Saluting Southeast Asian Countries that Stand Up Against China’s
posturing in West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)
Over a Cup of Tea
Heidi M. Pascual
Publisher & Editor
2006 Journalist of the year
for the State of Wisconsin
Recently, Indonesian President Joko Widodo affirmed his country’s sovereignty over 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 Islands.

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 Programme at Chatham House of the UK, said that the dispute is 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

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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 to his best friend.

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.