Grace’s China response

By Boo Chanco |  The Philippine Star |  March 28, 2016

Frontrunner Grace Poe is usually well briefed by her panel of expert advisers. But the second debate revealed she needs a little more polish on how to respond to the China question. Not that there is a really good answer to how to respond to the regional bully, but a future president must show savvy that can elicit respect here and abroad.

Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte, Grace’s closest rival, asked her a hypothetical question on what a President Grace would do first “kapag bigla kang ginising isang gabi kasi nagkaputukan na sa Spratlys?

Hypothetical questions are always dangerous and candidates for the presidency should always reject or thread easy in response. I thought Grace uncharacteristically panicked and being the only woman contender, she was too eager to give a macho response to show she was in total command.

Indeed, all the candidates must respond to that important question of how they will address the China threat. That hypothetical question of Mayor Duterte is in our minds, as well as in the minds of other international observers.

“The most important thing on the table for whoever is elected in May is to make sure we avoid a shooting war or an excuse for a shooting war that we certainly cannot win.

I was reading a book during the Lenten break entitled “The South China Sea, The Struggle for Power in Asia,” written by Bill Haytop, a BBC journalist. He opened his book with such a hypothetical situation.

“One day in the future, a pair of fishing boats might set out from the Philippine island of Luzon, heading west into the open sea. They will set a course for a coral atoll once named after the harbor they have just left, the Bajo de Matinloc…

“On this hypothetical day, the boats are carrying flag-waving Filipinos: members of Congress, former military officers and veteran street protestors. Under cover of darkness they try to slip past a ship of the China Coast Guard: there to prevent just such an incursion.

“They almost make it. While the Chinese ship is patrolling the far end of the atoll they dash to the entrance to the lagoon. It’s a risky move…

“Just as they are getting close, they hear a shot and the night is turned bright by a flare overhead. A small boat is barreling at them at high speed and a loud-hailer barks a warning in English: ‘This is Chinese territory since ancient times. You must leave this area immediately. Leave or we will be forced to take action against you.’

“Another warning… With the first boat just 10 meters from the lagoon mouth, another shot. This time it is not a flare. Bullets flash in the water…

“Another burst of fire rakes the deck. A crewman is killed. A congressman is hit in the shoulders and two other activists seriously wounded…

“On board the bullet riddled boat there is panic. First aid is given and congressional assistants use satellite phones to call in help… Live interviews are given to breathless TV news anchors.

“In Manila, crowds form around the Ministry of Defense and the Chinese consulate, demanding action.

“In Beijing, another crowd hurls rocks at the Philippine embassy, online wars break out, websites are hacked and defaced. Everyone is calling for action…” Read more...

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