Should PH redeploy ships to Scarborough?

Netizens debate the Scarborough Shoal issue

MANILA, Philippines — When the Philippines and China reportedly withdrew their ships from the lagoon of Scarborough Shoal, it was seen as a move to break a standoff between the two countries over the disputed territory.

Now, the Philippines is faced with a challenge: whether to put back its vessels in the lagoon of Scarborough Shoal after finding out the Chinese never pulled out theirs. (Read: Chinese boats return to Scarborough – DFA

President Benigno Aquino III tackled the issue with the Cabinet Thursday, July 5, but the Palace has so far kept mum on how the discussions ended. Aquino, however, said China could be “delaying” the issue by keeping its ships in the shoal. 

CABINET MEETING. President Benigno Aquino III takes up the Scarborough Shoal issue in a Cabinet meeting this week. Photo from Malacañang Photo Bureau

Aquino had said the Philippines will redeploy its vessels to Scarborough Shoal if it monitors Chinese ships in the area. On Monday, July 2, the President said the Philippines could request the United States for P3C Orion spy planes to monitor the shoal. (Read: Palace: US spy planes just like Google Earth.)

Responding to questions posed by Rappler, netizens gave their opinions on the possible redeployment of Philippine ships to the lagoon of Scarborough Shoal.

‘Cut it in half’

For a number of netizens, the Philippines should put back its ships in Scarborough Shoal to uphold the country’s sovereignty. “They should not have left in the first place,” said netizen Ares Gutierrez.

Others suggested negotiating – or striking a compromise – with China.

Why not “cut up” Scarborough in half, said Twitter user Matthew Lopez. He cited, as an example, the division of Cyprus into two after a military coup.

Teddy Dario, however, questioned the logic of Lopez’s statement. “It’s like saying that if a person barges into your house and insists on owning it, you agree and give him one half.”

Still, others asserted the need to bring the Scarborough Shoal dispute before an international court.

China has rejected this proposal, with the mainland demanding bilateral or one-on-one negotiations with the Philippines instead. The idea of a third-party in South China Sea issues – particularly US involvement – has consistently agitated China. (Read: How to respond to China? Keep US out.)

Recently, Aquino himself said he wants to show “goodwill” to China by keeping the issue out of international attention, at least for now. Weeks before this, the President said international attention is the Philippines’ “best weapon” in the dispute. (Read: PNoy: Leave PH, China alone to settle dispute.)

For Vice Nobleza, the bottom line is to settle the dispute diplomatically, and to prevent violence.

(Read more in the Storify link below)

PH flag needed?

A former military chief, Muntinlupa Rep Rodolfo Biazon makes a more daring suggestion: install the symbol of Philippine sovereignty — the country’s flag — in Scarborough Shoal.

“The impression that we might be sending out there to the international community is that we are giving up our claim. We need to show our flag there,” Biazon said in a press conference, according to various reports. 

Senator Gringo Honasan, for his part, said the Philippines needs US military presence in the disputed territory. “They’ll be the ‘barangay tanod (village guard).’ They’ll be the police. They will monitor everything. Any movement of naval and air assets in the area will be monitored by the US,” said Honasan, a former military colonel, in a newspaper report.

In another report, Navy Chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama said the Navy “is willing and able” in case the President orders them to return to Scarborough Shoal.

In April, the Philippines deployed the Navy’s flagship — BRP Gregorio del Pilar — in apprehending Chinese fishermen in Scarborough Shoal.

NAVY'S FLAGSHIP. An incident involving BRP Gregorio del Pilar and Chinese ships triggered the Scarborough Shoal standoff in April. Photo from Newsbreak

It was the incident involving BRP Gregorio del Pilar — the Philippines’ biggest military ship — and Chinese fishing boats, as well as surveillance ships, that triggered the two-month standoff between the Philippines and China.

Tension in the South China Sea further escalated since then, with China recently establishing a prefectural-level city to govern contested territories. The Philippines has officially protested China’s establishment of this city called Sansha. (Read: PH protests South China Sea ‘city.’) —

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