MANILA, Philippines – Former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez is convinced that the latest moves by China show that it is "posturing" to seize Ayungin Shoal and Recto Bank, features located within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.
He warned that this puts in "grave jeopardy" the Philippine Marine detachment at sea.
"Today, I believe China's next move is to seize and occupy Ayungin Shoal, placing in grave jeopardy our Philippine Marine detachment there. China has a window of opportunity, which is before the implementation of the Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation that will give US forces access to the country's military bases," Golez said in a statement posted on his blog.
"But China's more important goal is the seizure of Recto Bank, this huge oil rich table mount owned by the Philippines, just off Palawan, and long the subject of proposed oil exploration by the Philippines as early as in the 1980's even before the Malampaya facility. But work was halted because of China's bullying tactics," he added.
China has urged the Philippines to remove from Ayungin its grounded ship Sierra Madre, which has served as a detachment for the Philippine Marines. China claimed the Philippines committed in 1999 to tow away the ship. (READ: China to PH: Remove ship from Ayungin and China digs up details vs PH in Ayungin)
Chinese coastguards recently blocked navy-commissioned civilian ships that was going to bring food and water to troops stationed in Ayungin. (READ: PH sending ships to Ayungin despite blockade)
Golez is worried for the Marines deployed there, recalling how China violently seized Paracels and Johnson Reef from Vietnam. He said the government should prepare for this scenario.
"Seizing Ayungin will be a child's play for China compared to their brutality in seizing the Paracels from Vietnam in 1974 and in the 1988 naval encounter in the Johnson Reef area, where 3 Vietnamese ships were sunk and more than 70 Vietnamese sailors killed," Golez added.
Another volatile areas is Panatag Shoal located off Zambales and also located within the country's EEZ. The rocky sandbar, however, is now practically occupied by the Chinese coastguards after the Philippines withdrew its ships in 2012.
Golez went to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He reached the rank of captain (equivalent of a colonel) in the Philippine Navy before he joined politics.
The Philippines and the US are in the final stages of a new military-to-military agreement that will allow American troops to access and build facilities in our military bases. – Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com