Philip­pines avoids be­ing US pawn

Global Times US Edition - - EDITORIAL -

Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Rodrigo Duterte be­gan his visit to China on Wed­nes­day. Re­cently, strong opin­ions on the South China Sea is­sue inside the Philip­pines have in­creased, and the US has been urg­ing the Philip­pines to take a tougher stance on China. Some in the US and the Philip­pines are thus ob­serv­ing Duterte’s visit from th­ese per­spec­tives. How­ever, a larger theme of China-philip­pines re­la­tions is strength­en­ing co­op­er­a­tion. Whether Duterte’s visit will suc­ceed de­pends on whether the two sides can make progress in this re­gard.

Dur­ing Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s state visit to the Philip­pines in 2018, the two coun­tries signed major co­op­er­a­tion agree­ments, in­clud­ing one on joint de­vel­op­ment of oil and gas in the South China Sea, which is of great sig­nif­i­cance to the re­gion.

Duterte’s visit is ex­pected to fur­ther pro­mote the im­ple­men­ta­tion of this de­ci­sion.

Since Duterte took of­fice in 2016, he has changed his coun­try’s pro-us route to a prag­matic South China Sea pol­icy, greatly eas­ing China-philip­pines ten­sions. The new route has brought about rapid de­vel­op­ment of China-philip­pines eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion, made the Philip­pines a key coun­try along the routes of the China-pro­posed Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, and at­tracted more Chi­nese in­vest­ment. The Philip­pines’ for­eign re­la­tions have thus been re­shaped.

Cool­ing down the South China Sea is­sue, pro­mot­ing China-philip­pines co­op­er­a­tion, stop­ping to serve as a US pawn in the South China Sea, and for­mu­lat­ing the Philip­pines’ own geopo­lit­i­cal ini­tia­tive un­doubt­edly max­i­mize Philip­pine in­ter­ests.

Duterte has more than once crit­i­cized the US for the lat­ter’s at­tempts to make use of the Philip­pines as a bait – in­cit­ing Manila to con­front Bei­jing on the South China Sea is­sue. This stems from his per­sonal strate­gic aware­ness. It is also the coun­try’s wis­dom. Once the South China Sea is­sue is in­ten­si­fied, the sit­u­a­tion will be un­fa­vor­able to the Philip­pines. And the US will never take re­spon­si­bil­ity for its “bait.” Duterte has made this clear.

But the Philip­pines copies the US po­lit­i­cal sys­tem. By hyp­ing the South China Sea is­sue, the op­po­si­tion is not aim­ing at ben­e­fit­ing the Philip­pines, but at ex­pand­ing its own in­flu­ence. More­over, the US is des­per­ate to re­ac­ti­vate the Philip­pines as a pawn.

Yet it is be­lieved that China and the Philip­pines will con­tinue to ex­pand co­op­er­a­tion, no mat­ter how much in­ter­fer­ence there will be.

Duterte won an over­whelm­ing vic­tory in the midterm elec­tions in May, although the op­po­si­tion fiercely at­tacked his pol­icy to­ward China. This shows that pro-us pub­lic opin­ion does not rep­re­sent the ma­jor­ity of the Philip­pine people.

The de­vel­op­ment of China-philip­pine re­la­tions should be con­trolled by the two coun­tries and peo­ples. It should not be hi­jacked by a few people or even by a third party.

In the Us-launched trade war against China, Wash­ing­ton needs new lever­age against Bei­jing. For the Philip­pines, main­tain­ing its re­solve is es­sen­tial to pro­tect its own in­ter­ests. It is pa­thetic to be a pawn. The world’s geopo­lit­i­cal his­tory has re­peat­edly proven this.

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