Saturday , June 23, 2018

Briones: Understanding Digong

I WAS going to write about President Rodrigo Duterte's recent tirade against the West, but almost everybody else is.

I don't know if there's anything new I can add to the issue, except that I agree with Duterte in principle. It's the delivery that I'm having problems with.

So I say, enough kowtowing to the US and the European Union. They may be financially, industrially and militarily superior to us, but that doesn't mean we have to be subservient to them.

Anyway, the local mentality is self-inflicted, a hangover from centuries of colonial enculturation. That, or maybe it is because they are financially, industrially and militarily superior that majority of Filipinos instinctively take on the inferior role, including the person who sits in Malacañang. That is, until the Davao City mayor took over.

Anyway, what has changed? Obviously something has. Otherwise our President wouldn't be flapping around like a big fish in a small pond.

It may have something to do with our powerful neighbor up north. You know, that looming mass of humanity that inhabits the Middle Kingdom.

After more than a century's absence, the dragon has awakened only to realize that it has been supplanted by another superpower. Hence, the talon-flexing.

Historically, the countries that surround China had always paid tribute to the “Son of Heaven.” It was the practical and pragmatic thing to do. They couldn't well resist a full Chinese onslaught without devastating consequences. And in return for their obeisance, China left them alone.

I'm not saying that the Beijing regime wants to revive the imperial tribute system, but it might want to reassert leadership in what it considers its traditional sphere of influence.

So far, it has done so in a diplomatic manner. Not to mention the billions of dollars in investments and infrastructure spending it is dangling in front of the countries it wants to cosy up to. The Philippines, notwithstanding.

The relationship between the two countries, though, soured when the administration of then president Benigno Aquino III filed a case against China over the latter's unilateral imposition of a “nine-dash line” claim in the South China Sea before the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration.

This year, the tribunal favored the Philippines' petition, which debunked China's assertion of ownership based on historic rights over the South China Sea.

In the face of this, I'm sure the Duterte administration could only scratch its head. What has its predecessor gotten the country into? There's no way the Philippines can enforce the ruling.

Somehow, Aquino had managed to make the country a pawn in the US's tug-of-war with China for supremacy in this part of the world. And if hostilities do arise, guess who'll be caught in the crossfire?

Duterte has been saying he does not want a single Filipino blood shed for a conflict that is not of his doing. He already has his hands full fighting illegal drugs and criminality.

But instead of supporting his crusade, the country's traditional allies have criticized the President for the extrajudicial killings that have allegedly taken place.

And while the West continues to take the moral high ground, China has been posturing, rejecting the tribunal ruling. After all, it could not afford to lose face to its people. So when push comes to shove, no doubt about it, China will shove.

I don't know if it's ironic or pathetic: the US and the EU condemning the 3,000 plus who have been killed in Duterte's war against illegal drugs and yet seeming to be oblivious to how many Filipino lives will be lost if indeed China decides it has had enough of outside interference.

No wonder the President has been having a hissy fit.