Vietnam and the Philippines both shared the same territorial dispute with China over parts of the South China Sea within its 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone as set by UNCLOS. We all know that China is also a signatory of UNCLOS and therefore demands its own Exclusive Economic Zone too. However, it’s quite surprising that China doesn’t seem to respect the rules set by UNCLOS from which its neighbors are entitled and wants to lay claim all over the South China Sea using sheer force of its navy and warships.
Steaming through Philippine waters. China bullied our fishermen and our navy and then selfishly plundered and destroyed our critical coral-reef systems which directly resulted into lesser fish-catch and has economic toll to our country.
The Big Bad Bully
China’s expansionist ideas is starting to make many of its neighbors uneasy. For one part, the Philippines so many urgent diplomatic protest against China but China arbitrarily shot back and claimed that the Philippines is overlapping their historical rights in those seas.
Tensions rose when China invaded the Scarborough Shoal and built artificial islands there despite compromise agreement to withdrew both navies in the area. As a result of China’s actions. The Philippine government filed a case against China in the Permanent Arbitration Court. Though China ignored this and did not participate in the arbitration trials. Still, the Philippines won a resounding legal victory against China.
But wait. Things aren’t doing great in the Philippines. During the time of the ruling. The Philippines has just sworned in a new President. And his bent on doing a full 360 degree turn and won’t upheld nor capitalize from our victory in the Permanent Arbitration Court but instead make friends China in exchange of shady high-interest loans.
How Vietnam fought against China
Vietnam in terms of its military might is not at par with China. It also does not have full legal backing since it only relied on the 200 mile EEZ from UNCLOS to assert it’s sovereignty over parts of the Paracels. But what made Vietnam a formidable opponent? As you know the Vietnamese govt has since been cozying their ties with China in exchange of investments. But to what end?
In May 2, 2014. a Chinese state-owned oil drilling ship Hai Yang Shi You 981 sailed through the disputed waters in the Paracels along with escort navy and coast guard ships. They are bent on slapping the Viets on their face and show them that China is not to be messed with.
Unfortunately, it didn’t turned out the way they expected. They thought that the Vietnamese people will just submit themselves to Chinese illegal intrusions just like how the Filipinos did. But they did the opposite.
On May 13 and 14, anti-Chinese protests in Vietnam escalated into riots, where many foreign businesses and Chinese workers were targeted. Businesses owned by Chinese citizens were subjected to vandalism and looting due to the confusion by protesters who believed the establishments to be Chinese.
The oil rig crisis was defused on July 15, when the China National Offshore Oil Corporation announced that the platform had completed its work and withdrew it fully one month earlier than originally announced.
The way I see it. It appears that China seemed to have underestimated the will of the Vietnamese people. They thought that they were the same like us — who though we contest against China’s illegal encroachment of the West Philippine Sea but neither have we made any meaningful actions to force China to listen.
Though we must steer clear from violent riots like those in Vietnam but you can see the growing frustration of its people and that is something that exploded out of nowhere.
China had hurriedly evacuate it’s citizens as they are being harassed and attacked in Vietnam by Anti China rioters.
There’s one lesson we need to learn from what the Vietnamese people did. Don’t ever let someone dictate your territorial claims. There’s no one better who can assert our sovereignty but the people themselves. The government may get easily bogged down by bureaucracy and selfish one-sided diplomacy to enrich themselves as they received bribes from the Chinese government.
Who is going to enforce our claims in the West Philippine Sea — It’s us!