Philippines from space station, shot taken by Soichi Noguchi, a Japanese astronaut.

Earth connections versus territory claims

There she is: the island nation of the Philippines, surrounded by Earth’s Pacific Ocean. Isn’t she gorgeous?

The photo above (and below) was taken by a Japanese astronaut on the International Space Station within the last week. Soichi Noguchi sent it out on his Twitter account, and I stole it.

Earth connections

I stole it because I love the beautiful image. I love that a Japanese astronaut took it, on the International Space Station, and I happen to be in the Philippines.

And I love it because it affirms to me that everyone from Earth is connected.

What you cannot see in the beautiful shot above is China’s growing passive aggression against this lovely island nation.

Territory claims

Hundreds of Chinese ships were moored together in the West Philippine Sea, within the zone the Philippines has claimed for… forever?

In the last decade or so, China decided to lay claim to this part of the ocean, and also the South China Sea in the so-called Nine-Dash Line dispute. (If you aren’t familiar with this problem, catch up with a former post. I’ve been watching this develop for a year now.)

An American company with satellite images showed the boats weren’t fishing, as China had claimed. (Pictured below, courtesy Maxar Technologies.)

Weather reports showed there were no turbulent waters or storms in the area to warrant ships tied together, as China had claimed.

And then, big news this week: Chinese attack missile boats chased a Philippine boat. (Read a great report by Philippine journalists ‘chased’ by the Chinese attack vessels.)

So what’s the Chinese military doing inside Philippine territory?

My opinion: bullying the little guy when he’s down. Taking something from someone else that’s not theirs. Making selfish territory claims instead of finding a way to live among Earth’s fellows.

Philippines down, not out

Manila is hot mess of COVID. The president’s spokesperson is hospitalized. Leaders will soon decide if lockdowns in the National Capital Region (NCR) should be extended.

Hospitals are nearly at capacity, there’s a shortage of nurses, there are few vaccines — and many of the vaccines that are available were either donated or bought from — can you guess? — China. (The New York Times has a good overview.)

Philippine unemployment is high, international tourism is dead, and millions of people have no income.

To me, it feels like China is kicking the Philippines while she’s down. But: she’s not out.

Claims vs. connections

The Duterte administration has eased off relations with the U.S. and recognized China as an important economic partner. The coronavirus vaccines are but one example of economic ties and deals between the country.

Now, in the last few weeks, the Biden administration is in frequent contact Philippine leaders over China’s fishing boat charade in the West Philippine Sea.

It’s not my place to pass judgement on what is best for the Philippines. I’m only a visitor.

Yet, having followed the Nine-Dash Line drama, I can’t help but wonder if it’s too late to peaceably remove China from an area that does not belong to the Red Giant. (Though China believes it’s theirs, of course.)

I hope China doesn’t look at Noguchi’s picture of the beautiful Philippine islands and see opportunity to pillage resources, instead of opportunity to nurture Earth connections.

But I won’t hold my breath.

Thanks for reading “Earth connections versus territory claims.”

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