China’s infamous Nine-Dash Line in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). Graphic: CSIS/David Choi/Business Insider/PNL
We don’t relish saying this, but we told you so. In our August 7, 2019 editorial, we noted that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) could care less what Filipinos had to say regarding the October 2015 arbitral tribunal ruling that favored the Philippines over China.
In our view, it was a lost cause right from the start. And Duterte, sad to say, played a decisive role in its failure. For starters, it took him almost four years to raise the matter with Chinese President Xi Jin Ping. When you win a unanimous decision from a U.N. tribunal, you don’t wait that long to talk about it. His silence told Xi that their intimidation of Filipinos had succeeded.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, Duterte headed back to China, hat-in-hand, to secure loans and funding for Chinese-backed projects. You can’t negotiate from a position of strength when you’re also asking for hand-outs.
The president’s advisers all failed him—miserably. Duterte could have strengthened his position by placing all Sino-Philippine projects on hold, pending China’s recognition of the arbitral tribunal’s ruling.
If China refused to accept the ruling and insisted on the validity of its nine-dash line, then all future projects remain on hold. The Philippines cannot have any meaningful relationship with a country that defies the U.N. rules-based order and resorts to bullying to achieve its goals.
If this was a card game, then we Filipinos might believe that we were dealt a weak hand. But we can improve our odds by just showing some spunk. Look at our neighbors the Taiwanese and Hongkongers. They are standing up to China. Both their populations are significantly smaller than ours, but they do not allow China to push them around. We should take a cue from them and step-up our game as well. Otherwise, this generation of Filipinos could end up destroying the territorial integrity of the country forever. Published 9/3/2019