The presence of the Chinese military, coast guard and fishermen (poachers as aptly described by other media sources) within the West Philippine Sea has been considered a “subtle” invasion of the Philippines. For several years, the Filipinos opted to find a diplomatic solution to this international issue. They are slow to anger and fast to forgive the Chinese incursion into what the United Nation’s (UN) International Law of the Seas declare as Philippine territory.But the Chinese are stubborn and unrelentless. Like a school bully, it barges into Philippine territory -shoving itself regardless of the consequences. With its armada of far-superior sea vessels and advance military hardware, it is not concerned of any opposition much more protests of the rightful owner. They even have the temerity to boast that all the islands that for decades have been declared as Philippine territory or at least disputed territory (by four other nations) is Chinese soil. As if the expanse of mainland China is not enough.
Finally, the Philippines under the Aquino administration has taken a strong stand against the Chinese incursion. It recently acquired two old US Coast Guard cutters to bolster its naval resources. It is also expecting a couple of jet fighters from South Korea to shore up its aging airforce. But does a couple of low budget military upgrades do the job? Of course not! The mighty Chinese military machine will simply roll over this small bump with little opposition. The obvious solution to this problem is actually the US military that has inked several mutual defense treaties with the Filipinos. For decades the Americans have been training the Philippine military to face external threats head on. However, now that there is an actual threat – the Americans are no where to be found. Without the outside help, the Filipinos should devise an ingenious way to drive away the invading Chinese from their territory. But how can this be done – given the state of Philippine national defense – just a bunch of old coast guard cutters, propeller- driven fighter planes and Vietnam-era M-16s?
Filipinos have to be innovative and mindful of what other nations have done in similar situations.
First, the Philippine military has to acknowledge the fact that it cannot meet the well-oiled Chinese war machine head on. It has to devise an alternative to a shooting war against a superpower. One of the well-tested alternatives has been the guerrilla warfare waged successfully by Vietcong against the Americans in the 70s and the Afghan mujahideens against the Soviet army in the 80s. Couple this tactic with “deny-it-was-us” strategy, a maneuver best employed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). whe it denied having any relations with the war freak Bansamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). To achieve this, the Philippine military can secretly organise a guerrilla force a la Abu Sayyaf that will attack Chinese outposts or harass Chinese fishermen until they leave the area. Using high speed power boats and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), they can effectively run rings around the much larger Chinese forces. Still, the Philippine government can deny to have anything to do with it.
Second, invite Greenpeace activists to build a base near the Spratlys. Better yet, the Philippines should donate ships and personnel to this international activist organisation. This is because the Greenpeace is a no-fear internatoinal organisation that has successfully barred governments – even the superpowers- from doing what they want (ex. transport chemical waste, engage in illegal whaling operations, etc). Greenpeace that is angry at environmental destroyers will have a field day going against the Chinese who wantonly destroys valuable corals and other marine resources at the Western Philippine sea. What more, Greenpeace brings in the extra hustle and maximum international media exposure.
Third and the most important, the Philippine government should transform its citizens into a potent reserve force. Filipinos should defend their country not as salaried armed men but as well-motivated patriotic defenders. They should be inspired by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) that is composed mostly of reserve personnel. For this to happen, the Philippine government should not only allow its citizens to own weapons but let them to train with marksmanship and gun safety on their spare time (and during peace time). This is currently impossible with the high cost of firearms and bureaucratic red tape in licensing process. A basic rifle costs a prohibitive 30,000 pesos while a pistol costs 15,000 pesos. Even the ammunition for these weapons is also expensive to enable citizens to have regular target practice. As such, the Philippine government should think about subsidising the cost of arm sales including ammunition. Seriously, the million strong Chinese army can only be countered by five million or more strong army reserve force consists of well-motivated Filipinos who were allowed to own guns and train with them.