President Duterte's Position On China: Is It Pure Genius Or A Gambit?

First off, I have no pretensions of knowing much about geo-politics beyond what I read on the internet and claim no special knowledge about the inner workings of the power relationships between countries.

So, much of what I writing here is speculation, nothing more. If it makes sense to you, great. If it doesn't, I won't be offended if you disagree.

I am just writing this for the sake of discussion and in the course of exploring this topic with others online, perhaps the ideas presented here can be refined further or even junked completely in favor of something better.

The first idea I want to present comes from something I tweeted:
If we were to trace back who first brought up the idea that the Philippines had to choose sides between China and the US, I would run it all the way back to the Aquino administration.

I remember that it was some time in 2011 that the Aquino administration started sword rattling and made the preposterous position that the Philippine could actually go on an arms race with China if it had to.

That is simply delusional. There is no way we can match China's armed forces and hardly any reason to believe that the US will fight for us, in the event that tensions in the south China sea/west Philippine sea escalates into a war.

Now the thing that had former president Benigno Aquino III in a tililing rampage is the issue of China's encroachment on our territory (the Panatag shoal) as well as its claims over the seas between the Philippines and China.

By the looks of it, Pnoy's position on the Chinese encroachment and South China Sea/West Philippine Sea debacle oddly resembles how a haciendero like him would deal with a land dispute. First was to raise the matter to an international court and second was to attempt to muster armed forces to secure the disputed territory.

I don't know at all if Pnoy regards the US armed forces here as he regards the private security group that protects Hacienda Luisita, but it seems that way to me. But where it gets screwy is that what Pnoy is using in his delusional pissing contest with China are the lives of Filipino soldiers and the non-existent military support from the United States.

Viewing it this way, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement would now seem like an acutely lopsided contract with the US government that would provide their military unparalleled access to Philippine territory (a non-negotiable for any independent country) in exchange for a handful of decommissioned military hardware (to be paid for by the Philippine government) and little assurance that the American troops here will fight alongside Philippine forces in the event of a war.

And what about the aid that the US is giving to the Philippines? Oh you mean the money, that for some reason or another, ends up lining the pockets of politicians? The money that has to be paid back by generations of Filipinos who have yet to be born? That money?

Thing is, we should not worry too much about the idea that the US will up and leave the Philippines to be devoured by China.

The last time I checked, China has never had a history of being a colonizer or used its military might to seize territory outside of its borders like the United States has for the past one hundred years or so. 

Even without the Wikileak on Hillary's ring of US missile defense around China, the Philippines' position on the pacific rim and its hundred years of close relations with the US make it a strategic but expendable US asset in a fight with China -- compared to US territories in Japan and elsewhere in Asia.

The contentious territory is that piece of sea where the philippine sea joins the south china sea. If we, the Philippines, asserts its its sovereignty and authority by not granting the US access to that place and China does the same, will the US insist on going there on its own? 
Is there a portion there that is considered "international waters"? Or has the US been passing there only because we have been allowing their free access? 
Hmmm... curious.
The underlying theory in JP's discussion point is that China's occupation of the Panatag shoal is a response to the US' free passage through the waters between China and the Philippines. This has ramifications on China's trade with the world as well as its own security, especially if we give in to the speculation that China sees the US as the fox and the Philippines as the gullible child that let it inside the communal chicken coop. 

Going back to the tweet that inspired this rather long blog post, the point I wanted to make with that tweet is that the Philippines should have a clear and realistic position with regard to both China and the US.

We gain nothing by siding with either just the US or just China at this point but increase our value immensely in this geo-political power play NOT BY BEING NEUTRAL (as some would propose) but by emphasizing our pivotal position in the scheme of things.

My take on this is reflected in what was said by Eduardo Araral, vice dean of research and professor of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore, in describing the potential benefits of a pivotal position:
It is a delicate balancing act, which shrewd statesmen such as Duterte can pull off, especially if he appreciates the counsel of his trusted advisers. A “win-win” outcome for all the players is possible. In the end, everybody gets what they want. The US gets to keep the Mutual Defence Treaty and remain a key security partner with the Philippines. China will gain a valuable friend, in spite of the Hague ruling, and Duterte can maximise the benefits for the Philippines by maintaining an equi-proximate relationship with both superpowers.

In the end, the US or China matters in the affairs of the Philippines only if relations with them promote the interests of Filipinos. 

President Duterte's Position On China: Is It Pure Genius Or A Gambit? President Duterte's Position On China: Is It Pure Genius Or A Gambit? Reviewed by Paul Farol on 11:30 AM Rating: 5

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