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Philippine President Bungled as China Seeks Control Over a Disputed Territory

Kelvene Requiroso

Posted on May 9, 2018 08:22

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China has encroached on a territory. And President Rodrigo Duterte failed to protect the West Philippine Sea. Such failure is a culpable violation of the constitution and an impeachable offense.

China reportedly built new anti-ship and surface-to-air defense systems on three artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea over the last 30 days. The reefs Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief, where the missiles were installed, are within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.  

On July 12, 2016, the international arbitral tribunal ruled in favour of the Philippines, rejecting China’s claim to have historic exclusive rights to the imaginary nine-dash line or the entirety of the South China Sea.  

Since then, China has continued to increase the disputed area’s militarisation which clearly violates international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

China’s action not only expands its military power but also escalates tension and instability in the region. Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore and Taiwan also have claims in the disputed sea territory.

That China infringed international law and encroached a Philippine territory are an aberration and utterly outrageous. But equally troubling was the response of the Philippines’ president Rodrigo Duterte. His government is at a loss on the issue. Instead of calling out China, the president is shifting all the blame to his predecessor Benigno Aquino III and the United States.

It was Mr. Aquino who elevated the case to the international arbitral tribunal which the Philippines won. When the China-friendly Duterte got elected to the presidency in 2016, he refused to adhere to the ruling. By allowing China to patrol the contested area, Mr. Duterte practically surrendered all the claims of his country.

Mr. Duterte has bungled in carrying out his mandate. As president, he swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. So far, his inaction and negligence compromised national security and helped China curtail Philippine sovereignty.  

The Filipino strongman’s obstinacy to shift to China from traditional Western allies was partly due to the West’s criticism of his human rights records and his notorious war on drugs. This, however, shows cowardice and immaturity amidst the complexity of territorial disputes involving several countries. The Philippines lags behind China (and even Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan) in developing their claimed reefs.

While Vietnam remains firm on its stand in the maritime row following Mr. Aquino’s lead, Mr. Duterte overthrows the efforts of the previous administration and reverses course. This pivot is a display of lack of continuity on foreign policy that can be construed a weakness in the Philippines’ international relations.  

And with Chinese military’s missile systems installed on a Philippines territory, this should be a crisis the Philippine government and the international community must take seriously. But Duterte has failed to act, which is an impeachable offense.

Kelvene Requiroso

Posted on May 9, 2018 08:22

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Source: Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) - China hopes to get relations with the Philippines back on track, President Xi Jinping has told new Philippine...

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