China will always try to bully the Philippines and other countries in the Southeast Asian region in a bid to control massive oil resources in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said yesterday.
While the Philippines obviously does not have enough defense capability against a superpower such as China, Santiago advised the government to be circumspect and be extra wise in dealing with its big neighbour.
“In the complicated world of international affairs, it is easy to say that we will fight them off. But it is likely that China will win because they are bigger than us. China, in effect, is really going to try and bully us and the rest of the other SEA countries,” said Santiago, former chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations.
The Spratly Islands is being disputed by China, Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei and Vietnam.
Among the six claimant countries, Santiago said China is the “biggest” in terms of land and population, and the “strongest” in terms of defense capability.
“We pale in comparison against China, even in terms of economy. We cannot rely on other countries to defend our claims against China, they are also afraid because they also have interests to protect. That’s the rule in international relations…really self interest,” Santiago told radio dzBB.
Santiago also warned the Aquino administration against entering into joint agreements in the exploration of oil and natural deposits in a bid to “settle” the disputes at the Spratlys.
Santiago said this would mean China would have the edge since the Philippines does not have the capability to conduct oil explorations because it lacks resources and equipment.
She warned the Philippines might end up as a “satellite country” of China.
While the United States is an ally, Santiago said the Philippines couldn’t rely on the US because they too have their own economic reasons to protect in terms of their relationship with China. She said the US also has loans with China.
Despite this, Santiago said the US as well as the rich countries in western Europe would not allow China to have leverage in terms of oil and natural gas development in the Spratlys. “America and the countries in western Europe will not allow it because there will be imbalance in the distribution of power in the world once China is able to take over oil and mineral resources underneath the South China Sea,” she said.
China will become a big superpower if they gain control over the oil deposits and exploration in the region which, Santiago said, the US and western Europe will not allow.
Santiago, however, suggested the Philippines could be tapped by countries unfriendly to China and use its soil, especially Mindanao, to observe how China is conducting its trade.
Only then can the government try and make a more viable option for a better deal with China, the senator added.
Santiago also warned of a possible scenario similar to the Cuban missile crisis during the time of the late US President John Kennedy when there were trade embargoes imposed between China and the US.
“It will almost be a repeat of the Cuban crisis during the term of President Kennedy,” she said.
Judging by the military’s lack of equipment and resources to fight off China’s “bullying” tactics in the Spratly Islands, Santiago lamented that the Philippines cannot even detect if China has entered Philippine airspace because the military does not have the capability to do so.
“We are just too far away in terms of military resource capability. We are defenseless. Right now, our defense capability is good only for five minutes or under five minutes. After that …we are all dead,” she said.-By Christina Mendez