that China has been dealt a black eye by the arbitral tribunal in the
Hague with a unanimous decision that China has no historical basis for
their nine-dash line, what will the Philippines do? Like it or not, the
Philippines is now front-and-center on this global issue. This case has
been closely followed by countries big and small, powerful and weak as
this UN tribunal's landmark ruling will guide the actions of countries
for decades—maybe even centuries—to come.
As we noted in a
previous editorial (LINK), Filipinos must finally come out of the shadows and
act like the major player on center stage that we are. President Rodrigo Duterte's recent statements, along with those of his Secretary of
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, indicate that the new
administration is being inadequately briefed by their government
experts, and thus lack a firm grasp of this issue. Yasay in fact has
recently had to walk back his statements regarding getting into
bilateral agreements with China. China would like nothing better than to
deal with claimant countries, like the Philippines, on a one-on-one
basis. That way they can easily bully and intimidate those individual
countries. China refuses to deal with the ASEAN countries as a group
because the Chinese will have less leverage over the group, and less
able to coerce and intimidate the way they want.
China has shown little
respect for the Philippines in general, and Filipino leaders in
particular. They easily bamboozled former President Gloria Arroyo who,
her detractors argue, sold-out the Philippines when she got into a
highly secret agreement with China called the Joint Marine Seismic
Undertaking. That project was quickly scuttled in 2008 after Arroyo's
seemingly treasonous agreement with China was publically revealed by the
late Australian journalist Barry Wain (LINK).
China fooled former
President Benigno Aquino III as well. They lied to his face during the
stand-off at Scarborough Shoal in 2012 (LINK). And even today, they look
at President Rodrigo Duterte and his neophyte cabinet and they figure,
grabbing islands from the Philippines is like taking candy from a baby.
The Chinese simply don't take Filipinos seriously. And who can really
blame them when we continue to send mixed signals and fail to show any
backbone. Instead of standing up for our rights and demanding what is
this administration wants to immediately cut a deal with China—a deal
that will most likely be heavily tilted in China's favor.
Philippines is ground zero with regards to this issue and it is
incumbent upon all Filipinos to rise to the challenge. How the country
reacts will reveal whether Filipinos have what it takes to influence
world events and change world opinion. The fear is that Filipinos might
yet again relegate themselves to the sidelines and let other people and
other nations dictate their destiny. We hope not! Let us show the world
we've arrived, we demand that we be taken seriously, and we bow down to no
one, especially China. That country has overstepped its bounds, so now it has to
take a step back.