Orchestrated Conflicts In The South China Sea

As a concerted effort to inflame tensions in the South China Sea, the recent Felipe Reef debacle is in a class of its own. The objective is conflict creation, continued Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and mitigated Duterte legacies.

Image result for whitsun reef philippines

The Whitsun Reef, known in the Philippines as the Julian Felipe Reef, is part of the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. In Manila, the Reef narrative has been promoted particularly by the part of local media that in the past has been linked with foreign funding and interests. 

The issue has been touted by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, even Foreign Secretary Teddy Locsin, Jr. 

According to China, the fishing vessels at the Reef were sheltering from bad weather and had “no plan” to stay there permanently. 

As several Philippine observers have noted, the Reef was officially named as Julian Felipe only in 2008; China and Vietnam had their names for it before World War II. Nor has Philippines tried to enforce its sovereignty over the contested area, where Vietnam’s occupation began a year before the fall of Saigon, perhaps in the interest of US oil exploration companies.  

In early March, the photos of the original Coast Guard report did not show a militia or arms on vessels. Afterwards, satellite photos of the Reef, by a US high-tech firm Simularity Inc, surfaced showing 200 fishing vessels. 

The narrative describes what the debacle is about. But why does it take place now?

BGA, Stratbase/ARD, Simularity and other links

The high-profile Reef debacle is not the first time that most of its central characters – media, think tanks, government representatives, and Simularity – got together. That happened five months ago. Last November, the topic of the Pilipinas Conference was “the Philippines and the Indo-Pacific.” Sponsored by ex-foreign secretary Albert del Rosario’s think-tank ADR and BowersGroupAsia (BGA), it held that the shifting balance of power and COVID-19 had “created an opportunity for smaller to middle powers [read: Philippines] to play a more significant role in the region.” 

The keynote address was given by Defense Secretary Lorenzana, who was followed by Liz Derr, CEO of Simularity, the source of the Reef debacle’s satellite images. They were seconded by a group of speakers, mainly BGA country chiefs representing the Philippines, Australia, Singapore, Japan and India, and Southeast Asia. The closing remarks were given by former Justice Antonio Carpio, who Filipino critics call Sinophobic. Most have had a role in the subsequent Reef debacle. 

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Dr. Dan Steinbock is an internationally recognized strategist of the multipolar world and the founder of Difference Group. He has served at the India, China and ...

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