by Heidi M. Pascual
Saluting SE Asian Countries that Stand Up Against China
Recently, Indonesian President Joko Widodo affirmed his country’s sovereignty over the Natuna Islands by visiting the islands and making the
remarks after Chinese Coast Guard vessels escorted Chinese fishing boats into Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) north of Natuna

A week earlier, it was reported that Indonesia dismissed China’s invitation to sit down for a dialogue regarding similar incidents of Chinese
“incursions,” strongly arguing that Indonesia would never recognize China’s “Nine-dash Line,” China’s claim over South China Sea because it was
against international law.

Two months ago, Vietnam also rejected China’s statement on sovereignty over Truong Sa (Spratly Archipelago), stressing that Vietnam has sufficient
historical and legal evidence proving ownership/sovereignty over both Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa Islands. The country earlier demanded that
China withdraw its ships from its territorial waters. Chinese ships were reportedly “survey vessels” whose presence in Vietnam’s territory was a
violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Vietnam believes that no country can claim any part of the Sea that exceeds
geographical limits and beyond what the UNCLOS provides.

It’s interesting to note that international maritime experts condemn China’s unilateral acts in the disputed sea. News releases from Vietnam News
Agency for example, reported that on October 8, lawyer Bernard Insel said the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague in 2016 rejected
China's claim over the so-called "nine-dash line" in the South China Sea, and affirmed that the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the
Sea (UNCLOS 1982) must be the sole basis for a rightful claim. Japanese expert Professor Daisuke Hosokawa of the Osaka University of
Economics also agreed to this assessment, adding that China’s recent activities are unilateral and provocative, inviting tension in the disputed area.
In addition, last September 21, over 50 experts from research institutes and universities in the Czech Republic gathered at a recent workshop in
Prague on resolving disputes in the South China or East Sea, and their main speaker, Dr. Bill Hayton, senior expert of the Asia-Pacific
Program at Chatham House of the UK, said that the dispute is a complex issue, for it not only involves China and ASEAN member countries that have
claimed sovereignty in the sea, but also concerns a geopolitical competition between big countries, especially the US and China.

With all these reports, I am deeply saddened by Philippine President Duterte’s continued friendship with China, despite all its illegal activities,
including the militarization of the islands in dispute and repeated bullying of Filipino fishermen in our country’s territorial waters. I am scared at the
recent awarding of sensitive infrastructure and telecommunication contracts with China, knowing fully well how the security of the Philippines would
be in jeopardy as a result of such action.

Duterte’s famous words, “Do not destroy my country because I will kill you!” clearly refer to those involved in the drug trade (although I am not sure
who’s really winning in Duterte’s war on drugs.) Filipinos, in general, however, take the president’s statement as applicable to anything pertaining to
the country’s security and sovereignty. Thus, with Duterte’s lovey-dovey relationship with China, we believe that statement isn’t intended for “his best

I therefore salute and admire those ASEAN countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam, whose leaders have the balls to stand up against China and
its illegal activities in South China Sea (or East Sea or West Philippine Sea, as called by different countries). In condemning China’s claims to and its
illegal activities at, their territorial waters, these countries clearly prove they will “fight” for their country’s sovereignty, regardless of China’s economic
might and military power.

I am not sure where the Philippines is headed. All I can see is a bleak future as long as Duterte remains at the helm. I do not want to be pessimistic
about it, but I promised myself that aside from praying hard for the Philippines and the Filipino people, if and when WE are called to defend the
Philippines, I’d be willing to march, fight, and die for my country.