Philippines: China Demands Everything

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April 26, 2012: American and Filipino troops are conducting two weeks of annual military exercises off the western Philippines. This includes some operations near Scarborough Shoal, the scene of a recent naval standoff between Chinese and Filipino warships. Although the shoal is 200 kilometers off the Philippines coast (Subic Bay, near the capital), more distant China claims it and just about everything else in the South China Sea. Many of the ships and personnel involved in the joint exercises are operating out of the Subic Bay naval base. The Philippines is already having companies explore for oil and gas deposits off its coast. But China is increasingly insistent that all these waters, and whatever is beneath them, belongs to China. The tactics being used by China involve persistent bullying. But as the Philippines begins pumping oil and gas from these underwater fields China will have to attack or, in effect, relinquish its claims. But open warfare by China risks getting involved with American forces, something that could escalate to a larger conflict that would be catastrophic for China (which depends on access to the sea to import raw materials and food and to export goods). These confrontations are a matter of national pride for all involved, but for China it is even more dangerous because China is still a communist dictatorship. The communists have used nationalism to help maintain themselves in power, and any failure to protect "China" would be seen by Chinese as a major failure. China is playing a dangerous game in the South China Sea and with America backing the other claimants (Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan) in these disputes, the odds are against China.

April 25, 2012: In the north (Ifugao province) NPA gunmen shot up three military trucks, killing 11 soldiers and a civilian. In the southern province of Davao del Sur, four NPA gunmen and a local militiaman died in a 45 minute gun battle.

April 22, 2012: The national police have disbanded an investigation unit in Batangas province. The CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) there was accused of criminal activities. A new CIDG will be built from scratch in Batangas.  

April 21, 2012: Another Chinese patrol boat has shown up off Scarborough Shoal, joining a Chinese patrol boat that was already there. A third patrol boat left, apparently short on fuel or in need of repairs. A Filipino warship is also near the shoal, which both countries claim.

April 20, 2012: In the south (Negros Occidental province) police arrested five NPA members, including a local commander.

April 17, 2012: American and Filipino forces began two weeks of joint military exercises.

April 16, 2012: After pulling back their fishing and patrol boats China has returned to Scarborough Shoal, where one of their patrol boats interfered with the movement of a Filipino ship carrying nine French scientists doing some research in the area (with Filipino permission but without asking for Chinese permission). A Chinese patrol aircraft also flew over the shoal.

April 13, 2012: Chinese fishing and patrol boats left Scarborough Shoal, ending a week of confrontation with the Philippines. The countries agreed to discuss the situation instead.

 

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