Senator Ping Lacson says sinking incident part of China’s ‘cabbage strategy’ to take over West Philippine Sea 

Senator Ping Lacson. (Photo: Jonathan Cellona/ABS-CBN News)
Senator Ping Lacson. (Photo: Jonathan Cellona/ABS-CBN News)

Philippine Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson warned about China’s “cabbage strategy” to take over the disputed West Philippine Sea in a tweet yesterday, saying those who don’t realize this in light of the controversial fishing boat sinking incident “deserve to be cooked like a cabbage.”

“China’s ‘cabbage strategy’ in the West Philippine Sea is working very well for the Chinese, ‘wrapping the islands layer by layer like a cabbage.’ If we cannot see the Recto Bank incident as part of that strategy, then we deserve to be cooked like a cabbage,” Lacson’s tweet reads.

Recto Bank, or Reed Bank, is an underwater mountain thought to contain rich hydrocarbon reserves. In some areas, its flat summit reaches to within just nine meters of the surface.

The former Philippine National Police Chief has been open about his disappointment with how President Rodrigo Duterte is handling the incident, saying that the latter’s downplaying of the issue has left people “heartbroken.”

Duterte has called the ramming and sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese-owned trawler in the Recto Bank  “just a collision of ships,” and not something to wage war over. This, even though the Chinese crew members abandoned 22 Filipino fishermen in the water to fend for themselves for hours.

In 2013, Maj. Gen. Zhang Zhaozhong of China’s People’s Liberation Army talked about China’s “cabbage strategy” wherein they surround a disputed area with boats of all kinds —  from fishing boats and navy warships — so that it is “wrapped layer by layer like a cabbage.”

In April, hundreds of Chinese ships were reported around the Philippine-administered Pag-asa Island (Aka Thitu Island) in the West Philippine Sea. There were also nearly 800 Chinese structures in Philippine waters as of May 2018, Rappler reported.

Duterte has agreed to enter a joint investigation on the boat sinking incident with China, a decision opposed by a number of government officials.

Vice President Leni Robredo urged that the investigations should be conducted by the two countries separately and that a private third party should be involved to ensure unbiased results.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo first said that a third party will be part of the joint investigation on the boat sinking incident. However, he later took this back and said that a third party will only be involved if the Philippines and China disagree on the findings.

Another vocal critic of the joint investigation is Senator Lacson.

“The government must seriously consider the issue of sovereignty in the conduct of a joint investigation with China. The 2016 Hague ruling expressly states that Recto Bank is part of the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile EEZ. It is ours. Are we waiving ownership of Recto Bank?” Lacson asked in another tweet yesterday.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines’ claims over the West Philippine Sea, which includes the Recto Bank. Duterte has been criticized for not implementing this decision, tiptoeing around the issue, and generally being pro-China.

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