The die has been cast, literally. The latest water cannon incident involving a Philippine Navy – operated supply boat against two Chinese coast guard ships immediately brings to light and reveals the very clear intention of the country to finally and openly contest and oppose China’s provocative actions in the South China Sea (West Philippines Sea – WPS) and strongly protest the latter’s expansive claims over that part of the region. Evidently there is now no turning back with the country even as it lodged its strongest protest against China by not only summoning its senior Chinese diplomat, Charge d’affaires Zhou Zhiyong, to explain his country’s action, as well as filing a diplomatic protest before the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing.

The Philippines in this so called ‘demarches’ is resolutely emphasizing that China “has no right to be in Ayungin Shoal, a low-tide elevation that lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and as affirmed by the 2016 Arbitral Award”. (https:// 229330/ph-summonscharge-daffaires-china-hasno-right-to-be-inayungin?utm_source=(direct)&utm_medium=gallery)

To recall the latest water cannon assault conducted by China’s Coast Guard heavily damaged a Philippine supply vessel attempting to deliver supplies to a garrison of Philippine marines on the Second Thomas Shoal at the WPS, within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and which reaped a growing international backlash and also compelled the United States, a staunch ally of the country, to issue the following statement thru its State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller who said, “The United States reaffirms an armed attack on Philippine public vessels, aircraft, and armed forces — including those of its Coast Guard in the South China Sea — would invoke US mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 US Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty”.

Obviously China has been adroitly skirting the possibility of the USPhilippines Mutual Defense Treaty from being invoked and implemented by deviously using so called ‘gray zone’ tactics which are actions just below the use of actual weapons of war against military forces of the country. Gray zone tactics are simply, “coercive actions that are shy of armed conflict but beyond normal diplomatic, economic, and other activities”, and which is being actively exploited by China to cement its claims over swaths of the WPS. By definition Chinese gray zone tactics are,
“coercive Chinese government geopolitical, economic, military, and cyber and information operations (cyber/IO) activities beyond regular diplomatic and economic activities and below the use of kinetic military force.”

This includes “geopolitical, economic, and cyber/IO tactics into international (indirect external pressure, such as by leveraging regional fora), bilateral (direct external pressure), and grassroots (direct activities on the ground in the target country or region, such as by leveraging local proxies), and military tactics into military domains, specifically air, maritime, land, and general (multiple PRC military services or general threats). If you wish to learn more about China’s gray zone tactics go to this link ( research_briefs/RBA594- 1.html). With all of these developments and the prevailing situation in the WPS the questions that needs to be answered by the government is this: Is the Philippines ready for more escalating confrontations with China and the real possibility of being involved in a proxy war against the latter?

It is well to remember that China by using gray zone tactics is actually warmongering or attempting to stir up war against not only the Philippines but also against other states who have similar and overlapping claims in the WPS. If the country wants to preserve its sovereignty and territory then it must do everything to protect its EEZ considering that other countries right now are actively competing to protect and preserve their own finite natural resources against foreign exploitation. Finally if the country want peace and tranquility then it must bear in mind the following
phrase : “Si vis pacem, para bellum (if you want peace, prepare for war). (https://www.merriamwe bster. com/ dictionary /si%20vis%20pacem,%20para%20bellum)

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