PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte recently issued statements about his talks with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping that could explain the Duterte administration’s wimpish stance when it comes to anything China. The president said Xi promised him two things: China would ensure he (Duterte) would not be ousted from office and China would be protective of the Philippines.
If Xi won over Duterte using the first promise, that is probably because the latter is harboring real worries of being ousted. And he is probably looking the way of the United States and its Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the reason why he is limiting US influence in the country. He has also been trying to ingratiate himself to the military, the other possible source of ouster moves.
The second Xi promise may not have totally won over the president, though. He isn’t that naive to believe China would be as protective to us as the US, which has larger interests to defend here and which has historically closer ties to the Philippines. Besides, China and the Philippines have conflicting claims on South China Sea Sea territories.
But before proceeding further, it would be good to point out China’s setup in order for us to come up with a better assessment of Xi’s promises. While Xi has been allowed to hold on to his top post in the Chinese bureaucracy, we should be reminded that that China is ruled not by one man but by a group, the Communist Party of China (CPC). The party allowed Xi to rule as long as he wants.
Interestingly, the country’s ruling party, PDP-Laban, is also forging close ties with the CPC. Didn’t the party president, Aquilino Pimentel III, lead a PDP-Laban entourage to Beijing early in the president’s term. So Duterte’s ties with XI is being propped up by the PDP-Laban’s close ties with the CPC. Even then, both Xi and the CPC are known to advance Chinese interests first.
Note that despite Xi’s promises to President Duterte and PDP-Laban’s close ties with the CPC, China refused to relinquish its hold on the territories it seized from the Philippines. It didn’t stop building artificial islands and has now put up missiles there. Despite our being friendly, the CPC and therefore Xi has not wavered in their position that China owns almost the entire South China Sea.
Xi telling President Duterte those promises shows the Chinese leadership studied well the latter’s weaknesses. Those promises, plus China dangling loans for the Duterte administration’s ambitious Build, Build, Build program lowered our government’s guard, allowing China to strengthen its hold on the South China Sea and weakening US influence in the Pacific. That’s how wily China’s leaders are.
Can the Philippines extricate itself from Chinese stranglehold? Under the current administration, I doubt. That is why a vigilant people is needed to exert pressure on the Duterte government in order for it to recover its self-respect. Government must realize that China is merely toying with it and that in the current setup the Philippines is at the losing end of things.
The sooner the Duterte administration realizes that the better.