Super Typhoon Aims for Philippines; Thousands Flee
|Public Domain Image by NOAA
"Super Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) continues to pose a serious threat to lives and property as it heads toward the Philippines.
Earlier on Thursday, local time, the winds with this exceptionally dangerous storm increased to 305 kph (190 mph), surpassing the winds of Super Typhoon Lekima, which was previously the strongest tropical system in the world for the 2013 season based on wind speed and central pressure."
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SUPER TYPHOON TO HIT PHILIPPINES
A POTENTIAL OPPORTUNITY
Editor's Note: This typhoon will be devastating for the Philippine main islands and their populations. We feel for the Philippines which will experience the equivalent of a Force 5 Atlantic Hurricane. But there is another group in the vicinity that will feel the overwhelming kinetic energy of this storm after it crosses the main islands of the Philippines. That group is the Chinese naval, coast guard, and commercial fishing fleets attempting to take the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines by overwhelming presence. Most of the so called "islands" are little more than rocks exposed at low tide but possession of these bits of land can change the basic formulation for the recognition of an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) under the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS). Under UNCLOS. guide lines as presently followed by Philippine law, diplomatic correspondence, and administrative practice, the Philippine EEZ extends about 200 miles out from the western beaches of the main Philippine Islands. Thus the Philippines have been administering the mostly uninhabited Spratly Islands for decades as part of their internationally recognized EEZ.
The area is rich in fisheries and is believed to contain important oil and gas reserves. China claims the entire area despite their mainland being as much s 930 miles from the main geographic features of the area. They have sued in the UN claiming ancient records that clearly have no standing today and "effective administration", meaning in reality that they have built a structure on one shoal and manned it, and surrounded two shoals with a dense circle of naval, coast guard, and commercial fishing craft. The fishing boats are then "licensed" by the Chinese Coast Guard to fish the entire area and move about protected by armed Chinese Coast Guard vessels. On one shoal 8 Philippine Marines have been stranded on a grounded and abandoned wreck of a Philippine naval vessel the SERRA MADRE holding out but not firing upon a circling Chinese Coast Guard force. The Chinese Coast Guard has not moved against them in force, their fate in this storm is unknown. None of this has yet erupted into a shooting naval war between China and the Philippines.
The Philippines is confident of a favorable court ruling by the United Nations Law of the Sea tribunal. That of course makes it much more likely that Philippine partner, the United States, would virtually be forced by treaty obligations to join the Philippines in forcing Chinese occupying forces out. So China tries to use its overwhelming naval forces to illegally occupy the Spratlys without simply shooting their way in as they did against friendless and smaller Vietnam in 1988 at the Paracel Islands. The UN doesn't recognize territorial acquisition by conquest. Should China win any concessions in the UN forum they will no doubt enforce them by force of arms. Yet China refused to respond to the case filed by the Philippines in the UN Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.
Meanwhile the situation on scene is still tentative enough that both sides are avoiding shooting. Despite seemingly effective Chinese "occupation" of a couple of rocks and shoals, the Philippines has an actual population on at least one larger island and a real hold in some areas. The Chinese "hold" on the three areas they presently occupy will not stand up to a direct hit from a major typhoon. Mother nature may apply all of the kinetic energy of an atom bomb on Chinese forces shortly, and the Chinese will have no one to blame but themselves for whatever losses they incur. When the storm clears, the Philippines will still average being about 145 miles distant from the most distant parts of the area, and the Chinese will still be about 900 miles away. If ready, a Philippine naval force could retake the areas cleared by the storm of Chinese forces. They may have to retreat before a superior returning Chinese force without firing a shot later, but in this legalistic game of "chicken" the reoccupation attempt and and continued legal contest against Chinese aggressive naval behavior is more important than winning and holding territory.
The UN does not recognize territorial acquisition by invasion or bullying with military forces. The Philippines timely assertion of control within the established guidelines of UNCLOS has first consideration followed by their decades long actual administration over the uninhabited parts of the area. Then there is the fact that some of the islands bump up against the territorial waters of the Philippines, and many fall within recognized customs enforcement zones and other areas of recognized partial sovereignty between 12 and 200 miles from an adjacent coastal state's beach line; this lends a lot of credence to the Philippine EEZ as legislated by the Philippines decades ago. The EEZ as claimed by the Philippines, coincides in many places with areas where the nation has exclusive rights short of territorial sovereignty by earlier pre-EEZ codified international law. We hope the Philippines is ready for the storm, in more ways than one. Given the relative distances off by the two claimants in the dispute, mother nature's periodic application of massive kinetic energy to the area gives the advantage to the Philippines.
The staff here at AAB are the survivors of many hurricanes both at sea and on shore. We don't wish harm to anyone even the Dragon forces, they are sailors too just following the orders of the fools who lead the government, we've been there too. We pray for the populations of the main islands of the Philippines and China that will feel the brunt of this storm. But we also pray for the success of the Philippine naval, marine, and coast guard forces that will be certainly tasked with civil relief missions in the aftermath of this storm. We also pray that they have enough strength in reserve to take tactical advantage of the storm's passage against the Chinese occupation of their EEZ. Like many American sailors the Philippine people aren't just some allied nation, they are viewed as friends, very old friends. The Dragon makes a big mistake if they think our own self interest in avoiding combat will win out over standing by and ignoring an out right theft of our friend's belongings. We may wait a bit on the final UN court rulings but in the end we will help our friends.
Please pray for the safety of all concerned in these next few days.
Johnas Presbyter, Editor
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