Duterte's Art of War by Erick San Juan
In October of last year President Duterte told the Americans that there will no longer be any joint military exercises with them. The cancellation of several joint military exercises with the US, namely the US-Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (Phiblex) and Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Exercise (Carat) and stopping the US from using Philippine ports for freedom of navigation operations and refusal to allow the US to develop the strategic Bautista Airbase on the island province of Palawan are just among the factors that China are not comfortable with.
Even the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague was not tackled by the present leadership when they went to China. Also the decision that our fishermen can fish in the waters inside our economic zone/territorial waters is in the hands of China’s leadership, and several other conditions that are favorable to China. So, Mr. President is this what you call ‘independent foreign policy’?
And the most recent one when our top defense officials visited our fellow Filipinos in the Kalayaan island group or Spratly, China was quick in saying that we have to ask for permission first from them or we will face the consequences.
I hope that PRRD's 'One step forward, two steps backward' strategy will prosper.
As what was cited in detail by Prof. Richard Javad Heydarian in his latest article Duterte's 'China honeymoon comes to a close – “Weeks earlier, Beijing was openly vexed when Duterte announced with bravado that he will visit and plant the Philippine flag in the hotly-disputed Thitu Island (Pag-asa to Filipinos), the second largest naturally-formed land feature in the Spratlys. The island, which hosts an airstrip and civilian and military populations, has been under Manila’s administration since the 1970s. He also ordered troops to occupy and protect Philippine-claimed land features in the area.
Duterte later cancelled his plan to visit the features, in a convoluted nod towards Beijing’s displeasure. “China sent word, ‘Please do not do that,’ Well, in the meantime, just do not go there. Please?'”
Duterte said in explaining his decision to walk back his decision. “So, because of our friendship with China, and because we value your friendship, I will not go there to raise the Philippine flag. Maybe I’ll send my son.”
Soon thereafter Duterte gave the go-ahead to defense minister Delfin Lorenzana and armed forces chief of staff Eduardo Año to visit the disputed land feature, which China also considers part of its national territory under its wide-reaching nine-dash map. It was the first time in years that top Filipino defense officials traveled to the features. Lorenzana later described the trip as routine.”
“We hope that the Philippine side could cherish the hard-won sound momentum of development [in] bilateral relations [we] are experiencing,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang in response to last week’s visit by top Filipino defense officials to disputed Spratly island features. “[China is] gravely concerned about and dissatisfied with this, [and] has lodged representations with the Philippine side.”
The ministry also cautioned Manila to “faithfully follow the consensus” reached between the two national leaders in October last year.
Sec. Ernesto Abella, Duterte’s spokesman, fired back by saying that the trip was “part of efforts to improve the safety, welfare, [and] livelihood of Filipinos residing and living in the municipality of Kalayaan,” using the Philippines’ preferred word for the Spratlys.
In response to reports that a nearby Chinese military detachment at Subi Reef tried to drive away the plane that carried Filipino defense officials, including Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the president’s office said “The Philippines has long been undertaking customary and routine maritime patrol and overflight in the West Philippine Sea,” and that they “are lawful activities under international law.”
With the budget of 1.6 billion pesos for the refurbishment and upgrade of Filipino facilities in the Spratlys, is a clear sign that Duterte administration is seriously saying to China that we will never just give up our territories because of ‘friendship’ and ‘economics’.
The president should be wary in dealing with big nations like China, US and Russia. He has to calculate his statements which could be music to the ears of some leaders or noise to few that cannot forget.