SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: Patrimony and sovereignty as collateral

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MindaNews / 11 July 2019 – Upon his assumption of the presidency Rodrigo Duterte did what none of his predecessors had dared to do: lash at the US and the West in general for their perceived interventionist policies towards the Philippines. Most of his outbursts stemmed from criticisms by the international community against his bloody war on drugs and apparent contempt for due process as the best way to curb criminality.

In the economic front, while not disengaging from ties with traditional partners like the US and Japan, the administration has made an unmistakable pivot to Beijing. Critics warned that the move has led the country into China’s “debt-trap diplomacy,” a tack that victimized Sri Lanka, Maldives, Turkmenistan and other poor countries. Under this scheme, debtor nations would be obliged to surrender domestic facilities such as ports and strategic resources like natural gas to Chinese ownership and control.

The Philippines is yet to receive loans from China to finance the president’s pet “Build, Build, Build” program. But this administration looks more than eager to return the favor by waiving the country’s rights to its Exclusive Economic Zone and territories in the West Philippine Sea. Duterte would not invoke the favorable ruling of the Permanent Arbitral Tribunal on the case filed by the previous administration versus China. He would not even invoke the Constitution, which he sees as a mere scrap of paper good only to wipe the butts of his masters in the Chinese politburo.

Duterte made light of this virtual surrender of sovereignty by joking that he wanted the Philippines to become a province of China. Hong Kong and Taiwan meanwhile hate to see Beijing breathe down their necks.

Nonetheless, Duterte remains oblivious to warnings against the implications of not asserting Philippine sovereignty and rights to resources in the West Philippines Sea as recognized under international law. Duterte has always rationalized [his] inaction by saying that doing so would only lead us to a war with China which we cannot expect to win. He didn’t say that Indonesia, Vietnam, South Korea and Taiwan have always stood up to China’s bullying but never received a single missile from Beijing.

“Wala tayong magagawa (There’s nothing we can do),” the president, ever dismissive of criticisms against his submissive stance, has said time and again. That sounds more like “wala tayong gagawin (we’ll do nothing).”

The US and other foreign powers are also guilty of plundering the country’s resources and mocking its sovereignty. But is it all right to allow China to commit the same crime? (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])

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