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What Philippines should do
The Philippines should start seriously protecting its sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the WPS by patrolling its EEZ, including holding joint patrols with the US Navy; by entering into sea boundary agreements with Vietnam and Malaysia; by filing an ECS claim beyond its EEZ off the coast of Luzon; and other measures.
Otherwise, the Philippines will lose by default its EEZ in the WPS to China. The ramifications will be far-reaching. The nine-dashed lines will be the common border between China and the Philippines, running 1,700 kilometers long very close to the territorial sea of the Philippines, just some 64 kilometers off the coast of Balabac Island, the southernmost island in Palawan, 70 kilometers off the coast of Bolinao in Pangasinan, and 44 kilometers off the coast of Y’ami Island, the northernmost island in Batanes.
This is what Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated in Feb. 2016 in Washington DC, that China and the Philippines are very close neighbors separated by just a “narrow body of water” – referring to the sliver of territorial sea and EEZ between the Philippine coastline and the nine-dashed lines. Chinese fighter jets from Scarborough Shoal can reach Manila in less than 20 minutes. Likewise, Chinese fighter jets from Mischief Reef can reach Puerto Princesa in less than 20 minutes.
The Philippines will lose 80 percent of its EEZ in the WPS, a maritime space as large as the total land area of the Philippines. This is the gravest external threat to the Philippines since World War II. The Philippines will lose to China all the oil, gas, fishery, methane hydrates or combustible ice, and other mineral resources within this huge maritime space, including the gas-rich Reed Bank. The Reed Bank is supposed to replace the Malampaya gas field when it runs out of gas in less than 10 years. Malampaya supplies 40 percent of the energy requirement of Luzon.
Without a replacement for Malampaya, Luzon will have 10 to 12 hours of blackouts every day less than 10 years from now. Factories will close and workers will be out of jobs. This will devastate the Philippine economy. Unless there is assurance of a replacement for Malampaya, no serious investor will put up a new factory in Luzon during the Duterte administration.
The stakes are high for present and future generations of Filipinos. All Filipinos should now unite to defend and protect the WPS.
(Full text in imoa.ph, website of the Institute for Maritime and Ocean Affairs)
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