AFTER years of maneuvering, China has gotten what it wanted all along: strengthen its control of the disputed territories in the South China Sea. Reports from the US network CNBC say it all. Chinese missiles (anti-ship cruise missiles and surface to air missiles) and missile systems have been installed in Kagitingan, Zamora and Panganiban reefs in the Spratlys.
Those are three of the seven reefs that the Philippines claims as its own but which China seized and then transformed into artificial islands. The reefs are far from China but are very close to Palawan island. Their international names are Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs. Portions of the Spratlys are being claimed, aside from China and the Philippines, also by Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.
What this means is that the Duterte administration’s strategy of kowtowing to China has failed to deter that country’s expansionist moves. Our expression of goodwill has not been reciprocated, instead, it is being used against us. Our refusal to even talk about the Arbitral Court ruling that supported our territorial claim on parts of the Spratlys eased somewhat international pressure on China, allowing it to pursue virtually undeterred the island-building and missiles installation.
The truth is, China is not a good neighbor considering its insistence on gobbling up territories that are clearly not theirs. To insist on its being a friend in the true sense of the word like what the Duterte administration is doing is to lie. While the United States can also be a predator, especially economically, it has stopped forcibly seizing territories of other nations. Yet the Duterte administration had insisted on demonizing it more than China.
The enemy of your enemy is your friend, the military strategist Sun Tzu said. The US and China have conflicting interest in the Pacific. The better strategy is therefore to go for the lesser evil. In this sense, Sen. Gregorio Honasan, a former military officer, is making more sense than the Chinese lapdogs in government, including the president himself and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.