Manila is giving in to Beijing’s ambitions to redraw the map of the South China Sea — by agreeing to once again place a visa sticker and stamp on Chinese passports printed with a nine-dash line in the South China Sea.
That’s according to a recent op-ed published in Gobaltimes, which cheered the warming up of relations between the two countries, and the pro-China policies of Duterte’s administration.
“Ties between China and the Philippines have warmed up in the past two years,” says the op-ed. “Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte repeatedly backed the China-proposed Belt and Road initiative.”
Back in 2012, Manila stopped placing a sticker and a stamp in Beijing’s newly issued passports displaying a China map that included the nine-dash line.
That’s a vague self-defined borderline, which allows Beijing to assert control over virtually all of the sea. It includes areas claimed by neighboring countries like the Philippines and Vietnam.
Beijing has been doing whatever it takes to exercise its assertions. Like building human-made islands, sailing vessels in disputed waters, and printing maps that display the nine-dash line. Beijing’s assertion is something that could eventually have a big impact in regions financial markets, as it raises geopolitical risks.
The softening of relations between Manila and Beijing that the Globaltimes is referring to came after President Duterte failed to enforce an international tribunal ruling back in 2016, which determined that China has no historic rights to most of the South China Sea — a big win for the Philippines and its American allies, which had filed the case against China.
Apparently, President Duterte gave in to Beijing at that time — voiding the international tribunal ruling in exchange for financing of infrastructure projects under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and Duterte’s Build, Build, Build initiative.
Softening of relations between China and the Philippines this time around over the South China Sea map comes at a time when relations between China and other countries in the region have been moving in the other direction. A couple of weeks ago, Vietnam and Malaysia banned Abominable, a film produced by DreamWorks and China, which includes a scene containing a map featuring the “nine-dash line.”
And both those countries have successfully deployed their naval forces to confront Beijing’s efforts to search for oil in disputed waters.
Meanwhile, having repeatedly backed the Belt and Road Initiative, and letting Beijing with the South China Sea map war, President Duterte is waiting for Beijing’s investments to come through.