by Shermon O. Cruz
Leading scholars of international relations argued that the West Philippine Sea dispute (South China Sea) was a tinderbox waiting to happen. Many analysts fear that the dispute could lead to a direct military conflict if tensions remain at the Panatag shoal. Recently, public interest in the disputed island resurfaced when China, the Philippines and Vietnam traded accusations of repeated incursions. The disputed triangle chain of reefs have caused deep diplomatic divide between the six claimant nations. The tension that was once mutual is now visual and magnified by the sporadic show of deception and force by the Philippines, China, Vietnam and Taiwan at the diplomatic and military levels. The spat is now the news hour and the remarkable story line of Asia. The Panatag Island dispute has disrupted the relative peace of the region and will, in a multifaceted way, affect the future of Asia. This paper explored possible scenarios on the future of the Panatag island controversy. Using Jim Dator’s four archetypes of alternative futures it asked the questions what are the possible scenarios in Asia when viewed from the Panatag Island controversy? What are the consequences of a continued economic growth, collapse, conserver and transformation scenarios at the Panatag Island? What might happen if conflict escalates and worst case scenario eventuate? What are the likely impacts of these scenarios on other regional disputes like the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu Islands) and the Takeshima Islands (Dokdo Islands) chain of island dispute? What are the likely impacts of the scenarios on the future of US-China relations? What scenario needs to happen for claimant nation-states to reduce the possibility of direct military conflict and prevent war and for the region to advance demilitarization, reconciliation and convergence to resolve the dispute? While there are other scenarios beyond Dator’s alternative futures, this paper will only explore possible scenarios using Dator’s alternative futures archetypes.