President Rodrigo Duterte during his State of the Nation Address in
July, 2016 (GMA News photo)
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte digging in his heels and acting
even more petulant towards the West in general and the United States in
particular, one wonders, where do things go from here?
arbitral tribunal recently awarded the Philippines a sweeping victory by
declaring China’s 9-Dash Line claim in the South China Sea as baseless.
But instead of capitalizing on that decisive win, Duterte chose to open
bilateral negotiations with China hoping that the Chinese would
reciprocate by allowing Filipino fishermen to fish in those disputed
waters—an act effectively acknowledging China’s sovereignty and
squandering the Philippines’ significant legal victory.
While there is nothing
wrong with developing ties with Russia and China, it certainly is not
worth it if it is done at the expense severing ties with the West. The
United States, United Nations, and the European Union are far more
important to the Philippines than Russia and China can ever be.
If the Duterte
administration is now being called to task for its actions, it is
because those actions fall outside generally accepted norms and
practices that civilized nations adhere to. Mankind has after all
refined over the course of millennia, what it means to be “civilized.”
So that today, people across the globe adhere to a common set of
principals such as those embodied in the UN charter.
So when organizations
like the United Nations, the European Union and the United States voice
concern over certain practices of the Duterte administration, it is in
the best interest of the Philippines that those concerns be addressed as
quickly as possible. Our country, after all, is a UN member in good
standing and not a rogue or renegade state.
Therefore, if the
Philippines is to continue to thrive, it will need to count on the
goodwill of all countries, not just China and Russia. To promote tourism
and foreign investment, the Philippines has to show the world that it is
a safe place to visit and invest in. And such confidence does not happen
overnight—it is built up over decades.
extra-judicial acts, brash pronouncements, and angry diatribes against
the West could have negative consequences that will outlast his
presidency by several decades. It would thus be Filipinos yet unborn who
would suffer the consequences of his decisions and be forced to fix the
damage he created.
More importantly, if
China and Russia fail to deliver, where does Duterte go? Without the
West, Duterte is stuck in the “Twilight Zone.” The Philippines then
could become another pariah country like North Korea. And when the
Chinese regime sees the Philippines’ dire predicament it will simply
extract ever greater concessions from Duterte in exchange for their
This president needs
to seek-out good advice, and not so cavalierly break his country’s ties
with the West. Because breaking those ties, paints him into a corner
with little or no options available.