A Game of Shark and Minnow by Jim Himmelman

We don’t really need to repair or refurbish our rusty ship in the West Philippine Sea.



The ship BRP Sierra Madre was intentionally ran aground to mark the Ayungin Shoal which is below sea level. This ship now has a large hole in its hull as a result of having been grounded.

The presence of this ship serves as a symbolic marker, tactically giving the Philippines its legal claim on this shoal as any attempt by China or any other foreign country to remove or even touch this derelict ship shall by international law technically and legally mean an act of war.

Wikipedia also knows why the former USS Harnett County was rammed into the Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) in 1999:

“After the Vietnam War, Harnett County was transferred to the Philippine Navy, which named her BRP Sierra Madre (LT-57). In 1999 the Philippine government deliberately had her run aground on Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands to serve as an outpost of the Philippine Marine Corps to assert Philippine sovereignty in the country’s dispute with China over the ownership of the Spratly Islands. She still serves that function.”

The Philippine press corps has ostensively been brought to the Spratly Islands by the military officers on many occasions but where’s the real news? Why don’t they have detailed accounts on television, on radio, in print, or even in the worldwide web? Why do we continue to get simple snippets that have miserably failed to inform the public?

Does this indicate how inept or even possibly muzzled the local media has become?

I initially read this article a year ago through a link in a Facebook post of the political analyst Dr Popoy De Vera but at that time, although the Philippines-China conflict was something to worry about, events then were not as alarming as they are today. After almost two (2) years and a dozen political developments, Jim Himmelman’s piece is still the best write-up about the Spratlys simply because NOBODY ELSE HAS WRITTEN EXTENSIVELY about it.

Himmelman boarded the BRP Sierra Madre in the Ayungin Shoal and slept there for three (3) days to talk to our soldiers and thereby savored not only the mild dangers posed by nature but more of the likely threats from our aggressors who lurked just a few hundred meters away. He also went to the other God-forsaken islands and reefs and talked to our kababayans before writing about the Philippines – China territorial dispute in the Spratly Islands on 27 October 2013 for the New York Times.

The unfolding drama on these pristinely beautiful islands continues today with the gathering of more Chinese ships both civilian and military; the completion of garrison-like structures ready for a seeming confrontation; the heightened saber-rattling of China; and the refusal of Beijing to recognize the mediation of the UN; all of which have moved this paradise of tropical islands, coves and cays in an eerie position, seemingly waiting for the impending onslaught of something more powerful than any super storm.

Though quite lengthy, kindly read this article in its entirety as we may be able to glean on some valuable insights of an outsider who has seen conflicts of similar nature in other parts of the world.

Beautiful photographs and video are by Ashley Gilbertson

Posted from WordPress for Android


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