David Versus Goliath in the South China Sea

CommentaryThe biblical story of David versus Goliath is being reenacted on a broader scale in the West Philippine Sea. The Filipino upstart is tweaking the nose of the communist Chinese behemoth and not backing down one iota. The Philippines has international law and world opinion (less those nations enthralled by Beijing) on its side.Let us examine the issue.David Versus GoliathThe epic story of the one-minute armed combat between diminutive Israelite David and the Philistine giant Goliath is told in Chapter 17 of the First Book of Samuel in the Bible. The core of the story is conveyed in verses 49 and 50 when the two champions meet in single combat to decide the fate of the gathered armies: “Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.”The story has been retold down through the ages, with the moral being that, when armed with the power of God, no one’s enemy is truly invincible—no matter how “big” or otherwise imposing that enemy might be. Is it just coincidental that the Philippines is a nation of believers (and with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. making accommodations with the Catholic Church) while the Chinese Communist Party (and leader Xi Jinping) is atheistic and Godless to its core? Methinks not.That answer depends on the Philippines’s allies, especially the United States and Japan.CCP Pressure MountsChina violates the Philippines’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) with impunity. The communists have spent over a decade extending and fortifying their territorial and military control over the entire disputed area, including Woody Island (Paracels), Scarborough Shoal, and three artificial islands in the Spratly Islands, plus Mischief Reef. A December article from FPRI describes China’s continued violation of the Philippines’s EEZ, noting that “China’s construction projects in the South China Sea have acutely harmed the Philippines’ economy. … Chinese building, such as pumping sediment from the seafloor to form new islands, significantly damages marine life and blocks Filipino fishing vessels.”Related Stories12/16/202312/11/2023State-run Chinese media has echoed the CCP’s narrative in which China claims that “the Philippines’ illegal transportation of construction materials at Second Thomas Shoal is based on the need to safeguard territorial sovereignty, not out of geopolitical considerations.” Balderdash! As the Council on Foreign Relations reported when the Hague Court made its decision in 2016, “The panel found that China’s claims of historic rights within the nine-dash line, which Beijing uses to demarcate its claims in the South China Sea, were without legal foundation.”Chinese media headlines have grown increasingly shrill:Global Times on Jan. 18: “With duplicity, the Philippines hot-headedly positions itself as the US’ cannon fodder.”China Daily on Jan. 11: “Will Manila stop creating trouble in 2024?”Global Times on Dec. 21: “Philippines urged to exercise caution, rationality in S. China Sea.”The Philippines Stands TallAs reported by MSN, on Dec. 10, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. participated in a resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal and “was aboard the Unaizah Mae 1 while the resupply boat was rammed by a Chinese Coast Guard vessel.” The Chinese vessels used water cannons and “unspecified ‘acoustic devices’ [that] allegedly inflicted ’severe temporary discomfort' on Philippine crew members.” Gen. Brawner was accompanied by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command commander, Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos, as they provided food, fuel, and a morale boost to elated personnel at Sierra Madre.After the incident, Manila filed new diplomatic protests over the incidents and summoned the Chinese ambassador while considering calls to either expel Huang Xilian or declare him “persona non grata.”Gen. Brawner announced on Jan. 15 intentions to develop and establish a fixed Filipino presence on nine islands within its EEZ, including Ayungin (Second Thomas Shoal) and Thitu Island.On Jan. 17, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro “accused a Chinese foreign ministry official of insulting President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.” and stooping to “low and gutter-level talk” by telling Mr. Marcos to “read more books” to better understand the Taiwan situation, according to Reuters. The insults were a response to Mr. Marcos’s congratulations to Lai Ching-te, the new democratically elected president of Taiwan during which Mr. Marcos referred to Taiwan and Philippine mutual interests.The communists are apoplectic whenever a head of state refers to Taiwan’s leader as “president” because they claim there is only one president of greater China—Xi Jinping. Mr. Marcos’s congratulations to Mr. Lai were a poi

David Versus Goliath in the South China Sea

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Commentary

The biblical story of David versus Goliath is being reenacted on a broader scale in the West Philippine Sea. The Filipino upstart is tweaking the nose of the communist Chinese behemoth and not backing down one iota. The Philippines has international law and world opinion (less those nations enthralled by Beijing) on its side.

Let us examine the issue.
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David Versus Goliath

The epic story of the one-minute armed combat between diminutive Israelite David and the Philistine giant Goliath is told in Chapter 17 of the First Book of Samuel in the Bible. The core of the story is conveyed in verses 49 and 50 when the two champions meet in single combat to decide the fate of the gathered armies: “Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.”
The story has been retold down through the ages, with the moral being that, when armed with the power of God, no one’s enemy is truly invincible—no matter how “big” or otherwise imposing that enemy might be. Is it just coincidental that the Philippines is a nation of believers (and with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. making accommodations with the Catholic Church) while the Chinese Communist Party (and leader Xi Jinping) is atheistic and Godless to its core? Methinks not.
That answer depends on the Philippines’s allies, especially the United States and Japan.
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CCP Pressure Mounts

China violates the Philippines’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) with impunity. The communists have spent over a decade extending and fortifying their territorial and military control over the entire disputed area, including Woody Island (Paracels), Scarborough Shoal, and three artificial islands in the Spratly Islands, plus Mischief Reef. A December article from FPRI describes China’s continued violation of the Philippines’s EEZ, noting that “China’s construction projects in the South China Sea have acutely harmed the Philippines’ economy. … Chinese building, such as pumping sediment from the seafloor to form new islands, significantly damages marine life and blocks Filipino fishing vessels.”

State-run Chinese media has echoed the CCP’s narrative in which China claims that “the Philippines’ illegal transportation of construction materials at Second Thomas Shoal is based on the need to safeguard territorial sovereignty, not out of geopolitical considerations.” Balderdash! As the Council on Foreign Relations reported when the Hague Court made its decision in 2016, “The panel found that China’s claims of historic rights within the nine-dash line, which Beijing uses to demarcate its claims in the South China Sea, were without legal foundation.”

Chinese media headlines have grown increasingly shrill:

Global Times on Jan. 18: “With duplicity, the Philippines hot-headedly positions itself as the US’ cannon fodder.”

China Daily on Jan. 11: “Will Manila stop creating trouble in 2024?”

Global Times on Dec. 21: “Philippines urged to exercise caution, rationality in S. China Sea.”
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The Philippines Stands Tall

As reported by MSN, on Dec. 10, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. participated in a resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal and “was aboard the Unaizah Mae 1 while the resupply boat was rammed by a Chinese Coast Guard vessel.” The Chinese vessels used water cannons and “unspecified ‘acoustic devices’ [that] allegedly inflicted ’severe temporary discomfort' on Philippine crew members.” Gen. Brawner was accompanied by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command commander, Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos, as they provided food, fuel, and a morale boost to elated personnel at Sierra Madre.

After the incident, Manila filed new diplomatic protests over the incidents and summoned the Chinese ambassador while considering calls to either expel Huang Xilian or declare him “persona non grata.”

Gen. Brawner announced on Jan. 15 intentions to develop and establish a fixed Filipino presence on nine islands within its EEZ, including Ayungin (Second Thomas Shoal) and Thitu Island.

On Jan. 17, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro “accused a Chinese foreign ministry official of insulting President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.” and stooping to “low and gutter-level talk” by telling Mr. Marcos to “read more books” to better understand the Taiwan situation, according to Reuters. The insults were a response to Mr. Marcos’s congratulations to Lai Ching-te, the new democratically elected president of Taiwan during which Mr. Marcos referred to Taiwan and Philippine mutual interests.
The communists are apoplectic whenever a head of state refers to Taiwan’s leader as “president” because they claim there is only one president of greater China—Xi Jinping. Mr. Marcos’s congratulations to Mr. Lai were a pointed reminder that the Philippine president has already publicly stated that the futures of Taiwan and the Philippines are intertwined in a possible conflict in the Taiwan Strait, as reported in February 2023 by Nikkei Asia.
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Allied Support

The proverbial David (the Philippines) is strengthening relationships with regional allies to shore up support in the continuing dust-ups with Goliath (China).
In November, Mr. Teodoro announced that the Philippines and Japan had begun negotiating a “reciprocal access agreement” that would allow the deployment of military forces on each other’s soil. The agreement aims to provide mutual support during territorial disputes with China, as noted by Reuters.
On Dec. 20, Mr. Teodoro announced that a Japanese-built air radar system became operational on Luzon Island at Clark Air Base. The radar site is located approximately 190 miles from Scarborough Shoal and is capable of providing surveillance and warning of intrusions into Filipino airspace out to 300 miles.
Indonesia and the Philippines are engaging in high-level diplomatic discussions. Indonesian President Joko Widodo made a state visit on Jan. 10. During the trip, the foreign ministers of both countries met in Manila to discuss stepping up defense cooperation, including joint border security patrols.
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US Ties Strengthened

In February 2023, the number of military camps that will house American troops and their equipment in the Philippines under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) was increased to nine, as the U.S. Naval Institute reported.
In May 2023, U.S.–Philippine “Bilateral Defense Guidelines” were announced that are focused on modernizing Philippine defense capabilities, improving the interoperability of military forces, enhancing bilateral planning and information-sharing, and contributing to global security through allied partnerships.
On Dec. 10, in response to China’s use of water cannons against Filipino ships, the U.S. State Department officially “[reaffirmed] that Article IV of the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft—including those of its Coast Guard—anywhere in the South China Sea.”
Reuters reported on Jan. 11 that 39 million gallons of fuel were transferred from Hawaii to the former U.S. naval base at Subic Bay in coordination with the Philippine government.
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Concluding Remarks

David (the Philippines) is not backing down to Goliath (communist China) in the ongoing disputes within the Philippines’s EEZ. The 2016 UNCLOS decision is a big weapon in the Filipino arsenal. President Marcos Jr. is reaching out to allies for support while modernizing the Philippine military and making plans to establish a permanent presence on nine disputed islands in the South China Sea, and allies in the region are responding favorably in the face of continuing Chinese maritime and diplomatic pressures.

The United States and Japan need to stand strong alongside their staunch ally, the Philippines. Mutual support from Indonesia, Taiwan, and other countries in the region is welcomed, too!

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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