LAST I looked our national problem is still the dehumanizing poverty of 30 million or so Filipinos. No administration so far, including the current one, has made a substantive dent on this problem because we have always been ruled by politicians who represent the interests of a wealthy and privileged few.

This humungous problem includes thousands of small farmers and fisher-folks who eke out a living in farms they don’t own or in polluted municipal waters. It also includes undernourished families without decent homes, running water, and sanitary waste disposal facilities. It includes millions of contractual laborers that have no security of tenure and regular workers who are underpaid and work in less than ideal conditions.

The primary national interest of these people, and of their middle class friends who are sincerely trying to help them, would arguably have to be their deliverance from mired-in-poverty existence. Hence, I don’t see the relevance of the noise some big politicians, big businessmen, and their media spokespersons are making of our sovereignty over the disputed West Philippine Sea.

(I am clueless what’s eating up former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, why he is so obsessed with the China issue that it’s coming from all corners of his mouth daily. It does not strike me as anything that would alleviate the poverty of our people.)

As the poor man in the street would say: “Dili man na maka-on ang sovereignty.” (You cannot eat sovereignty). Nor will sovereignty give living-wage-paying jobs or relocation and housing or running water and sanitary waste disposal facilities to the 30 million poor.

I do not know enough about the issue to take a stance on it. But I know enough of our politics to ask whose national interest is it that we assert our sovereignty (rightly or wrongly) over the disputed territory? Who are those people who critics claim “abhor” the President’s stance on China?

Certainly not the 30 million poor whose all-encompassing interest is food, clothing and shelter for their families. I really don’t think the West Philippine Sea issue resonates with people whose life-challenges are much more existential.

What they abhor is the time and money spent for things other than poverty alleviation like the provision of living-wage-paying jobs so they can feed, clothe and shelter their families in ways that are worthy of their dignity as human beings.

As earlier said, no administration has made a dent on this problem. And no administration will as long as our democratic systems (elections, non-party system etc.) are exclusive domains of big business, big landlords and their political proxies. To them alone is sovereignty a national interest.