China’s tactics backfire as PH gains int’l sympathy
In the turbulent waters of the West Philippine Sea, a physical clash between Chinese vessels and Filipino Navy and Coast Guard ships has brought the long-standing territorial dispute into sharper focus. The irony is palpable as China, accused of unprofessional and unsafe conduct, finds itself echoing the very charges Filipinos have consistently leveled against it.
China’s coast guard claims lawful actions in blocking Filipino vessels, accusing them of trespassing near Ayungin Shoal. However, their protestations of “unprofessional” and “unsafe” behavior ring hollow given the significant size disparity between the vessels involved. It’s akin to a crocodile, caught inside the chicken coup, accusing a chicken of getting too close to its jaws.
What’s intriguing is how the Philippines is deftly playing the optics game on the international stage. Utilizing small private resupply ships with names like Unaizah, evoking a common Muslim name, adds a layer of symbolism and earns empathy from Muslim-majority nations. The Filipinos, often the underdog, have successfully portrayed themselves as victims of bullying, a narrative that resonates with the global community.
International support has been forthcoming, with ambassadors from key nations like the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, and the European Union condemning China’s actions. Their unified stance, referencing international laws such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the PCA Arbitral Award favoring the Philippines bolsters the Filipino cause.
In this high-stakes geopolitical game, world public opinion is a critical battleground. Videos of these encounters vividly showcase the overwhelming might of Chinese vessels, further enhancing the sympathy toward the Philippines. The Filipinos’ strategic use of small resupply ships places China at an optical disadvantage, a tactical move reminiscent of other historical territorial disputes. The claim by China that they removed the floating barrier they installed at the Bajo de Masinloc flies in the face of the video evidence provided by the Philippine Coast Guard.
Drawing parallels with global conflicts, such as ongoing India-Pakistan and India tensions over Kashmir and India-China skirmishes in the Himalayas, underscores the complex nature of these disputes. Historical outcomes vary, influenced by diplomatic efforts, international law, and economic consequences.
As the world watches, the West Philippine Sea situation not only mirrors international geopolitics but also domestic politics. Rodrigo Duterte, the advocate for closer ties with China, now finds himself on the wrong side of public opinion. His silencing of opposition at home during his term as president is mirrored in China’s accusations against the Philippines, creating an uncanny parallel between the two.
Now Duterte is raising eyebrows with his recent lament that Philippine democracy has become anemic because of the lack of opposition to the administration of President Marcos. He seems to conveniently forget that he is responsible for having pulverized the opposition and effective checks and balances during his presidency, targeting Vice President Leni Robredo, Sen. Leila de Lima, Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Maria Ressa, Antonio Trillanes, ABS-CBN, Rappler, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, among others.
Duterte lost many allies during the last elections, among them Manny Pacquiao, Panfilo Lacson, Isko Moreno, and Tito Sotto. The hemorrhage continues, marked by the resignation of former acting Cabinet secretary Melvin Matibag as secretary general of the PDP-Laban. Matibag was recently chastised and booted out of a Senate hearing on irregularities in the Department of Energy by chair Sherwin Gatchalian when he declared dismissively that the Senate hearing was “all political.” Other PDP-Laban quitters were Rufus Rodriguez, Albee Benitez, and Richard Gomez who formed the pro-Marcos Kilusan ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino.
With mid-term senatorial elections in 2025 and presidential elections in 2028 on the horizon, the West Philippine Sea issue becomes a pivotal point for political discourse. Duterte’s alignment with China, coupled with his shifting roles and allegiances, places him at odds with the emerging sentiment in the Philippines. It’s a delicate balancing act, and as the world watches, the shoe is indeed on the other foot. Given his disdain for Mr. Marcos, he might just continue to play the role of a heckler and pain in the neck. But in response, Mr. Marcos might just hand him over to the International Criminal Court—the arrest warrant is reportedly forthcoming in the new year.