The Spotted Chinese Tracking Ship and the PH-CN Pragmatic Relations

Since the tribunal decision in 2016 where the present government decided to set-aside for goodwill, pragmatic and "Charmy" relationships with China, the frequency of this naval ship visit becomes rampant as it defines the current, closer ties which cause sentiment to several citizens of this country given the conflicting issues between the two. This is in the light of the intensified issues that are taking place over the contested territories that both sides claim for their respective sovereign integrity.

A Yuan Wang-class Tracking Ship spotted in Davao's Sasa Wharf
Just recently, A Chinese Naval Tracking Ship was spotted in Sasa Wharf (see above photo) clearly seen among passengers onboard a RoRo vessel especially the ones that have vacation-related itineraries in the nearby island of Samal (which in itself obtains a number of breath-taking and worth-taking spots).

This is the newest among the ships visiting such particular port since the change of stance in dealing against China last 2016 when the new administration seats in and the hallmark of the arbitral tribunal deciding against Chinese claims on the contested swathe of water which is also claimed by the Philippines. 

Let us take note that recently, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Manila for a two-day state visit which was seen by the administration and supporters alike as a productive visit intended to fuel the investment on the local economy in terms of infrastructure projects and joint cooperation through the number of agreements signed by both parties. 

While things are as appealing and as hopeful as it can be for the country's growth and development, the sense of sentiment and disappointment also comes out among several citizens where arguments range from the country being a sell-off before the Chinese to a view that is seen as treasonous which is a no-no for national sovereignty. Furthermore, let us take note that recently, a news crew of GMA 7 was shooed by Chinese Coast Guard in the vicinity of Panatag Shoal which is still considered within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ.

So, let us simply discuss the details about the ship that has docked in Davao as well as additional information that comes correlated with a couple of events that perpetrated in the country in relation to the disputed, contested waters with China.

The larger view of Sasa Wharf, with the Chinese ship, docked on
the left side of the image.
The Chinese ship spotted in Sasa Wharf just recently refers to the Yuan Wang-class tracking vessel (远望 in Chinese) which means "Long View". According to this entry from GlobalSecurity, Such a vessel is intended for roles ranging from tracking Intercontinental and submarine-launched Ballistic Missiles down to satellite communication and data-related roles.

So as to its docking up in Davao City, it is done to the usual docking procedures which other ships also observe. The ship shown above is the Yuan Wang 3 tracking ship in which its area of assignment is in the Pacific Ocean. This is not the first time for the ship to dock in the Sasa Wharf, where the ship at several points in time already did the same prior to this latest spotting. 

One dates back July this year where it also finds itself docked in the area. Another, such as this one pertaining to the sister ship Yuan Wang 7, also docked in the area last August for re-provisioning and refueling prior to deployment on its intended assignment. There is another one for the Yuan Wang 7 last September. This makes their deployment in the area much as routinary where various Chinese crew may have an idea so as to the whereabouts of the City given that they may have the time visiting it. 

Moreover, this kind of norm goes as usual to the locals given that the ship is simply docked there in a way US Navy ships docked in Subic Bay which makes one wonder about this wonderful display of playing soft power in this country that is considered strategic regardless to what point of view or whether one sticks to the Chinese side or the US and its Allies side.

These Chinese ships are in Davao, where they made the City as a stopping point for their ships as lengthy voyage requires provisioning and fuel for the crew and the ship itself to operate according to their respective duties and responsibilities as intended. While such moves are seen as benign to this standpoint, just being a Chinese ship makes it uneasy for some of the citizens with the contested waters simply being a justification for it.

Presidents Xi Jinping and Rodrigo Duterte Forged a deal - which actually seems
like China abides by Philippine jurisdiction.
Photo from
South China Morning Post [Link to the Article Here]

Pitz Defense Analysis Note: The following note is simply a point of view created with regards to the relations between two Far Eastern Nations. Inputs are provided by the author with respect to the facts raised.

While the forged deals are being seen with the utmost suspicion that it may get to the disadvantage of the country and its national interests, there is the other side of the coin that definitely speaking provides the insight of what it seems to be idealistic to the interest of the Philippines as a nation.

In a statement made by Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio just recently that one of the deals between the Philippines and China which is about the joint exploration of the waters in the West Philippine Sea obtains provisions in the Memorandum of Agreement of the deal that may be seen as compliance or recognition to the Sovereign Rights of the Philippines over the overwhelmingly-disputed waters where some of which is under control of China through its Armed Forces. 

While such point sees as a nice breakthrough for both sides for an agreement, it is worthy to understand that there is a bit of bleakness on this point of view given that China still controls several of the features like Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea as well as having those Artificial islands that still poses the threat not only to the Philippines but as well to other claimants in the area such as Vietnam, Brunei, and Malaysia.

To understand further the points with regards to the diplomatic play in the area, it is worthy to understand the two sides of the coin. On one side, there is the Philippines, antagonizing China wholeheartedly which was done by the previous administration in a way that it triggers a couple of disadvantageous position to the country starting with Panatag Shoal down to the Artificial Islands in which they solidify the claim to these features situated in the West Philippine Sea - in which this is while waiting to the decision that the arbitral tribunal will make to the contested features of the sea. On the other side comes the present stance of the country -- the decision in favor to the Philippines being set aside (while being used as an ace card later on), forging a better tie with a nation that is perceived as an adversary like China and engage in economic trade that most likely benefiting both sides and forging deals that seems advantageous and compliant to the national interest and sovereign rights flowing through the adage of keeping friends like the traditional ally such as the United States close and adversaries closer. 

To take some note, this economic trade with China as perceived shows suspicion especially in the way debt or liability is being dealt with other nations in which the present administration sees to have consideration in it. In addition, the implying influence made by South Korea, Japan, and the ASEAN also plays the role for this kind of geopolitical approach, reflecting the growth and development of the services prevailing in the society in various ways ranging from meetings to donations of service and equipment as well as the number of naval visits and forging agreements which is to each its own.

Given the impression, there is the perception of openness as well as a pervasive plan to improve the country and its defense given that the Horizon 2 projects being on its way. While it may get commendable to have these respective projects approved and up for the taking, this will not satisfy nor prosper the minds of several citizens that have already shown discontent or disappointment to what the administration is doing like the "appeasement" that's being done to the enemy. Hence, their actions need a clear understanding so as any misinterpretations will be prevented. 

The situation of keeping a good relationship with a bully while fighting on the country's vested interest is a delicate measure that the government keeps on, where the perception of providing provocative moves means conflict. That is not necessarily the case, where a simple presence of a vessel in an area simply show that the country is standing on its claims, in a way that the intentions aren't for a full-scale conflict. A simple kind of deterrence it is while keeping tensions at bay. 

A war nor appeasement is the ideal key for the resolution of this situation but rather, by sending a strong and clear message to show the stance as well as getting in the negotiations table with the leverage such as the arbitral tribunal decision in place. This is to get the upper hand on the situation in line to the national interest of the country while giving importance of diplomacy in a way that tensions are kept at bay.

A Chinese Coast Guard Vessel spotted which are the ones patrolling
the Scarborough or Panatag Shoal. 
Photo Courtesy of the Philippine Star.

The situation in Panatag Shoal isn't changed since the last time the Chinese deployed their Coast Guard vessels in the area. They keep on shooing away fishermen whose living relies on that very fishing ground that China claims as part of what they call "integral territory". The latest incident in the area involves a Philippine media crew gathering some scoop for a documentary.

Just recently, the media crew for GMA's show Reporter's Notebook visited the area and see the situation up close where they encounter a Chinese Coast Guard Vessel that is in pursuit to their position. From there, the crew of the Chinese Vessel hesitates for an interview given that the Philippine Media Crew didn't obtain permission from China to hold such activity, especially on this part of the sea which they considered as theirs.

To see this feels like a realistic devastation on the part of the country that some other powerful nation which is China, implement its control over a feature that is the Panatag or Scarborough Shoal where it is within the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines. 

While there is the fact that the country is weak when facing the Chinese which obtains the firepower to project their force in the region, this does not mean that things will simply stand down and admit that it is finally theirs where it is equated to the country is on the losing end despite being awarded by the arbitral tribunal that makes the Chinese Claim for the most of South China Sea null and void. 

Nevertheless, despite these bit disappointing things, countries such as the United States as well as its allies like Japan and the United Kingdom conducted their respective their own respective Freedom of Navigation patrols as well as a couple of naval exercise in the contested area as a sign of discontent and protest against the Chinese incursions in a way that they defy the provocative moves that the Chinese made in which may harm not only the claims of other claimants in the area, but also the maritime trade route itself given that the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea serves as such where a number of goods and commodities pass the area that helps economies sustain and progress for the better.

So, the Philippines, despite the discontent from some of the citizens over the pragmatic relations with a country which have the conflict of interest issues over contested claims still obtains indirect support from forces like the United States and other allies in a way that countering Chinese influence in the region is something for them to have. 
That is, provided that China at the present date is modernizing its Armed Forces to the full - From its Army down to its Navy, Air Force as well as its Coast Guard that pose a threat to the primary U.S. Dominance in the Asia-Pacific Theatre of operations. 

With these series of situations and the order of positions that each country's governments obtain at present, time may only tell with regards to any changes of stance wherein the local Philippine context, may define with regards to the results of the foreign policy that it employs at present as well as what it will be to the defense of the country whether the Armed Forces' Modernization Goals may attain or not. Such things remain to be seen, on a certain time later on.

The ship somewhat symbolizes the renewed relations between
the Philippines and China, which leaves a bad taste in
the events pertaining to the disputed sea issues.
The deployment of these ships that tracks ICBMs and SLBMs by China makes it at par with other countries that obtain such technology such as the United States and Russia. Such docking of such ship like the Yuan Wang-class tracking vessels somewhat gives the impression, the unofficial symbol of warming-up relations of both countries in the light of high tensions over the contested sea just off the coast of Palawan.

With a number of events unraveled with regards to the relations of two nations especially in line with the very essence of sovereignty and national defense, it might be nice to contemplate and understand it down to the depth wherein parameters are measured and considered so as the dedication of both sides to abide by the agreements as well as the potential risk and rewards on every move between both parties in a way that it is done both militarily, economically, diplomatically and in some cases, politically. The country can still stand for its national interest while keeping pragmatic relationships on hand.

To end this article, let us take this note for everyone to understand: It is nice and appropriate that as one nation, let us unite together with the government to push its goals for the development of each and everyone. Moreover, it is nicer to point out improvements or vent out sentiments about the necessity to improve the country provided that suggestions or criticisms are constructive in nature. In these things will find the nation grow, progress and integral to its very sovereignty.

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