Can Duterte be skinning China the American way?



Now the nation appears in real trouble. A recent survey by Pulse Asia claims 84% or 8 out of 10 Filipinos want the government to assert Philippine rights over the West Philippine Sea. Those rights are deemed upheld by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague ruling in favor of the Philippines in its dispute with China over those waters.

This survey claim appears to be simply statistics, but I tend to take it as a grim foreboding. If, as the claim indicates, that large section of the Filipino people truly make an assertive move deemed already sanctioned by the United Nations, through its sponsored arbitral court, their action could lead to a bitter engagement with China, which had cleverly avoided being compromised by the PCA ruling by completely snubbing its year-long deliberations.

In other words, we would be tangling with China over a ruling that it does not recognize, and that means war, to be candid about it. And with just that candor, we ask who are Filipinos to pretend to be capable of warring with the Asian behemoth?

During the Second World War, the late President Jose P. Laurel, citing the irony suffered by the Philippines in its abandonment by America, said, “But a small country is a small country, and a weak people is a weak people.” The statement was not one of national mockery. Rather it was a pragmatic view that left the weak at the mercy of predators. The Philippines cannot hope to gain discretions beyond its minimum capacity. The key is in making the most out of one’s limited means. During those difficult times of his leadership of the country, President Laurel stuck to his policy of national survival, to, in his words, “tide the Filipino people over to better times.” And his foresight, forbearance and fortitude paid off. The nation survived.

And yet, unlike Japan in World War II, China is not even making war with the Philippines so as to cause President Rodrigo Duterte to make a reprise of President Laurel’s plaint: “A small country is a small country, a weak people is a weak people.”

China is not causing us any of such feeling. On the contrary, China has committed billions of dollars to be invested in the Philippines with a view to making the country big, the Filipino people strong.

For a starter in fact, China has erected the biggest drug rehabilitation center in the world for surrendered drug dependents.

The danger lies in what the Pulse Asia survey seems to imply. That most Filipinos favor aggressive confrontation with China over the West Philippine Sea. And people who are supposed to be knowledgeable on the issue tend to agree.

The Manila Times news report quotes Professor Renato de Castro of De La Salle University’s international studies department as saying in a forum in Makati City, “Foreign policy has to be democratic. It has to reflect the sentiment of the people.”

At once this sounds like a promotion of the idea that President Duterte must aggressively pursue the country’s assertion of sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea because, according to the Pulse Asia survey 84% of Filipinos want it that way.

“The people ought to be consulted about what should be the foreign policy because it’s they who pay for the salaries of diplomats, for defense budget, for other expenditures if there’s a summit,” the analyst said. “They would have to pay the consequences whatever the cost of that change in foreign policy would entail.”

This is a case of a correct statement for the wrong reason. People must be consulted in the President’s pursuit of foreign policy not because they pay him his salary but because, according to President Laurel, it is the right of the people who elect their representatives in the government to participate in the affairs of government.

Along this line in retrospect, it had been quite obvious, and a fact that had never been contravened, that the Philippines’ filing of the arbitral suit at the PCA was upon instigation by the United States. For this reason I had the guts to predict early on that the case would be decided in the Philippines’ favor. The scenario I had perceived then was for the Philippines to win the case at the PCA and then cause its implementation by the United Nations. In such an event, the Philippines becomes a convenient alibi for the United States and its allies to launch actions against China.

If, as the Pulse Asia survey result implies, foreign policy must be in accord with the desire of the Filipino people for aggressive pursuit by Duterte of the Philippine rights over the West Philippine Sea, why wasn’t it first democratically determined, through referendum or whatever, if the Filipinos wanted the matter raised in the PCA. Nobody questioned that action by PNoy. Why question now Duterte’s not taking aggressive pursuit of a fruit of an “undemocratic” action in the first place?

In this context, I tended to understand the frenzied land reclamations China undertook on islets and reefs in the disputed waters. In any event, self-defense is justified.

President Duterte proved to be the wiser though. Instead of being rendered arrogant over the Philippine victory at the PCA, he took the opposite posture. And instead of being combative with China, he offered his hand in peace. The result was amazing.

I was talking to this long-time acquaintance recently. He was – actually is – privy to a certain degree to affairs of the Chinese government, and I sort of complained to him why China seems to swallow Duterte, hook, line and sinker, so to speak.

The guy smiled his characteristic chinky cockiness and said, “Why would not China love it? They got Duterte without a fight.” I gaped in awe. In foreign policy parlance, for China, Duterte is such a big, big gain.

Talk of statesmanship.

And that strikes me now as Duterte’s strategy. Fine.

As Malacañang explains in reaction to the Pulse Asia claim, President Rodrigo Duterte is asserting the Philippine right over the West Philippine sea, but is pursuing the diplomatic path.

It is an American saying after all. “There are many ways to skin a cat.”


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  1. aladin g. villacorte on

    Should the govt consider the public opinion in deciding what foreign policy to pursue? Ideally, yes, because we live in a democracy – the people have every right to participate in matters that directly affect their lives.

    But opinion survey is not a reliable gauge; public sentiments can be easily swayed by media; questions asked are usually misleading and usually without facts. I have devoted more than 30 years of my life to the foreign service, and I must say that foreign policy is a complex affair. I doubt if many of the 84 percent who agreed that the Philippines should assert its rights in the WPS fully understand the various issues involved and their ramifications.

    Sometimes government leaders have to take tough decisions even against public opinion.

  2. It does not take a genius to figure out what will be the ultimate ending on that West Philippine sea in violation of that China behemoth and violator of the international law. Just read in between lines what the newly chosen USA Secretary of State said. He means Hague or no Hague decision, that Fckng SOB China must stay out there. China must not be the dominant power. Since time immemorial, the USA has been the most powerful country in the world and must stay as is to maintain world peace. The issue of the Philippines directly fighting China or not is immaterial. What matters is who will control the world! China or the USA? Just wait! President Trump is the opposite of Obama. Trump is a warrior, Obama is not. Which is why during the regime of Obama the respect of other countries towards the United States had been decelerating. The Philippines can not fight China. It so happen that majority of the Filipinos love America. The scenario is even if the Philippines is against America, still the United will kick out China for that matter. If I were the Filipinos, just leave it there. Just watch. China knows that Japan, South Korea and Australia are strong allies of the USA. Peaceful countries neither want North Korea, nor China. President Trump is friendly dealing with Russia, despite the fact that many Americans are against Russia. Trump is so smart to befriend Russia that when the actions in the China Sea happen, Russia could stay neutral. Let us hope and pray that dumb China leaves that illegally occupied sea without arms warfare. Another weapon of the USA where China is afraid of is trade. President Trump can knock out the trade with China. The USA has many leverages under the control of President Trump, to force China to get out of that Philippine Sea and other areas peacefully. On the contrary, if China will fight America militarily, China will lose.

  3. I don’t trust the US and China but we need to treat them both with diplomacy. The US was able to use us through Noynoy. For years we have asked the US and other Western nations to help us address the way China has been reclaiming the South China Sea territories (waters, reefs, islets, etc) but we were ignored. Noynoy also followed the advice of the US to leave the Panatag Shoal, if I remember right so the Chinese were able to claim it with their ships’ presence. The Philippines was goaded to file a case against China and despite winning, it was just a legal and moral victory dictated by the West that China did not even acknowledge. We cannot fight the US and China using arms so Filipinos should not be all bark about fighting back. Dyan magaling ang mga Pilipino–sa dakdak at ngawa ke anong grupo ka pa. Let us see if Filipinos really like to see blood spilling if we engage. We did not build our country. No one continued the vision of FM because he was vilified. Whether was a crook or not, FM really had a plan for the national interest of the Philippines. I have no more hope for the country but I am willing to be surprised.

  4. Time and again as I have been telling everybody , Poll Survey is the favourite menu of the devils. Its sole purpose is to divide and scatter the one or the entity they are trying to destroy. This fact is founded upon the biblical precept propounded by Christ.

    A house divided against itself cannot stand. Its fall is imminent.

    So you have one great fundamental truth that can be relied upon in unraveling the works of the enemies. In fact , this fundamental truth is so powerful a device to counteract and nullify the works of the adversary.

    You can apply this Wisdom to all facets of life , whether it be political , spiritual and everything. This is a great antidote to the Devil’s craftiness.
    You might as well ask this question—why those organizations involved themselves in surveying one person? What are their motives?

    Well , focus on what they are actually doing , by giving the president varied ratings in all fronts , a high , a moderately high or a moderately low , low and very low—this action show undoubtedly the dividing and the scattering they are doing to the president.

    And a house divided and scattered in this manner is sure to fall. The high grade he received on one issue will not override the very low grade he received on another issue. It is the reverse , the very low subdues the high mark and nullifies it.

    To fully understand this , is quite very simple. You can likened the high mark to a gallon of clean water , and the failing mark to a tiny dead fly. What do you think will happen to a gallon of clean water if you put the tiny dead fly into the water—right , the clean water is rendered unclean and contaminated. It is no longer safe for drinking.

    This is how effective those poll surveys are in dismantling the president. So you need not rejoice when the president is given a very high grade on one issue , it is only a decoy , to appease the supporters , as it cannot do anything to neutralize the failing mark that signifies the tiny dead fly added into it.

    This is how those devils are scattering the house of the president. Beware of the poll surveys! Beware of the devils!

  5. Antay lang tayo. Ang kukulit lang kasi ng mga pinoy. Nakapag antay tayo ng 30 years. Heto na si Digong, one or two years na lang. Hay naku.

  6. Perhaps not in the Philippines but you should be aware that the term “chinky” or “chink” is as insulting and offensive to the rest of the English speaking world as the word “nigger”. Please exercise some editorial control over the language permitted in your newspaper.

    • In the Philippines, chinky eyes, for example, won’t offend the Chinese here because it is not derogatory for us. As fellow Asians, some Filipinos also have chinky eyes since some have Chinese blood like me. What is derogatory is for us to use the terms “chekwa” or “intsik” to refer to Chinese-looking people but not chinky which we use all the time. We also don’t use the term “chinks” which is used in the West just like japs or flips. The term “nigger” is derogatory to blacks in the US if whites will use it to refer to them but for black on black, they can call each other nigger.

  7. If 84% of the people believe that we need to be assertive about the West Philippine Sea, then we need to have young people ready to go to war. There ought to be a law that all (except those are disabled, blind missing limbs and legs) young women and men age from 16 or 17 and up must undergo military training that include students and children of politicians and government officials. They need to undergo for at least 2 to 3 years. Those 84% people can’t expect our 250,000 soldiers to go to war. We need to copy how they do it in Japan, South Korea and China. Walang mangyayari sa atin kung puro dada lang ng dada katulad ng mga politico.

    • FM has the ROTC before and during my high school days I had to be trained via the CAT but it was abolished because anything Marcos was bad to the eyes of the anti-Marcos. We will lose to China no matter how many soldiers we have who are willing to fight. Puro dada talaga ang mga Pilipino pero pag dumanak na ang dugo, iba na ang mangyayari. My 75 year old mother and her friends know that war is gruesome since they experienced WW2.