In defending his policy of appeasing China, President Duterte likes to say that we could go to war with our giant neighbor to the north over our territorial disputes in the South China Sea, but many Filipinos would surely die and we would most likely lose the war against a far superior force.
Mr. Duterte’s protestations usually follow criticism of his administration’s failure to raise the alarm over Chinese actions, including the reported installation of missile defense systems on a reef claimed by the Philippines, and its refusal to demand immediate Chinese compliance with a 2016 arbitration ruling that has invalidated Beijing’s expansive claims in the South China Sea and upheld Manila’s sovereign rights to exploit resources in vast stretches of water off its western coast—an area we refer to as the West Philippine Sea.
“I cannot afford at this time to go to war,” the President said during a speech earlier this month on the 120th anniversary of the Philippine Navy.
“I cannot go into a battle which I cannot win and would only result in destruction for our armed forces. I really want to do something to assert [our sovereignty]… [But] in my own estimation, it would be a great loss to the nation, and probably we will end up losing a war. All of these things I want to be made known to you. Whether you accept it or not, that’s the reality on the ground.”
We completely agree with the President. War is certainly not an option, given the high price it would extract—and a constitutional provision that renounces war as an instrument of national policy.
Where we differ from the President is his implication that we must go to war to stand up for our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.