Unless you really have not been paying attention these past few weeks you will know that the dispute over the Spratley group of islands have flared up yet again. You have China, Vietnam, Taiwan, and a host of other countries including our very own Philippines are disputing the territory.
I love our response to the situation. Beef up the army! Talk tough with the Chinese then threaten them with the increased might of the glorious Philippine army! Which has, by the way, has been unable to prevent any of the insurgencies that have plagued our country. Nor have they been able to make a dent in the terrorist organizations operating in Mindanao, Even with US military aid and intelligence. I gather they will send our PT boats against that new aircraft carrier the Chinese are building.
I also have more bitter news for the Aquino government. The U.S.A will not come to our aid in a shooting war, no matter what our treaties say. I’m not even thinking about the interests of the big corporations which have a say in American politics. Of course they don’t want a war with their most profitable trading partner. These interests can be set aside for the right price. After all if America goes to war with China they probably won’t have to pay their massive debt to that country. The Americans will not fight because their people are not ready for it. There is no will for another war and rightly so. They have just begun to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Asking them to fight now would be like asking them to engage in another war after Vietnam.
What now then? The way I see it our country has two options. Fight the Chinese or try and make a deal and get something out of the Spratley’s to our benefit. In essence sell the Spratley’s to the Chinese. Before I detail what each option would entail I would just like to make a categorical statement. We will not be able to claim the Spratley’s ever. China is just in too strong of a position for them to lose this territorial dispute to a country which is probably not even considered a minor power.
If we still decide to fight after knowing this fact, building up our army is not the way to go about it. The gap is just too large. Even if we spent a hundred times what we have just spent to upgrade our military we would not achieve anything close to parity. Our money and effort should be spent on coalition building. Joint exercise with Taiwan, Vietnam and any other countries who are willing. Diplomatic visits and alliances with other countries bordering China. Essentially we have to make sure that if it comes to war we will not be fighting alone. Ironically when it comes to China countries like Vietnam and Taiwan with more proximity and a higher stake in the situation would actually make more stable allies than the Americans.
A better course of action would be to sell the Spratley’s to the Chinese. Of course the nay-sayers will point out that all that oil is worth more than the money we will receive but again I say that we will never be able to mine that oil. It actually has 0 value to us right now. We might as well get something out of it.
Of course it would be political suicide for any leader to actually suggest that the islands be sold. Any “sale” would have to be achieved by subtler means. There are plenty of territorial dispute cases in the International Court of Justice. The Channel Island dispute with the islands going to England for example. Our country could do everything it can to make sure that it will lose any ICJ case that China starts. In return since China can’t really pay us outright they could assume some of our national debt “in the spirit of greater cooperation and charity with its Asian neighbors”. The Filipino people always ready to believe another conspiracy theory could be told that the Chinese bought the ICJ ruling. There we go the Chinese get the islands and we get a greatly reduced debt and no one is the wiser about it.
These are really only examples of the alternative ways we can approach the problem. The main point is that our current solutions of relying on American intervention and upgrading our military will not solve our problem and will actually lead to disaster.