If there is one thing that can no longer be denied, it is that China has mounted a full-scale invasion of the Philippines with the support of no less than President Rodrigo Duterte and his Cabinet, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.
This was made clear this week when Beijing’s ambassador to Manila Zhao Jianhua said that Filipino fishermen could still catch fish at the waters around the contested Pag-asa Island subject to certain conditions.
Anyone who knows how to read a map will see that Pag-asa Island is part of Philippine territory, being so much closer to the country’s land mass than to China.
China may cite questionable “historical” records and maps to lay claim to ownership of the territory, but this is before the Philippines became an independent republic and a member of the United Nations. What must be considered as Philippine territory is clearly defined, and the majority of the UN member nations agree.
It is only Philippine President – by plurality, not majority – Duterte who toes the Chinese line.
With every confirmed incursion by Chinese fishing vessels escorted by Chinese military boats into Philippine waters, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo mouths the same old line: There’s nothing that we can do about it.
This week, he said he would “politely” ask China to stop deploying ships near Pag-asa.
This, after the AFP had monitored at least 275 Chinese vessels sailing near Pag-asa for the first quarter of this year. In fact, some of the ships do not sail at all, but remain stationary from one day to an entire week.
Their message is crystal clear. We own these waters whether you like it or not. Besides, your president welcomes us with open arms and is practically an honorary Chinese citizen, a little brown brother of our President Xi Jinping.
And what of the so-called Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddyboy Locsin?
The most he would say was that the DFA would file a diplomatic protest or a note verbale protesting the Chinese presence in Philippine territory. He, however, refused to make public the wordings of that protest. Perhaps he would be even more polite than Panelo, maybe even beg China to please, please, please “allow” Filipino fishermen to eke out a living in our territorial waters as they have done not only for decades, but for centuries.
So is there a way to end the Chinese invasion of our motherland?
There is. It has to start with the May elections, when the electorate has the choice of electing Duterte yes men to the Senate, or an independent group who will hound the president and his Cabinet to serve the Filipino people and stop cowering in fear of China.
Not too long ago, a survey was taken showing that Filipinos trust the US more than China. If push comes to shove, it would be better to have pro-American leaders than pro-Chinese ones.
Forget all notions of being totally independent. If a choice has to be made – and from the looks of things one has to be made soonest – the Philippines must ally itself with one and only one superpower. China is a bad choice, but only Duterte and his minions will ever admit this.
The next president can also look at Malaysia’s Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, who returned to power at an age when he should have been long retired, but who took the bold move of scrapping all the onerous loans China had extended to the administration of his predecessor.
That next president can also go back to the same diplomatic strategies of former President Noynoy Aquino.
As former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said this week, the Aquino administration took every possible diplomatic step besides taking China to court (and winning) to assert the Philippines sovereignty over its territory.
These are but some of the steps to take to end the Chinese invasion, but it all presupposes an end to the Duterte regime sooner rather than later. But if another Chinese puppet ends up occupying Malacanang after Duterte, then the situation will be beyond repair. The Philippines may as well be what some Chinese consider it to be today – a poor, insignificant province of China.