July 14, 2019
The question was thrown by me to the former Chief of Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) at the Saturday Forum of Annabel’s Restaurant yesterday. Still the subject of discussions was the recent South China Sea incident in which a large Chinese vessel reportedly rammed and sank a wooden Filipino fishing boat. The controversy could not seem to find a closure despite efforts of both the Philippine and the Chinese governments to end it to everyone’s satisfaction. It seems Former Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario and his cohorts in the anti-China hate campaign spearheaded by the Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRI) have not quite said enough in pushing apparent war designs the United States has in the Asia Pacific region.
Personally, I have reconciled myself with the idea that sooner or later, the US-China conflict in the South China Sea will have to come to a head. Trump has failed in his trade war versus China, resulting in a big slump in the US economy. One sure way of recovering from this failure is to push China to a military confrontation. Patterns in history depict this phenomenon of defeated antagonists in economic competitions recover losses through war.
There should be another occasion for focusing on this matter. What most concerned me in the Annabel’s Restaurant Saturday Forum was the likelihood of military hostilities breaking out in the Asia Pacific region. If it is inevitable that the South China Sea conflict does worsen into armed hostilities, then let it explode in the water where, there, only fish will die. If it spreads into the land territory of the Philippines, it is the Filipino people who will die. That, to me, is unthinkable. I have had so much exposure to war histories that I wish I never had to imagine Filipinos suffering war atrocities one more time.
Hence I sought to clarify the matter at the forum. I believed I could take Vic’s word for it.
Days before the occasion, I had a discussion with Mentong Laurel (one of those in the forum panel) in which he declared that in the event China is forced to strike at the United States, it will have to strike at the US arsenal of weapons stored in Armed Forces military bases. When that happens, killing Filipinos would be an unavoidable collateral damage.
“Isn’t China under any compulsion to spare Filipino lives inasmuch as what the Chinese are warring against is not the Philippines but America?”
“China would be left with no choice,” Mentong argued. “The primordial need of self preservation dictates it. China knows nuclear warheads are stored in US exclusive facilities inside Philippine military bases. They will just have to hit those bases.”
I thought the occasion of the forum was a golden opportunity for me to get an answer for the dilemma from an authority. So I asked Vic, “Will China bomb the Philippines?”
“Yes…,” said Vic.
I gaped in horror.
“And no,” continued Vic.
I gaped in wonderment.
Vic explained that if the Philippines continues to allow itself as a storage site of all sorts of weapons that the United States can use against China, then it just is too bad that the Philippines becomes a priority target of Chinese strikes.
Vic traced the development of the increase of tension between the United States and China in the naval warfare exercises US conducted in the South China Sea together with Australia beginning in 2005; those exercises continue to this day with Japan and Taiwan joining in the fray.
According to Vic, those exercises were meant to control the Malacca Strait, the one single waterway for commerce to flow from the world to China and vice versa, at the same time the one single route of passage of oil to China from the Middle East and other sources. Early on, China realized that if those naval warfare exercises were left unchecked, time would come when the United States would be in complete control of the Malacca Strait, and thereby bring about the collapse of the Chinese economy.
“If you notice,” Vic pointed out, “China began land reclamation activities in the area in 2012 when the Philippines filed an arbitration case against China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague.” By Vic’s view, China saw the move as a maneuver of the United States to eliminate China from contention in the South China Sea. To counter this US move, China began embarking on a binge of building artificial islands.
“Three of those islands,” Vic revealed, “had airfields with runways stretching up to 3 kilometers.”
Vic disclosed that those islands serve as Chinese forward military bases capable of launching anti-ship missiles purposely for targeting US warships and those of its allies in the event of hostilities.
I noticed something in Vic’s narrative. Expected confrontations in the event of war are to be fought at sea. Why, I asked, the need for China to hit Philippine land territory?
“Actually, aircraft carriers have become obsolete [for fighting a war in these modern times],” Vic explained. He would anticipate a fierce exchange of nuclear warheads between protagonists capable of mutual destruction in just 15 minutes.
According to Vic, those nuclear warheads can be ready for firing from concealed launching pads inside Philippine military bases, as allowed the United States by virtue of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which it signed with the Philippines during the Benigno Aquino 3rd administration.
“Yes,” China will attack those concealed US nuclear launch sites, Vic conceded. “It is a matter of survival for the Chinese nation.”
“But, no,” China will not attack unless it is attacked first.
How much of likelihood is there that the United States will deliver the first strike in an outbreak of military hostilities?
Given the influence that the neocon elements in US policy making continue to exercise over matters of war with China, the likelihood of armed confrontation breaking out between the two countries is quite strong.
Vic suggests that for the Philippines to get out of the conflagration, it abrogates the Mutual Defense Treaty now. By so doing, the Philippines denies China all reasons to attack it.
How to abrogate the MDT? Ask President Duterte. He knows it’s as easy as telling the Americans, MDT is abrogated once and for all.
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