Despite China’s aggression, ‘no war erupting in South China Sea in 10 years’

More from author

DFA: Rescued Filipino seafarers from capsized ship due home, search for others continues

The two Filipino seamen rescued from the missing Panamanian-flagged vessel Gulf Livestock-1 will be returning home to...

Ex-DFA chief: UK, France, Germany boost case for raising SCS issue again

ONE of three former government officials who want the Duterte administration to bring the 2016 arbitral ruling...

3 foreigners nabbed for passport fraud in Lucena, Quezon–DFA

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has warned the public of attempts by unscrupulous individuals to commit...

DESPITE the frequent skirmishes involving coastal fishermen and Chinese militia fishing boats, and Beijing’s aggressive “creation” of islands and cities in the South China Sea, “there will be no war in the South China Sea in the next 10 years,” a maritime expert said on Friday.

Gregory Poling, senior fellow and director of the Asia Maritime Transparency International Initiative (AMTI) Center for Strategic and International Studies, shared this outlook at the conclusion of a virtual talk on maritime challenges in Southeast Asia, titled “Sailing a Course Through Contested Waters.”

The panelists included experts from the United States, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Poling said that after reading many of the questions sent by listeners, “a lot of them involved whether the US and China will fight a war in the SCS. I’m just going to say, ‘no.’”

However, he added words of caution: “The fisherfolks are the canaries in the coalmine here,” a metaphor for  an advanced warning of danger.

“They don’t have 10 years, there will be a cascading fish stock collapse in the South China Sea [SCS] in far less than 10 years unless something is done now. So the movement to take out this fight is now.”

Poling was referring to two separate incidents in 2019 and this year involving Philippine and Vietnamese fishing boats that were allegedly rammed by Chinese fishing militia and  sunk, leaving the occupants to the mercy of the sea.

Vietnamese fishermen saved the Filipino fishermen, while in the second incident where a Vietnamese boat was sunk, Chinese fishermen came to save the Vietnamese.

At the end of the discussion, Poling asked the participants for their prognosis for the next 10 years in the contested waters. Most of them, he said,  “agree far more than we disagree.”

Polin said the “points of agreement” converged on “[the need for] multilateral efforts, whether or not it is all of Asean or a subset of Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations].”

Everyone agreed, he said, “that the region is at an inflection point, all of the claimants and the international community, including the US, are losing in the SCS but it is not lost.”

The US has continued to conduct its United States Freedom of Navigation Operations (Fonops), asserting the right of all nations to sail through international waters notwithstanding China’s projections of ownership.

Poling cited a   ranking Philippine Air Force official’s view on “the need for all Asean to get together because otherwise, there’s no way any single claimant is going to be heard, given the disparity in power of China.”

Poling then asked each participant how they would see the South China Sea 10 years down the road.

Dr. Jay Batongbacal, director, University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said 10 years from now, “if it is business as usual mode, [and] China will be allowed to get away with its assertion,” then the region will see “China’s control increasing, both in active and passive ways.”

He said China would be actively sending out its “assets’ to regulate activities in the SCS, in the way they wanted to be regulated.”

Batongbacal said the surrounding countries,  “probably out of fear, will maintain good relations with China [and] adjust their behavior, activities to comply with the requirements and demands of China.”

If that happens, he sees Southeast Asian nations “being pushed of elbowed out of the way in the SCS.”

“If the region basically surrenders to China’s expansion, and assertions, then there’s not much the international community can do to help them,” Batongbacal said.

On the other hand, if there’s a change within Asean and they are able to unify, “then there is hope that we would see China adjust to international law through rules of fair play and see the  region as an important stakeholder.”

Dr. Nguyen Hung Son, director general and head, Institute for the South China Sea, Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, said: “If China is allowed to dictate what goes on in the SCS, then they will dictate the business handling in relation to the rest of the world, with North America, the European Union and the international community.”

Son added: “I’m sure no one is going to stand idle, accepting that international law or international order is twisted unilaterally, serving one country’s interests with disregard [of] the interests of the immediate neighborhood and the broader international community.”

Sumathy Permal, fellow and head of Center for Straits of Malacca Maritime Institute of Malaysia, shared this outlook of the decade: “China will have a tighter grip on their 9-dash line, [and] I’m not sure how one claimant could respond to [such] assertiveness.”

She said China will attempt to control the Asean platform, “but bilaterally there will be a lot of engagements and also perhaps there will be formation of multilateralism.”

Image credits: Li Gang/Xinhua via AP

- Advertisement -



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More updates

Cleanfuel announces price adjustments for diesel, gasoline

Cleanfuel will implement fuel price adjustment, effective Tuesday, September 22, 2020 at 4:01PM.
- Advertisement -

DOH alarmed over crowds of people converging in Manila Bay

The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday expressed alarm after hundreds of people flocked to see Manila Bay's "white sand" over the weekend.Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that as soon as they received information and saw pictures on social media of people disregarding minimum health standard protocols, particularly the one-meter social...

‘Calamity’ extension raises spending alert

THE extension of a declaration of national calamity for one year bodes well for the economy, economists said, but they strongly advised the government to practice judicious spending. They said the extension of the national calamity status will enable both the national and local governments to immediately tap funds...

Duterte to raise WPS and human rights issues in address at UNGA

PRESIDENT Duterte will raise the issue of the country’s arbitration award in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) as well as the government’s war on illegal drugs during the virtual general assembly of the United Nations (UN) for its 75th anniversary on Tuesday. In an online briefing, Presidential Assistant on...

Deutsche sees BSP keeping policy rates till 2021

THE Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is likely to keep key policy rates at the same level until next year, according to a study. The Deutsche Bank research noted in a report on Monday that the Central Bank is not seen changing its policy stance until the third quarter...
- Advertisement -

In case you missed it