January 23, 2018, 11:43 pm
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Duterte’s foreign affairs goals (2)

THE Philippines reaped economic benefits from China with its lenient stance on the South China Sea issue during the Asean Summit in Manila last November.

The South China Sea is better left untouched, as President Rodrigo Roa Duterte put it his own words, “Nobody can afford to go to war.”

His statement suggested that he has adopted a strategic silence on the South China Sea issue for an indefinite time and revealed his calculating and pragmatic policy to rejuvenate positive relations with the Chinese government in Beijing, as it consolidates its economic clout and military strength in the Southeast Asian region, noted geo-political observers.

In Duterte’s perception, it is better for the Philippines to stand in the good graces of a powerful China and profit from it, rather than be the target of its wrath. By focusing on the immediate development needs of the country and shelving any future action plans on its maritime claims, the same observers pointed out, this showed that the shrewd tactic of Duterte is logical. 

As Duterte himself put it, “We have so many domestic problems to take care of before we start to venture into some sort of aggressive stand.”

However, as Duterte downplays the Philippines’ maritime claims and legal victory to gain economic rewards from China, it remains to be seen whether this policy will eventually do the country good in the long term.

While the Philippines has to minimize its maritime claims in order to maximize some economic benefits, China, in contrast, enjoys a win-win situation where it is able to push for both trade interests and security agenda, the same geo-political observers warned. 

As China gradually consolidates its power, it is employing its assertive benevolence to promote its economic interests in the Philippines, and at the same time, suppress any succeeding opposition from the country regarding its territorial assertions in the South China Sea.

Finally, as Premier Li indicated, China’s goodwill towards the Philippines and rest of the Southeast Asian region hinges on its bilateral relations and the increase or decrease in the political temperature is very important.

And for President Duterte, it is critical to have warm temperature in Philippines-China relations as long as he can and not to allow it to freeze again.

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Quote of the Day: “Diplomats are just as essential to starting a war as soldiers are finishing it. You take diplomacy out of war, and the thing would fall flat quickly! – Anon .
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