Press Release
August 9, 2017

Sen. Leila M. de Lima's statement on how PH, under Duterte, has become China's lackey in ASEAN
Dispatch 132

8 / 8 / 17

Duterte's need for an international ally and a superpower willing to ignore his government's campaign of extrajudicial killings and crimes against humanity in his War on Drugs has once again dragged the Philippines to an embarrassing position in the ongoing ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Manila.

Instead of spearheading the ASEAN bloc in the hope of countering China's bellicose posturing in the South China Sea (SCS) / West Philippine Sea (WPS), the Duterte government has relinquished this role to Vietnam, despite the Philippines' victory in the International Arbitral Tribunal case against China that rejected China's Nine-Dash-Line claim over the entire SCS/WPS.

The Duterte government's client-state status vis-à-vis China continues to cost the Philippines its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) claims in the SCS/WPS, including rights over fishery and energy resources, simply because China is willing to ignore the Philippine human rights crisis under Duterte and, at the same time, serve as the Duterte government's remaining link to the international community, after PH global isolation due to its continued state-sanctioned human rights violations.

In short, what the Duterte regime is doing in order to continue the killings in its War on Drugs is to basically give up our claims over the Spratlys Islands, Scarborough Shoal, and our entire EEZ in the SCS/WPS. This is what the PH is giving up in exchange for China's continued patronage of Duterte.

The Philippines is probably the only country who has disowned its own victory in an international case of historical significance. It is ironic that after winning the legal battle against China's ridiculous Nine-Dash-Line claim, the PH becomes the very first country to give up this victory and begin a policy of kowtowing to China, even granting it access not only to our EEZ territories, but also to our infrastructure projects as the main financial provider and contractor of the Philippine government.

In so doing, the Duterte government has completely abandoned the PH's erstwhile position of condemning and protesting China's continuous intrusion into our territorial claims and EEZ entitlements. It has stayed meek and submissive to China's artificial island-building within our EEZ and the militarization of the Spratlys territories. It has ignored the danger that China's airstrips and missile systems pose to our national security, with the People Liberation Army's Air Force and Navy's increased capability to operate fighter jets and carrier transports and to shoot down PAF planes and blow up PN ships barely a hundred kilometers from Palawan.

This is the threat to national security that Duterte has inflicted upon us, only so he can indulge himself in his blood-thirsty desire to kill as many drug addicts as he can. The Duterte government and DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano have not only completely relinquished the Philippines' lead role in ASEAN of countering China's ambition of regional domination. They have accomplished more than that. The DFA under Cayetano has become China's spokesperson in ASEAN, more than Laos and Cambodia, China's traditional ASEAN allies. We have been reduced to being China's lackey in the ASEAN, again in exchange for the superpower's continued support despite the Duterte government's international isolation. What we have now for a government is a Chinese puppet regime, ruling over the first banana republic of a one-party communist state.

In the meantime, until the next Philippine regime-change, the lead ASEAN role in opposing Chinese hegemony in the SCS belongs to Vietnam. This includes demanding a legally-binding ASEAN-China Code of Conduct that would set strong terms on continued artificial island-building, full guarantee of the freedom of navigation for all countries, the dismantling of missile and other long-range weapons systems in the Chinese-occupied artificial islands--both surface-to-air and surface-to-ship, and forbidding the use of the artificial island airstrips for Chinese fighter jets and bombers.

I am confident that in the future the Philippines will re-join Vietnam in guarding the SCS/WPS against Chinese domination, at least in the diplomatic and legal arena.

Until then, we just have to tolerate this momentary aberration in our foreign policy that has no historical footing whatsoever, except a President's personal need to survive international condemnation and isolation.

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