IN THE REALM of international politics, it is essential to distinguish between fact and fiction. We must always seek to decide which is considered as responsible statecraft and which is deemed as completely reckless adventurism.
And so, China’s territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) have been nothing short of bewildering. The latest addition to this saga is the “Ten-Dash Line,” which has been dismissed as a ludicrous invention that serves as a testament to their disregard for international law and common sense. It’s high time to call out this delusional and fictitious claim for what it is: sheer lunacy.
Anyone who would believe that this new map from China, which is a desperate outgrowth of its already debunked “Nine-Dash Line,” represents an audacious departure from reality, and is seeking to threaten the promotion and maintenance of peace and stability in the region. The audacity of China’s claims is matched only how fictitious it is. Their overly bold assertions, now encompassing vast swathes of the WPS, including parts of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), have not only been found to be legally baseless, but are also contrary to the principles of truly responsible state conduct.
Let us be clear: The Philippines’ sovereignty and territorial integrity in the WPS must be respected, upheld, and defended at all costs. When former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III decided to rename of the portions of the South China Sea that are part of our EEZ as the “West Philippine Sea,” it was a necessary move to reassert our rightful claims in the face of relentless Chinese encroachment in the region.
We should recall that China’s territorial ambitions suffered a serious blow back in 2016 when the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines’ case, invalidating China’s “Nine-Dash Line” claims. The PCA made it clear that their claims had no basis in international law and that they encroached upon the Philippines’ sovereign rights.
Well, what was China’s response? It was to double down on its baseless assertions and now, they have concocted this “Ten-Dash Line,” which not only encompasses the WPS but also, unsurprisingly, has come to include the self-governing entity of Taiwan. This newfound aggression is an escalation of the tensions in the region, and it threatens to undermine regional stability and risk entangling neighboring countries in a potential conflict.
In the face of China’s brazen disregard for international norms, the Philippines must stand firm and resolute. The Marcos Jr. administration, having taken a more assertive position in the WPS than its immediate predecessor in office, must continue to demonstrate unwavering commitment to our territorial integrity. This is not just a matter of preserving our sovereignty; it is clearly already a matter of national security.
Moreover, the Philippines should, at this point in time, now actively seek the intervention of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in this matter. The ASEAN, as a regional bloc committed to promoting peace and stability, must take a collective stand against China’s unilateral actions. The WPS issue affects not just the Philippines but the entire region, and it demands a united front. ASEAN’s principles of non-interference and peaceful conflict resolution should not be misconstrued by that bloc as a means for inaction, like it has in the Myanmar internal conflict. It is time for ASEAN to assert its influence and engage diplomatically to prevent further escalation in the WPS. A unified ASEAN voice can carry significant weight in international forums and negotiations.
But irrespective of the actions of our potential allies and friends in the international arena, it is clearer than ever that China’s fanciful “Ten-Dash Line” must not be entertained by our country as a legitimate claim. Like the “nine-dash line,” it is a complete work of fiction that if promoted unrelentingly by China, will threaten the peace and stability of the WPS. The Philippines’ sovereignty and territorial integrity in the region must be vigorously defended by the Marcos Jr. administration. The time for resolute action on our part and to seek further diplomatic cooperation is now. We stand by the West Philippine Sea, and the world must stand with us.