Two Chinese frigates, a coast Guard vessel and two large fishing vessels were sighted recently within one nautical mile off Pag-Asa Island, second to the largest in the disputed Spratly Islands proximate to the province of Palawan in the Philippines.
What is the response of the Philippine government?
“Why were we not concerned about the US doing freedom of navigation, and lalaki ng ships nila. You know why? Kasi they’re our allies so if we keep looking at China as the enemy every time na may movement sila, masyado tayong nag-re-react.” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano pleads that China should not be treated.
These warships belong to the neighboring country that tricked the Philippines into vacating Scarborough Shoal on the promise that it would do the same only to surreptitiously return and take control over the rich maritime area.
These warships belong to the neighboring country that built an airstrip with military installations in one of the islands that the International Tribunal ruled is within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
These warships belong to the neighboring country that refused to recognize the decision of the International Arbitral Tribunal invalidating China’s claim to most of the South China Sea that overlaps the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
These vessels have been used in the past to physically drive away Filipino fishermen from making a living in their traditional fishing ground.
Friends do not grab the territory of another.
Friends do not rob the natural wealth of another.
Friends do not gain advantage over the other through gunboat persuasion.
Cayetano implies that China should be treated like American warships exercising innocent passage. A political science professor in the Philippines sees holes in Cayetano’s explanation. The U.S. has not squatted on Philippine territory without its consent. The U.S. has not exploited the maritime wealth of the Philippines. The U.S. has not deprived Filipino fishermen to fish in their own backyard. The U.S. even wants all interested parties to respect the decision of the International Arbitral Tribunal.
Reading between the lines, it looks like the Duterte administration is pretending that China is not kicking their butt.
“Our exports of banana and pineapple to China have increased by more than 100%”, says Cayetano. “We will bring in more Chinese tourists. That single market alone has a lot of potential.”
When Foreign Ministers of the Association of South East Asian Nations met last month in Manila, Cayetano successfully lobbied to omit in the group communiqué any reference to the decision of the International Arbitral Tribunal out of concern that it would ruffle China’s feathers.
India’s top cop in 2013 got into trouble for saying- “If you can’t stop rape, just enjoy it.” That’s outrageous.
So, if the Philippines cannot resist the blatant gunboat persuasion of China not to stand in the way of its imperial designs, should it just surrender its sovereign rights over its territory to the bully next door?
Must it bargain its dignity for the price of bananas?