People say that defending the Philippine claim over the Spratly Island is exercising our sovereignty. Since we claim them as a part of our territory, other countries should not interfere nor occupy that area. China should let go of their territorial claim over the Scarborough Shoal and the rest of the Kalayaan Group of islands because those rocks are part of the Philippine territory.
That's the argument of those who support the current government's aggressiveness towards the claim of the Spratlys. At first, I thought that it's really good that the government is going against China. The past government was quite passive regarding this issue. Instead they balanced China's interests with outs. The reality is, can we actually be serious in fighting against China? Our military's not in tip-top shape, China won't agree in submitting the case to the ICJ, and I can't think of a state that could serve as a mediator. In other words, is it really essential for us to defend our claim?
I am sure that one way or another, USA would play a role in this territorial dispute. As an important ally of the Philippines and of course, as a political hegemon, they will not take this issue sitting down. It might not be a direct contact from USA to the Philippines in terms of decision making over this issue, such as sending over "special envoys" or personnel that would actively play in the deliberation and decision making process. Whenever US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton would express their interests in the territorial dispute, China would automatically react, saying that "You should not stick your nose into other peoples' business. Leave us alone." Even though, they will still find "obscure" avenues that would allow them to help or be involved in the conflict resolution. What we can see so far is the donation of old fighter jets, Visitng Forces Agreement and other donated military paraphernalia and military training. Actually, we don't know if US is already playing a definite role behind this aggressive behavior. (Thinking about it, I really don't see why US needs to prod the Philippines in assessing our claim over the Kalayaan Group of Islands.) Anyhow, the fact is, US will play a role in this dispute but it will always be in unconventional methods.
What about our neighbors, or the other countries who also experience the same dispute with China? ASEAN cannot really help out, considering that in the past, the members did not place the same amount of importance towards this issue as we do. They might deem China as an important economic partner and do not wish to do anything that would endanger their current economic relationship.
Now that the tension has escalated, China has stopped Chinese tourists from visiting the Philippines and the importation of Philippine Bananas. Several small scale banana growers are affected, and this includes the lives of the people working in ntheir plantations. Finding another market is quite hard, since competition from other countries is also fierce. Losing a good customer and finding another one that has the same demands as China would be quite difficult, in my opinion. China is slowly flexing their economic muscles, showing their power and capability as a state. If ever we continue this fight, it might lead to greater economic repercussions that might create a visible dent in our economy. Can we do the same? Let's be realistic here-- I really don't think so.
We should also take in consideration the rate China's military is expanding and improving. Since they have the financial capability to improve and manufacture military paraphernalia, the growth and improvement rate is exponential. All their machinery can be better than ours and the sheer number can overwhelm us. They can also pressure us by placing Chinese war vessels near the disputed islands. Vessels that can defeat our measly ships in a heartbeat.
Acquiring new artillery and ships by the Philippine Government will be met with opposition from peace groups and others who say that the money spent should be allocated to increasing the budget for education, food programs and such. Relying on US or letting the American soldiers train here will be met with opposition from groups that fight for the country's "freedom". In other words, before we reach that "win" situation with China, we will have to face the domestic problems that will arise in the process. As of the moment, I don't think we should tackle something as complicated as this. We don't have the economic, political and of course, military capability to back us up. We have allies, but it is still better for us to use our own resources so we can keep this dispute among the involved parties.
What do we have that can fight against China?
What do we have that can put China in a corner and make them give up their claims?