Interview with Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Founding Chairman, Communist Party of the Philippines
By John Toledo
Features Editor, Philippine Collegian
1. Historically, who are the original claimants of the West Philippine Sea? Where did this dispute come from? Who are the claimants today?
Prof. Jose Maria Sison (JMS): Let us first put into context what you refer to as the West Philippine Sea. The Spratlys are a group of 250 islets plus the shoals and reefs spread over 265,542 square kilometers. They are claimed entirely by China, Taiwan and Vietnam and in part by Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines. The part of the Spratlys claimed by the Phiippines is what it calls the Kalayaan group of islets located in the West Philippine Sea.
China, Taiwan and Vietnam claim ownership of all the Spratlys supposedly since ancient times on the basis of historical references, seasonal visits by their fishermen and assertions of claims against colonizers as well as yielding of the Spratlys by the Japanese to the French and thus to Vietnam in the San Francisco peace treaty after World War II. Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines claim parts of the Spratlys that are geographically closest to them and within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone under the UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) plus prehistorical and historical claims that the islets concerned have long been the fishing grounds of their respective fishermen.
2. Why is the West Philippine Sea being claimed by China and Philippines? Is it economically and politically useful? Why or why not?
China arrogantly claims not only the entire Spratlys but also the entire sea south and east of China as its property and by making military shows of strength to assert its claims. But the Kalayaan group of islets, the Recto (Reed ) and Panatag Shoal (Scarborough) are all within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines under the UNCLOS. It is wrong for China to claim these.
In economic terms, the contested islets and shoals and the waters around them are at least rich fishing grounds and sources of corals but they also have a high potential as sources of gas and oil. The Recto Bank is well known for having rich gas and oil deposits as a result of explorations. In political and military terms, the contested islets and shoals can serve as outposts for military vessels and for controlling navigation and commerce or evoking power and influence.
3. Why is US joining in the conflict? Why is it strategic for US to support the Philippines with many armed forces and materials?
The US is fishing in troubled waters. As a matter of fact, it is responsible for stirring up trouble in the first place. It has undertaken controlled trouble-making just to make the Philippine reactionary puppet government run to it for support, to have the reason for entrenching US military forces in the Philippines and to have the Philippines as a base for influencing policies and development within China. The US has strategic objectives in using the Philippines as a strategic base in the US encirclement of China.
4. Is it logically possible that China will wage war on the Philippines because of this West Philippine Sea dispute? Or is it just a ploy for US to wage war with China? Why or why not?
China will not wage war on the Philippines but it will continue to take calculated actions, including shows of force, to discourage and prevent Philippine attempts to control and occupy the contested islets and develop the gas and oil resources there. Neither will the US wage war with China to support the Philippines in the territorial dispute. It has far more economic and political interests in good relations with China than in those with the Philippines.
The US has repeatedly proclaimed that it is neutral in the territorial dispute between China and Philippines. The most it can say is that it is militarily entrenching itself in the Philippines in order to discourage China from attacking the Philippines. However, it will not act militarily against the calculated military moves of China to prevent Philippine attempts to explore and develop the gas and oil resources in the contested islets and shoals.
But China and the US might even make a deal to exploit the gas and oil resources for the benefit of US and Chinese corporations and some big comprador Filipino-Chinese firms or the Indonesian-Chinese firm (Salim group) being managed by Manuel V. Pangilinan. The whole world knows that the mineral ores of the Philippines are being wantonly excavated by US, Japanese, Canadian, Australian, Swiss, Chinese and other foreign firms, together with their big comprador allies. And China has been a major destination of the mineral ores.
In an attempt to look nationalist, the US-Aquino regime is obviously play-acting against China over the well-hyped territorial disputes. It is well within the bounds of the collaboration between the US and China. The US is steering the Philippine government towards the attainment of the narrow self-interest and strategic objectives of the US.
One more reason why the US is entrenching itself militarily in the Philippines and using this as part of the US encirclement of China is not to wage war soon but to influence policies and developments in China. The US is trying to realize the complete privatization of the most strategic state-owned enterprises in China and to promote the liberalization of Chinese politics to the point of doing away with the authoritarian rule and causing the weakening or even disintegration of the bureaucrat monopoly capitalism.
5. What are the implications of the Sino-Philippine territorial dispute in relation to the sovereignty of the Philippines?
What is tragic about the Philippine ruling system of big compradors and landlords is that it is weak and servile to imperialist powers and that both the US and China take advantage of the Philippines. The US pretends to protect the Philippines but it is a bantay salakay. Having long become a capitalist country, China cannot be expected to be a gentle and generous giant.
The Filipino people can best assert their national sovereignty and defend their territorial integrity by overthrowing the ruling system and establishing a people´s democratic state that is truly independent and democratic, determined to carry out land reform and industrialization, realizes social justice and aims for socialism. Such a state is capable of using effective diplomacy and defending its territory against intruders. ###