More than 17 hours ago. A large number of Chinese fishing vessels who entered Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone retreated away from Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the North Natuna Sea.
These ships were known to be encouraged and sometimes accompanied by Chinese Coast Guard by the encouragement of the Chinese government who has since declared most of the entire South China Sea including both Philippines West Philippine Sea and Indonesia’s North Natuna Sea as theirs under its nine-dashed line claim.
According to legitimate news sources within Indonesia that the Chinese vessels hurriedly began retreating on the heels of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s visit near Natuna Islands along with him is a number of corvettes and warships as proof of Indonesian commitment in protecting its own waters.
Acting governor of Riau Islands that said the vessels, which were originally situated 130 miles from the Natuna regency capital of Ranai, had retreated to the edge of the EEZ.
Although despite this withdrawal. The Indonesian navy and security forces maintained its defense posturing and even beefed up their presence in the area as a signal that it will not give in to China’s threats and intimidation.
Indonesia has also put its jet-fighters on high-alert in order to take off as soon China use military means to dislodge Indonesian presence and take the North Natuna Seas by force.
“I am here to ensure the enforcement of our sovereign rights over the maritime natural resources in our EEZ,” – President Widodo Jokowi
But is Indonesia really fully committed in contradicting China’s imperialistic influence in the region? What could be the possible takeaways of Indonesia’s actions?
The fact is that — Indonesia could lose Chinese support and relevant investment deals after it used its military to protect its seas from Chinese illegal fishing vessels and thereby asserting control over Chinese claimed waters.
Bear in mind, that in less than a month ago, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi at the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting in Madrid, agreeing to strengthen both countries’ comprehensive strategic partnership on the back of the 70th anniversary of formal diplomatic relations.
Around the same time, Indonesian defence minister Prabowo Subianto visited Beijing, with an eye on obtaining Chinese help in modernising the country’s military.
Just early last month, Indonesia’s Investment Coordinating Board offered US$91.1 billion worth of infrastructure projects to Chinese investors under the Belt and Road Initiative.
All of these deals might surely be off the table after Indonesia’s actions to defend its own sovereignty. But just as Widodo has said that it will not compromise the country’s territorial sovereignty and give in to China, in exchange of loans and investment deals.
While bilateral ties have remained stable over the years, the Chinese claim in Indonesia’s EEZ since 2016 has not gone away. And Beijing might have reason to believe that the newly-constituted Widodo cabinet would be friendlier now than before when it comes to this maritime problem.
However, this seemed to be not the case — as Widodo’s resolve in protecting Indonesian waters by whatever means possible may have simply surprised Beijing, but we can be sure that they’ll most probably try and test the waters again to see how long can Widodo keep this all up.
Meanwhile, in the far North. The Philippines remains under Chinese influence and control as it appeared to have intentionally left the West Philippine Sea un-defended in favor of China.
In fact, a below-sea level land feature called ”Sandy Cay” has since been routinely occupied and controlled by Chinese personnel when Duterte ordered the navy to halt further patrols in the area to give China an opportunity to gradually take full control of the area.
Should China successfully control and occupy ”Sandy Cay” by converting it to an artificial island, then it would give them a de-facto territorial waters that would put Filipino occupied Pag-Asa Island under Chinese control as it lies only several kilometers from Sandy Cay.
I think it’s really up to the people to assess the current regime’s foreign policy if it is really benefiting them or it may have been a ploy to cash in heaps of funds to pilfer whilst worsening the burden of high-interest loans to the people.
Whichever is the case, hope that we may soon understand the implications of our actions when voting for the future President’s of the country. Especially, certain politicians who masquerade themselves with seemingly ”strongman” qualities, yet lack in character, resolve and sincerity to uphold the best interest of the Filipino people.