It may simply be a game for China. After all, who is the Philippines to fight back? Pushing us away from the sea, water-hosing our fishermen in Scarborough Shoal, blocking our supply ships at Second Thomas Shoal (Ayuningin Reef), China ups the ante in its bullying of the Philippines. And it seems that most Filipinos are not aware how close we are to war.
It is not unusual for war to begin with a single shot. The American Civil War started with a single shot from a mortar. History also says that a Serbian assassin shot an Austrian Archduke Ferdinand and triggered World War I. It is not so much that shots were fired, but that they were fired when there was already tension between countries.
And there is tension now. I cannot speak of what is happening inside China but I can definitely speak about our own country. If the tension is not yet palpable, it is only because the Philippine government has deliberately held back from rousing public anger. The news of China’s bullying has been in the news but government has not pounced on the aggression of China to whip up an emotional storm among Filipinos. I can understand why our government chooses moderation, but the game is not up only to us and belongs more to the aggressor.
I do not want to be an alarmist, but I am alarmed. The state of unpreparedness, or naiveté, of the Filipino people will send them to absolute shock if a shot is fired, either by Filipino or Chinese soldiers. Panic is not the best stage from where we can mount our defense. Patriotism is better, and anger instead of fear.
It might be advisable if government begins to roll out an information campaign via tri-media. Social media has been ahead of the game, so far, and will naturally pick up what government will publicly share. The tone of social media will be much more belligerent than the sobriety that government will expectedly display, but that is par for the course. Without some amount of heat, it will be hard to get through both ignorance and apathy.
While government through tri-media and the private sector through social media drive the information campaign on the bullying of China and the eventual need for Filipinos to defend its territory, the AFP Reserve Command can be placed on a higher state of readiness. Reaching out to the reservists can by itself be a strong information campaign because their families and their neighborhoods will get to know that something is brewing.
I can only assume that the reservists will respond with willing bravery to take on tasks that will prepare them for confronting China. It is not as though they will be sent to invade a country with so many times the number of soldiers and war equipment. But they can take positions in contested islands to signify that Filipinos are willing to defend our territory.
War against China will mean a massacre of Filipino soldiers. If China gets crazy mad, it can bomb and kill even Filipino civilians. After all, China can just declare it is now a 10 dash line to include not only Philippine waters and isolated islands but also Philippine mainlands. Who is to stop them from doing what a bully does from superior military strength anyway? Definitely, not the Philippines. The world of nations can, but not if Filipinos roll over and submit. Syria has lost over 100,000 of its own people to violent death and no one has intervened to physically stop the carnage. Soon, maybe, but not yet.
Filipinos must be the first defenders, the first to give up life and limb, before other nations will intervene. The first courage must be ours, the first sacrifice must be ours – no matter how many lives that takes. And we are not prepared to die in bravery, not when most Filipinos do not even realize how close they are to having to do so. That is why we must prepare, and prepare with a clear plan of action. Public awareness is first on the list. Activating the reservist comes next.
This early, too, it may be time to send a quiet message to Chinoys. Chinoys are Filipinos, just as Fil-Ams are Americans. Chinoys may have mixed emotions about going against China, and I cannot blame them for that. Sympathy for one’s original motherland is not wrong. But conflict and war between one’s country, and the Philippines is a Chinoy’s country, and one’s original motherland, China in this case, will force all Chinoys to unequivocally proclaim their absolute loyalty to the Philippines.
This is most unfortunate for Chinoys, but China’s bullying of the Philippines is even more unfortunate for all Filipinos. Many Filipinos have become citizens of many other countries. At least four million of them are citizens of the United States. Should conflict and war loom large between the Philippines and the United States, then Fil-Ams will find themselves forced to show their loyalty to their country of citizenship.
Chinoys have another situation. They control the wealth of the Philippines as gleaned from the latest list of the richest persons in the Philippines. As such, public attention and expectation will be focused on them and their actuation as conflict deepens due to China’s bullying. Loyalty is serious business, and becomes deadly so in times of war.
The United States? I cannot speak for this nation nor would I wish to speculate on what the United States would do in the face of our delicate position today. Will America risk all to defend the Philippines against a nation closest to having military parity with it? Will America be willing to commit its forces in the Pacific when it is in a quandary what to do to help the Ukraine against Russia?
Filipinos for the Philippines, the first path, and maybe the only path. Acceptance of this is the first preparation.