MANILA - Former Interior and Local Government Secretyary Rafael Alunan reveals China had warned the Philippines of consequences once it files its memorial with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea or ITLOS on March 30.
Alunan, a co-convenor of the West Philippine Sea Coalition, said the warning was communicated by China's foreign ministry to the Philippines' envoy in China. He said he got the information from a top government official.
Alunan said based on intelligence analysis, the consequences could range from expanded sanctions to outright sabotage.
He said part of the sanctions imposed by China was a ban on the import of Philippine bananas to China due to a rise in tensions over Scarborough Shoal.
"In the realm of what is possible, there were two things that they concentrated on in their analysis. One is expanded sanctions...In this particular case, they could expand the sanctions by stopping the flow of raw materials needed by our local manufacturers and exporters. The second possible action that China might take against us could be in the form of sabotage. As you know, people are concerned by the fact that a Chinese state-owned company controls our grid. They have 40% in terms of investment but they have operational and maintenance control," he said.
"I was told the grid could be shut down remotely. I was taken aback by that. And then there is also a possibility that they can introduce viruses to our communication lines that can either capture data or corrupt data. The third aspect...instead of walloping us in the West Philippine Sea, they can just fund our local rebels and make trouble."
But Alunan and former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez both agree the arbitration case is the best approach to the territorial dispute.
They said an ITLOS ruling in favor of the Philippines would give the country the legal backing and the moral high ground and prove that China is the interloper.
"By being over-assertive, China is triggering an alliance against itself," Golez said.
Alunan added: "If we play our cards right in the United Nations, the General Assembly itself could issue a statement detrimental to China.
"The best way to stand up to a bully is to stand united."
China claims about 90 percent of the 3.5-million-sq-km resource-rich waters situated in the south of China and surrounding several Southeast Asian nations. Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan also claim parts of the sea.
Recently, China told the Philippines to abandon the disputed Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea after Manila said it planned to challenge a Chinese naval blockade of the area by sending supplies to its troops stationed there.
"The Chinese government's attitude on maintaining the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering. We will never tolerate the Philippines illegal occupation of Ren'ai reef," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.
"China is on high alert for the Philippines possibly taking more provocative acts in the South China Sea. The Philippines must accept responsibility for the consequences of what will happen," he claimed.
The Philippines has urged regional grouping the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to conclude a binding code of conduct (CoC) with China to avoid accidents and miscalculations in the disputed waters, but China has been insisting direct dialogues with each claimant instead of group discussion.
The Philippines has taken its dispute with China to arbitration under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea but China is refusing to participate. With Reuters