Category Archives: Geopolitics

The Philippines’ Pivot to China

A composite picture of the flags of the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of the Philippiines. Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In the middle of March 2017, China’s Vice Premier Yang’s Wa … oh sorry, I meant, “Yang Wang” (cough, cough) … while visiting Davao City expressed interest in funding at least two projects that was presented to him by the Philippine government. The two Infrastructure projects are worth a total of USD 3 Billion (or Php 150 Billion, assuming an Exchange Rate of USD 1 = Php 50) spanning 223 kilometers (km) of Infrastructure for Mindanao.

The first of these is the Davao City Expressway Project with a budget of USD 490 million (Php 24.5 Billion) which is a 23.3 km highway that features an elevated expressway.1 The second is the Mindanao Railway Project with a budget of USD 2.56 Billion (Php 128 Billion) is a 200 km circuitous railway line that connects the major cities of Mindanao like Davao, Zamboanga, Butuan, Surigao, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and General Santos City.2
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The US Will Not Help the Philippines Defend the Spratlys

US President Barack Obama conferring with Philippine President Benigno Aquino during Obama's visit to the Philippines. Photo courtesy of Getty Images
US President Barack Obama conferring with Philippine President Benigno Aquino during Obama’s visit to the Philippines. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

President Barrack Obama‘s visit to the Philippines last April 28-29, 2014 was very important because it more or less answered one of the most important questions in the minds of Filipinos right now which is, will the United States (US) help the Philippines retain its territories in the Spratly Islands? Sadly, the answer is a clear … NO. There are a couple of indications on why this is so, let me try to enumerate them one by one.

‘Historical Position’
Historically as early as 1975 the US had already outlined its position on the Spratlys Islands, specifically in a telegram sent by the then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet that was declassified in 2006.1 In it, Kissinger outlined that they consider the ownership of the Spratlys as “undetermined” and that they take a “neutral” stance in the claims of various countries in terms of ownership.

This means that the US does NOT recognize our ownership of territories in the Spratly Islands, this is because they say NONE of those territories were ceded over to them in the Treaty of Paris in 1898 when Spain surrendered some of their colonies (including the Philippines) to the US. So all the while we’re telling the Americans that those Spratly Islands are ours, they are saying back, “Oh no they’re not, nobody owns those yet.”
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Unrestricted Access to the Pacific Ocean: What China Wants Part One

One of the biggest questions in the minds of Filipinos the last couple of months has been, “WHY IS CHINA SUCH A DIC#?” Some say it is because they wanted our natural resources, while other say they needed a distraction due to their contracting economy. However, one possible answer that came to me one day out of nowhere when I was pondering the very same question above might be that its just a question of GEOPOLITICS.[1]

“Geopolitics” is the study of the effects of geography on international politics and international relations, and this best describes what is happening right now with China and its relationship with most of the countries around its access to the sea.

‘East China Sea to the Pacific Ocean’
First of all, let us take a closer look at China’s geography. If you look at a map of China, you will notice that it is mainly landlocked on 3 sides: In the North, West and South. The only area it has access to the sea is on the East, specifically on the East China and South China Seas:
2013-07-29_General_China_Map
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China, At War with Its Closest Neighbors in the South China Sea

First, let’s take a look at the South China Sea (SCS) and the countries around the border of that sea:

The South China Sea bordered by China, Vietnam and the Philippines. Photo courtesy of Yeu Ninje thru Wikipedia Commons.
The South China Sea bordered by China, Vietnam and the Philippines. Photo courtesy of Yeu Ninje thru Wikipedia Commons.

As you can see from the map, there are approximately ten countries within the borders of the SCS, and the closest ones to China around that sea are TAIWAN, VIETNAM and the PHILIPPINES. Thanks to their blatant and shameless insistence of aggressively trying to expand their already large territory, China has now antagonized ALL 3 of its closest neighbors.

‘Vietnam’
Vietnam shares a border with China around the SCS, and unfortunately for them this proximity meant that they are at the receiving end of China’s bullying. Since the 1970s, Vietnam has been involved in no less than 2 skirmishes with China. And take note, these are very serious skirmishes involving the sinking of ships and the loss of lives. The first of these skirmishes is called the “Battle of the Paracel Islands” in 1974, which started when the then South Vietnam discovered Chinese troops and ships on the Paracel Islands, which they considered as part of the territory.
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