Former NSA and Congressman Roilo Golez is one of our more vocal speaker and respected leader on the subject of the Spratly Islands issue and the Western Philippine Seas. Here, he raises the alarm on China’s continued construction of structures that can radically affect the region’s security environment. It is important that the Philippines – as well as the region and the world – show its concern over the danger this offensive action presents.
Former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez warns about the dangers posed to Philippine security and ASEAN stability if China is able to complete its military installation in Mabini reef.
He says if China is able to construct an airstrip in the disputed area, it will be a game-changer in the region’s balance of power.
“You can see this is probably a mile-long airstrip. It’s almost like an airport, like what you see in the international airports, that support facilities, there’s a dock for ships. I understand it can support and resupply frigates. But what is very threatening is that mile-long strip because now they can base their fighters there. I’m looking at for example, a J-11 fighter made in China that has a range of 2000 miles. You can see this Mabini reef is that dot in the middle, the circle is the 1,000 mile range. You can see it encompasses the entire Philippines, most of it is Vietnam, part of Malaysia and and the whole of Borneo. So it can threaten all our vital military installations including the installations we can make available under EDCA.” Golez says.
Power in Asia-Pacific
Golez says by building various structures, China wants to alter the balance of power in Southeast Asia.
“They want to consolidate the power in South China Sea and convert that into their lake. They really want to strengthen their claim which is the 9-dash line claim. This is a balance of power they want to alter – this balance of power in the Asia-Pacific – because the dominant power until now is the US, it is the hegemon not only in the world but even here, but China is starting to challenge that. In balance of power politics, it is a counter action also. ” Golez says.
Changing the facts on the ground
Meantime, Professor Richard Heydarian Lecturer in International Relations at Ateneo, says China is changing facts on the ground by reclaiming and occupying disputed waters and land features.
And it could use this in the future when it faces further international legal action in territorial and maritime disputes with its neighbours in the region.
“There’s also a legal dimension to this. The 9-dash line doctrine in China’s sweeping fame for quite a while. The way China looks at this is, down the road, they have to face the legal opinion arbitration. And if you look at the recent trends in the international arbitration, they give priority and prerogative to the countries who continues to establish and exercise effective and continuous sovereignity. If China will be able to build structures there, and they turn this structures into islands and project into 200 nautical mile economic zone, somehow they’ll be able to argue this legally. Although the Spratly’s island is far away from the coastline of China, there is still some legal dimension.” Heydarian says.
“China is trying to boycott the arbitration process to avoid legitimizing it. But if Vietanam joins, and they [Vietnam] are now looking at multiple arbitrarial cases against China, then that will put China at back foot.” Heydarian adds.
Long-term effects on imports?
Heydarian also believes China is thinking about the long-term effects of its row against the United States on the supply of some of their main imports.
“The other dimension of the disputes is the security dimension. From the perspective of China, [and] their paranoid generals, one day down the road, they are scared that if you look at the flow of commodity, [the] hydrocarbon of imports of China, a lot of it comes from the Middle East and it passes through a lot of choke points. In the opinion of Chinese, a lot of those choke points are actually surrounded by countries that are either sympathetic to United States, or maybe allies of the United States. So what the Chinese are looking at is there is a possibility down the road in the an event of a conflict with United States or Japan,” Heydarian says.
More on the South China Sea dispute:
Carpio: China’s Aggression is Armed Aggression (7 Jun 2014)
Ours, Not China’s, Kalayaan Islands (27 May 2014)
Can the Philippines Really Bully China? (27 May 2014)
Historical Fiction: China’s South China Sea Claims (24 May 2014)
What the Typhoon Revealed (24 Apr 2014)