It’s much less a question of whether or not Duterte can be made to go without much ado than what, in such event, China will do? I cannot avoid this notion, of Duterte having to go sooner or later. What happens then to the many Chinese commitments to the various aspects of Philippine development? In addition to the ones cited in the first part of this discussion, here is a rundown of the agreements signed between the two countries during the official visit to Malacañang by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in the period of the Apec Summit last year:
1. Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China
2. Memorandum of Understanding on Jointly Promoting the Second Basket of Key Infrastructure Projects Cooperation between the Department of Finance of the Republic of the Philippines and the Ministry of Commerce of the Government of the People’s Republic of China
3. Exchange of Letters on Project of Dangerous Drugs Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Centers
4. Exchange of Letters on Project of Two Bridges Across Pasig River
5. Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation on Industrial Parks Development between the Department of Trade and Industry of the Republic of the Philippines and the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China
6. Memorandum of Understanding on Jointly Promoting the Philippine National Railways South Long Hall Project Cooperation between the Department of Transportation of the Republic of the Philippines and the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China
7. Implementation Framework for the Memorandum of Understanding and Development of Project List for Cooperation in Production Capacity and Investment between the National Economic and Development Authority of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China
8. Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China Concerning the Provision of Goods for Addressing Climate Change
9. Memorandum of Understanding on Defense Industry Cooperation between the Department of National Defense of the Republic of the Philippines and the State Administration of Science Technology Industry of the National Defense of the People’s Republic of China
10. Memorandum of Understanding between the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines and the State Intellectual Property of the People’s Republic of China on Cooperation in the Field of Intellectual Property
11. Memorandum of Understanding between the National Youth Commission and the All-China Youth Federation on Strengthening Youth Cooperation
12. The Financing Cooperation Agreement on Chico River Pump Irrigation Project and New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines represented by the Department of Finance and the Export-Import Bank of China
13. The Republic of the Philippines 2017 Renminbi Bond Issuance Underwriting Agreement
14. Memorandum of Understanding between the Bases Conversion and Development Authority and China Development Bank
Certainly, it is a tradition in international relations that agreements reached between nations are respected by their governments no matter who is president. However, here is this peculiarity of the Philippine situation. The United States wants the Philippines to press China into respecting the PCA ruling favoring the Philippines in their dispute over certain portions of the South China Sea. But China, from the very beginning, had made it clear that it does not recognize those so-called arbitral proceedings in the PCA; China did not participate in them.
So far under Duterte, such a pressure on China has been a no-no, an attitude that has unleashed an effusion of Chinese goodwill and material support toward the Philippines. But under a regime submissive to the United States, like the past one of President Aquino, a belligerent stance versus China can be well in place. It seems a matter of course that in such a situation, the wealth of goodwill and material support the Philippines is now enjoying from China will stop. Which nation on earth will persist in patronizing another nation that fights it? It goes without saying that when the United States succeeds in replacing Duterte with one, whoever it is, who is subservient to its interests, trouble can instantly erupt.
Herein lies the core of China’s predicament. If it supports Duterte to the extent of countering efforts to oust him from power, it necessarily contributes to the Philippines treading the path of a civil strife. That definitely won’t be good for the Filipino people. On the other hand, if it follows a hands-off policy, thereby easily allowing Duterte to go, then it clears the way for the ascension to the presidency of somebody who, for being a stooge of the United States, in the long run will lead the Philippines to a belligerent confrontation with China over the long-pestering issue on the South China Sea.
That’s what dilemma is in logic. But a more understandable lingo is the American colloquial, damn if you do, damn if you don’t. Right now, with large US warships dropping anchor on Manila Bay, such a scenario can be unfolding.
I wasn’t so politically naïve when I said back in the advent of 1986 that Cory Aquino was the amboy in the snap presidential elections that first quarter of the new year. I was trying to talk certain high-placed leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines into reconsidering the party policy of boycotting those elections for being a ploy by the United States to maintain President Ferdinand E. Marcos in power. I had this strong sense that a great upheaval was in the offing and that boycotting the elections – which I perceived as a vital cog in such an upheaval – would effectively get the party revolution out of the main push for overthrowing Marcos.
It was unfortunate that I could not cite any specific data to buttress my contention that Marcos was on the way out and Cory was being groomed the successor. I only clung to my observations during the period. The US Seventh Fleet was suddenly docked in Manila Bay and international media was gathered at the Manila Hotel.
Something big was taking place. What? A Marcos win in those elections was run of the mill, no cause for much ado. But a Cory takeover would be a real sensation, one for world consumption. Here lies the logic of international media being around to cover the event when it took place. And what about the US Seventh Fleet?
Well, it could only be there for its cup of tea – a neutralizer for a possible Soviet intervention on the side of Marcos. Remember? Of the many foreign ambassadors in the country at the time, only one extended congratulations to Marcos for a perceived win even before the official count of the elections was released: the Ambassador of the Soviet Union.
So now, into the period of commemorating for the umpteenth time the so-called People Power revolt in February 1986, there is this phenomenon of the USS Carl Vinson dropping anchor on Manila Bay. As I perceived it as no coincidence that the US Seventh Fleet did anchor on Manila Bay while Marcos was being ousted from the presidency, so must I note with a sense of strong alarm that Carl Vinson, together with a guided missile destroyer at that, must make this apparent visit in the Philippines at a time when the nation is rattled by urgings for the ouster of Duterte.
(To be continued tomorrow)