MANILA, Philippines – The founder of the country’s Maoist party has scored what he called present-day China’s imperialist and capitalist designs over territories in the West Philippine Sea including the Panatag Shoal (Scarborough), where Chinese poachers triggered a standoff between Philippine and Chinese authorities.
Jose Maria Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, said China’s historical claims over the South China Sea—West Philippine Sea to the Manila government—were an absurdity.
“Chinese historical claims since ancient times amount to an absurdity as this would be like Italy claiming as its sovereign possession all areas previously occupied by the Roman empire,” said Sison, now also the chair of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle.
“The name China Sea was invented by European cartographers and should not lead anyone to think that the entire sea belongs to China. In the same vein, neither does the entire Indian Ocean belong to India,” he added.
Sison’s remarks were in response to questions posed by Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes with respect to the Philippines and China’s assertions of national sovereignty over disputed territories in the South China Sea two weaks after the territorial issues between the two countries came to a head with the standoff over the Panatag Shoal off Zambales.
The nominated section of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines shared Sison’s replies in an e-mail to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“The [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea] is the strongest legal basis for the definition of the territorial sea and [exclusive economic zone] of the Philippine archipelago,” Sison said in a rare case of agreement with the position of the Philippine government.
“Also, archaeological evidence shows that the islands, reefs and shoals at issue have been used by inhabitants of what is now the Philippines since prehistoric times,” he added.
President Benigno Aquino III, in his statements on disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea, has repeatedly adverted to the UN convention and its provisions on a country’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive zone in explaining the legitimacy of the country’s claims.
While the country relies on the UNCLOS—a document signed by member-states of the UN—as the basis for its claims, China is banking on its nine-dash-line theory.
“As a matter of principle, the Filipino people must assert their national sovereignty and Philippine territorial integrity over the issue of Spratlys [Kalayaan] and other islands, reefs and shoals which are well within the 200-nautical mile [EEZ] defined by the [UNCLOS],” Sison said.
“According to the Philippine reactionary government, it submitted on time to the UN the necessary scientific and technical grounds to define the Philippine 200-mile EEZ under UNCLOS,” he added.
“But the Philippine reactionary government muddles the issue and undermines its own position by making historical claims that date back only to a few decades ago when pseudo-admiral Cloma made formal claims to the Kalayaan group of islands,” Sison said, reverting back to his usual criticism of the Philippine government.
Asked by Reyes how the Filipino people should react to the incursions of China on territories claimed by the Philippines, Sison said the government “should desist from self-fulfilling its claim of China’s aggression by engaging in an anti-China scare campaign.”
“The Filipino people and progressive forces must oppose what may be deemed as incursions and what may appear as aggressive behavior of China with regard to the territories belonging to the Philippines,” Sison said.
“But so far China’s actions and actuations manifest assertiveness rather than outright military aggression. The Philippine reactionary government should desist from self-fulfilling its claim of China’s aggression by engaging in an anti-China scare campaign,” he added.
Sison said the Filipino people and “progressive forces must consciously differentiate their position from that of the Aquino regime, its military subalterns and its Akbayan special agents who pretend to be super patriots against China but are in fact servile to the interests of US imperialism.”
He said the Aquino administration and its allies are using the anti-China campaign “to justify the escalation of US military intervention in the Philippines and US hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region.”
“At any rate, China must not violate Philippine national sovereignty and territorial integrity, the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas and the Code of Conduct it agreed to with the ASEAN,” Sison said.
“The apparently aggressive or assertive acts and words of China are in consonance with its own premise of national sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as with the bourgeois character of the Chinese state that may indicate an imperialist tendency or ambitions,” he added.
Sison expressed doubt about the US and China ever going to war.
The US is a treaty ally of the Philippines’, with such military agreements as the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement.
“There is unity and struggle between two capitalist powers in the relationship between the US and China,” Sison said.
“The US is not yet really worried about China having the military strength that can be projected outside its borders. It is more worried about China’s military strength being able to defend China, fend off US imperialist dictates and threats and combat separatist forces in Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang,” he added.
Sison said the US strategy of encirclement is calculated to keep China as a friendly partner in the exploitation of the Chinese and other peoples.
“The US and China have already more than three decades of being close partners in promoting and benefiting from the neoliberal policy of globalization,” he added.