Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Possibility of a Regional Conflict

The Possibility of a Regional Conflict
By Erick San Juan

The nation is too focus on the developments in the impeachment trial of CJ Corona that there are issues being overlooked that is of great significance to our national security.

One of which is the tenth anniversary of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM – Philippines wherein the administration during that time has joined the Bush doctrine in his war on terror and has dragged the whole Filipino race to be on the coalition of the willing against the so-called terrorists. President George Bush Jr. even designated the former president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as the Asian coordinator in this synthetic war on terror. And the rest is history.

A historical event that has put us up to this moment, under the whim of Uncle Sam, when they want our support to stage a war against a supposed adversary. But not this time, when our military thrust was changed from counter-insurgency to confrontation with China. This is a major change that may eventually drag us to a regional conflict that will leave us (as always) shortchanged in the process.

As what the politicians from the US Congress said, "The United States plans to increase the joint military exercises with the Philippines."

The announcement was made after Arizona Senator John McCain and three other American senators, Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire visited the country.

The move forms part of the US' intention to increase its naval and air assets in the Asia Pacific Region.

According to Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, the joint military exercises will "enhance" Philippines' experience, capabilities, and abilities to protect its territorial integrity. But this does not mean that the US is establishing bases in the country. (Source: Sun Star Manila online 1/18/12)

Although as early as January 5, a press release from the Phil. Information Agency (PIA) said from Palawan that -- The Western Command (WesCom) has confirmed the holding of a bigger joint military exercises under the RP-US Balikatan in April this year. But why was it advanced possibly by mid Februrary or March?

The Balikatan is an annual RP-US bilateral military humanitarian assistance and training exercise under the auspices of the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement. Again, the government through the Presidential Commission on the VFA (PCVFA) particularly the DFA will hold talks with the US regarding the review of the 1999 VFA. We heard this before, so what else is new?

Such “agreements” only benefits Uncle Sam more than the Filipino people. We are not fully against the Americans helping us but again, they should give what is due us and respect the public’s sentiments when it comes to decisions that will affect the country’s security.

Enter the Water Dragon in “Hot Water”

Uncle Sam’s intervention in the Asia-Pacific region is only intensifying the tension in and around the contested areas in the South China Sea, worst it will use the Balikatan exercises to hold the military drills in Palawan near the disputed areas.

In June of last year, it was reported that China has started its drilling operation in the South China Sea and early this month from Da Nang (AsiaNews) – A Chinese official said that China will soon send a huge ship, the Marine Oil and Gas 708, and a huge oil rig, the Marine 981, to explore for oil and gas in deep waters in 2012, in the South East Sea (or South China Sea as the Chinese call it). However, he did not say in which part of the sea. Built in China, the Marine Oil 708 can explore oil and gas at a depth of 3,000 m and drill at 600 m under the sea. The ship is 105 m long and 23.4 m wide. It is equipped with advanced probes and can withstand wave level 12.

The huge oil rig Marine 981 is also preparing to drill an oil well in deep waters in the South East Sea in 2012. The huge drilling rig can operate at depths of 3,000 m and drill at depths of 10,000 m under sea. Its operational capacity is more than 18 times greater than existing oil rigs.

In the past few decades, the possibility of oil deposits in the South East Sea has unleashed a dispute over sovereignty (of the Spratly and Paracel Islands) involving China, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei. Countries like Vietnam and the Philippines cannot easily explore oil and gas at such depths.

“We always should come first, when competing with the resources. The resources are not able to re-create as well as not infinite in the disputed maritime area,” said a Chinese Communist official, head of the Centre for Energy and Economy Research of a University.

Claimants to the disputed areas in the SCS should be wary now that the Dragon has actually entered the hot waters of the SCS.

Could a regional conflict not far behind now that Washington has already solidified the circle around China through its allies?

Let's watch closely the possible confluence of events soon to unfold.

May God bless the Philippines!

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