SAN FRANCISCO – Recent reports of developments and reclamation by both China and the Philippines in the disputed areas are only expected to heighten tensions in the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines has formally filed complaints against China, saying the latter is building facilities, even an airstrip, in some of the reefs the Philippines claims it owns.
But the Philippines and the US are also reportedly planning to turn one of the disputed areas into a naval base and proceeding with the US and Philippine naval exercises there this month.
As the Philippines asks a U.N. tribunal to speed up its appeal for the dispute to be addressed diplomatically, some Filipinos in America weigh in on the seemingly never-ending conflict.
At the San Francisco Philippine Consulate recently, the community welcomed the new consul general – Henry Bensurto, Jr., an expert on West Philippine Sea affairs.
He was part of the team that was instrumental in filing the arbitration case against China.
"Once the disputes are settled through arbitration it will not only benefit us but it will also benefit the other literal countries in the region," said Bensurto. "It will also provide stability in terms of global trade because the South China Sea is where you have 60 percent of global trade passing through. You would want principals of freedom of navigation guaranteed and ensured.”
Despite China’s resistance to arbitration, the Consul General believes that the Philippines is moving in the right direction in settling its dispute with China.
"We have always been on the right track,” said Bensurto. “Because all of the methodologies we have done for ourselves are all within the context and parameters of peaceful settlement of disputes including dialogue, negotiations, even arbitration."
Community leader Rudy Asercion said he is hoping that a full-blown war against China will not happen.
He said the only way for the conflict to be solved is if both countries sit down and agree to divide the territories there evenly.
"That is the only way it can work because nobody is going to let go of what their possessions are,” said Asercion. "It’s sovereignty that’s in question. So everybody’s sovereign right is being exercised so the only way it works out is if they agree to share."