‘Utopian dream’
Philippine Daily Inquirer
February 13, 2018 at 5:08 am

Just recently, President Duterte and his spokesperson made it clear that the Philippine government will neither challenge nor inquire upon the activities conducted by China in the West Philippine Sea. Moreover, they averred and somewhat cajoled all of us, in essence, that China’s reclamation and building initiatives within the Philippines’ disputed waterway is something we all should be thankful for. The tenor of the statements made to that effect was as if China has been doing some heroic and selfless deed for the benefit of the entire Filipino nation. Alarmingly, our leaders are actually convinced that everything that was built on the West Philippine Sea will be ultimately ours, that is, if we can ask China to leave.

At this point, our government fails to realize that our territorial concern over China’s encroachment of the West Philippine Sea, which substantially forms part of our 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone, is not a shallow matter that we can all just shrug off in the meantime. Entertaining the idea that the Philippines can make optimum use of the West Philippine Sea and get every bit of infrastructure built by China by the time the Philippines shall have recovered full control and jurisdiction of the entire area, free from China’s interference, is a Utopian dream President Duterte must wake up from.

Our government should come to its senses and realize by now that China will never till any soil just to allow another to harvest its fruits. China is not capable of doing any form of charity. Hence, China is too far from the reality of building its own structures over the West Philippine Sea just to turn them over later to the Philippines.

Also, while others may opine that the militarization of the area is a device to strengthen China’s defense posture, it is likewise not impossible that this emerging giant is using this present scheme to devour all maritime and other natural resources found therein, to which the Philippines has the exclusive right to explore and exploit. There is indeed a great possibility that the only things for the Philippines to enjoy, should it be able to make China leave, are the plain salted waters and its algae and planktons—nothing more, nothing less.

Finally, China’s sweeping claims over and unfettered visibility in the West Philippine Sea, bolstered by President Duterte’s lack of assertiveness and conviction over the area despite being head of the Philippine state, starts a precedence akin to dereliction or abandonment that may lead to the undue divestiture of the Philippines’ rights and jurisdiction over the area. The thought of losing everything we have over West Philippine Sea and depriving our future generations of the right to enjoy what is rightfully ours, just because of our government’s reluctance and inaction, gives me the creeps!

President Duterte justifies his present stance on the issue on the premise that adopting an opposing position at this point will ruin our newly found friendship and result in war with China. He then proposes that everything must be “played” smoothly and right. He also pledges to the Filipino people that he will continue to “talk” with China about the present concern.

If China is really a “friend” to the Philippines, why can’t the President be straightforward about the West Philippine Sea with it? After all, friends are supposed to be honest, open, and candid, isn’t it?

ROLANDO CANTIBUHAN,
rmcantibuhan@gmail.com

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