive action of Malapascua’s skipper (ship captain) Capt. Rodel Hernandez in commanding all engine stop and shift to full reverse. It was David’s calm and adherence to the long-held “Doctrine of last clear chance” that prevented the tragedy from happening when Goliath willfully violated the International Rules of the Road. The skipper of the CCG vessel, aware of the sheer size and capabilities of his vessel, intentionally and deliberately imperiled the lives of the Filipino crew aboard the much smaller BRP Malapascua.
Clear as day
The incident was well-documented in raw photos and videos taken by journalists on board another PCG vessel BRP Malabrigo that accompanied BRP Malapascua in that humanitarian mission. The presence of the members of independent media to document Philippine maritime patrols and resupply missions (which I advocated in my previous column) is never an act of provocation. On the contrary, it meant to deter possible irresponsible behavior by either China or the Philippines. It also serves to negate claims that the PCG spliced videos and edited photos that they shared with the public. But the media, as they did what their trade dictates, recorded the proceedings of the mission.
Footage of the incident indicates clearly and unmistakably how China as a signatory defies international accords like the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) in claiming as its own the waters over 1,000 nautical miles away from its southmost Hainan island. China violates regional conventions it is a party to, like the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the SCS (Declaration) it signed with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). Paragraph 4 of the Declaration provides that “the parties concerned undertake to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force x x x,” as this recent episode clearly showed.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, per the accounts of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of their one-on-one meeting, committed to have mutual lines of communication open to urgently address issues pertinent to SCS/WPS. But shortly after the news hogged the headlines came a laser-pointing incident against the PCG and an instance of forcible retaking of a suspected Chinese rocket debris that was being towed at sea by the Philippine Navy. In both cases, Chinese officials prevaricated materially about the reports, until photos and videos were provided by the PCG to the press proved otherwise.
It was barely days after the President met in Malacañang Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang and the former announced that “more communication lines will be opened” when this April 23 near-crash happened. The lines of communication established were not apparent, but the Chinese message is clearly unmistakable. It disregards the Unclos, defies the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (Itlos) and imposes by force its “ownership” of everything that is encompassed by its “nine-dash line” including international sea trade routes and the EEZs accorded to the Philippines and its neighbors under international law.
Indeed, Philippines-China relations go beyond the issues of conflict in maritime entitlements in WPS and the larger SCS. Filipino culture, customs and traditions as well as trade and commerce attest to the many years of enduring engagements that spanned many generations. But the Philippines-China relations flourished under the mantle of friendship and mutual respect between two peoples. Unfortunately, China’s contemporary political, economic, socio-cultural, techno-scientific, environmental and military interests have vastly changed — and so have those of its neighboring countries in Asia. And this drastically changed how China relates with its neighbors.
Source : TheManilaTimes