Giving up the WPS is not a good look for the Philippines

Fiery Cross Reef [Source: Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative]

By Joe America

”What can we do about it?” we hear as top government officials cede the West Philippine Sea to China. “They are so big and strong and we are small and poor. We can’t send Filipinos to war. They’d be slaughtered!”

This ‘woe is me’ argument totally misses the point and substitutes emotionalism for reason. It is bad critical thinking.

The point isn’t to win a war. It is to defend one’s legal rights. It is to be an independent, whole, autonomous state, not a vegetable nation that rolls over to yet another colonial power.

The ‘woe is me’ argument suggests that the Philippines does not have the wherewithal . . . the intellect or courage . . . to speak up for her own well-being. In the doing, she gives up her sovereignty. She gives up accountability. It’s like the bus passenger who tosses his trash out the window and leaves it for others to clean up. The Philippines tosses her seas out the window figuring it is America’s job to do the clean-up.

What a weak national posture!

You can’t deny accountability and be sovereign! Sovereignty is the SEIZING of accountability. Claiming it. Demanding it. NEEDING it to know one has done one’s patriotic duty.

Failure to protest China’s illegal acts is tantamount to saying laws don’t apply, they aren’t worth upholding. I know it is common Filipino discipline to look the other way, which is why so many people ride motorcycles without helmets or place their businesses on the sidewalk. But the result is always damaging. Laws become useless. Discipline erodes. People are hurt.

Indeed, the whole national character seems to be built on weak thinking, on rolling over to great powers, on looking the other way, on allowing sloppy sidewalks and junkyard vehicles. Why run sovereignty like that when you know EXACTLY what is going on?

I don’t think Philippine leaders ought to reason like squatters. They ought to reason like patriots.

Here are some tangible steps that can be taken to retain and build Philippine sovereignty. No loss of life is required.

  • Protest China’s physical presence in the Philippine EEZ. Repeatedly. You may be forced to concede the seas, but you don’t have to concede the laws that can get them back.
  • Protest the militarization of artificial islands in the South China and West Philippine Seas. This is international space. Protest stridently. Demand the removal of military outposts. Join the free world’s opposition and help make that opposition meaningful!
  • Apply sanctions against China until Scarborough is free of Chinese enforcers and international seas are open to Filipino fishermen: deny Chinese corporations the right to rehabilitate Marawi or put a casino on Boracay. Deny China the right to mine for nickel in the Philippines.
  • Rather than hold the US at a distance, make the relationship tighter. Use the US as the “big stick” that keeps China from using unrestrained aggression. Be competent enough to manage the US alliance.
  • Work aggressively to establish defense alliances with Japan, Australia, and Viet Nam.
  • Continue to strengthen the Philippine military.

Very clearly, “woe is me, we can’t really do anything” is a false argument. It is the type of argument waged by profiteers or political gameplayers or weak-thinking leaders.

Maybe Philippine leaders do not know HOW to be sovereign. They confuse sovereignty with military might, as if it can only be had as a mayor would dominate his city through intimidation and force. Sovereignty is not conquest or even force. It is being competent and confident and independent. And loyal to Filipinos.

Strong, sovereign leaders do not see alliances as a threat to sovereignty. Just the opposite. They see them as a way to protect and build sovereignty. They represent a way the independent Philippines can gain what military people call a “force multiplier”. As long as the Philippines is making decisions for her own interest, she is sovereign. To fail to deploy alliance forces . . . and lose resources and independence . . . is negligence at its highest.

When leaders decide to tilt toward a colonizing power, they are being absolutely the opposite of sovereign and independent. They are giving the nation away and betraying her people.

This is 2018.

  • China is a colonizing power.
  • The US, Japan, Australia, and Viet Nam are not.

The only strategic issue for the Philippines is, “roll over, or stand up?”

. . . . .


65 Responses to “Giving up the WPS is not a good look for the Philippines”
  1. Taking down the comfort woman statue to not anger Japan is in a similar category.

    Total subservience to masters. No own profile or personality.

    • Yes, there is a connection. I find interesting that Gabriela (women’s rights org) representatives are angry about the statue removal, as if they could not have foreseen a connection between supporting a misogynist for president and removal of tributes to women.

      There is no nationalism in the solutions to Marawi and Boracay at all, or to the removal of jobs for OFWs in Kuwait. Taking care of Filipinos is a low priority for the State it would seem, if we agree that deeds are what count, not words.

      • There is a twisted belief that what is being done for the OFWs now is nationalism:

        There is a bit of a strange logic to that lunacy – Filipinos care mainly about places where they have relatives or townmates, so by extension places where there are Filipinos are seen as “the Philippines” – like in the days where the barangay as the village was wherever the barangay as a boat landed and people settled..

        China could probably occupy Pag-Asa anytime they wanted, but they don’t – the moment they touch a real settlement this tribal/barangay instinct could be activated – just like it is activated when “THEY wronged one of US” comes into play or is made to play by politics – Jennifer Laude, Mary Jane Veloso, Joanna Dimafelis, Flor Contemplacion.. but of course those who don’t belong to that us by definition of some tribal leader (“adiks”, “yellows”) are not part of that care, don’t belong to the “family” (again, Francis’ insights about Filipino mind)

        • It is for example interesting how the fishermen losing their catch to Chinese boats do not fall within the purvey of the emotional body politic of the Philippines. The selectivity is strange. SAF 44 count. Dimafelis counts. Fake Dengvaxia victims. Boracay residents don’t. Marawi?

          • It is peculiar. I read the other day that one reason surveys continue to show favorable Duterte ratings is because critics don’t agree to respond to the surveys because they think they will be revealed and targeted. There are few ‘common man’ critics. Plus, the people who stoked anti-aquino emotions are getting their ‘fair share’ under Duterte. INC, for instance. Indeed, dengvaxia hysteria shows Aquino remains a target. Duterte is not.

            • edgar lores says:

              So the selectivity is not in the event itself but in the attractor (or target.) In who can be blamed — or not.

              And if the attractor is weak, as PNoy was perceived to be, then one can vent one’s emotions fully. PNoy was dissente.

              But if the attractor is strong, as Duterte is perceived to be, then one must suppress one’s emotions. Duterte is bastos.

              This would explain SAF 44 and Dengvaxia. It would also explain Boracay and Marawi.

              The emotional hysteria against a weak attractor (PNoy) is multiplied by the presence and pull of a contra strong attractor (Duterte). In this one sense of many, Duterte is a strange attractor.

              It would also partly explain WPS. Although there is a strong undercurrent of anti-Chinese sentiment, China is perceived as a strong attractor.

              Demafelis is another matter. The target is non-white filthy-rich foreigners who abuse OFWs. Easy to hate non-white filthy-rich foreigners. Easy to identify with a poor pretty girl who was treated sacrilegiously in life and in death.

          • Francis says:

            Duterte is familiar. The “reformists” (i.e. the previous administration, civil society and “new” press e.g. Rappler) are foreign.

            Duterte’s merits—and flaws are comprehensible. And it is safe to say that what you can comprehend, you can live with.

            On the other hand, these “reformists” trigger a sort of uncanny valley effect—they say they are Filipino, they look like Filipino, but their “kalooban” is foreign, or too laced with “foreign” elements..

            • Francis says:


              I say this as an Inglasero who’s probably too “foreign” on the inside.

              The summit to overcome is tremendously high.

              • In fact the present conflicts have burnt a lot of bridges within the country.

                A dialog and finding of common ground would have been possible in June 2016, but now it is nearly impossible. A common language and terms are lacking – trust is damaged.

            • And yet, there are those who bridge the gap like the teacher Ma’amSyj on Twitter..

              This posting of hers has started a raging controversy, as it is written in the language many people think in and most especially feel in – and addresses the basics very directly.

  2. Popoy Del R. Cartanio says:

    In 1959 while visiting for four days and billeted with Charlie Coy with incoming Baron
    Jose Ma CdL Zumel in Melchor Hall in Loakan , Baguio, I heard the strains of bugle decibels understood to be reveille and taps. Just remembering without advocating or mongering anything, the bugle call is always music to the ears.

  3. Ron Z says:

    Strong words about the Filipino character – not likely to endear you with locals.

    • Why not? I consider locals to be fishermen who are blocked from the seas. I’m defending them. My strong words are about leadership character.

      • karlgarcia says:

        Joe, this what my dad said:

        SHAME! It was Joe Amerkca not Juan Filipino who wrote it. ALAS. I could have done it myself.
        When I interrupted him when we was talking to Will, I thought he was doing the” woe is us” thing, I guess I was dead wrong

        • Me, too. 🙂 Glad he read it.

        • edgar lores says:

          The shame — and guilt — is that we have a president who refuses to defend Filipino rights in the WPS.

          The shame — and guilt — is that we have a Foreign Affairs Secretary who speaks for China’s interests rather than our own.

          The shame is that out of so many men in the other two branches of government, there is only a handful who are critical of Duterte’s shameful WPS policy. By far, the greatest critic is a non-political jurist, the acting Chief Justice.

    • Mary Grace P. Gonzales says:

      He is writing the words that express our frustration with our current leaders. The locals should appreciate those strong words, well the locals that do not include the DDS and the trolls.

  4. Andres 2018. says:

    Given that the sovereignty over West Philippine Sea/South China Sea is in dispute since time immemorial, the most practical thing to do for both parties is to enter into a compromise. Depending on the value of the consideration that the Philippines will get in ceding its sovereignty over the West Philippine it could be a fair play. That is, if we consider practicality over written law. In layman’s view, its like selling some of your properties and using the proceeds for your immediate needs.

    • International law is the compromise that the international community agreed to. Why throw it away to favor China and penalize the Philippines?

    • chemrock says:

      Andres, seems like you are saying “woe is me”, a speedy Gonzalez.

      Firstly, there is no dispute. It’s been resolved at the UN Tribunal.
      Secondly, China’s claim is’nt time immemorial, it was fairly recent relative to modern history.
      Thirdly, ceding sovereignty under duress is no fair lay no matter how high the consideration (compensation).
      Fourthly, selling your house without the approval of all owners is not a right thing to do.

      • Andres 2018. says:

        “Firstly, there is no dispute. It’s been resolved at the UN Tribunal.”

        – As far as i remember, two years back, the UN Tribunal did not resolve the sovereignty issue of the entire waters in dispute because of “jurisdictions” issue. However, it did clarify some technical issues in classifying if this certain elevation is an island or a rock or something which can be used as basis in future and related hearings. It also invalidated China’s nine dash line and upholded the EEZ rights of the Philippines on some reefs. You may be correct that the Philippine EEZ rights is undisputed in some reefs, however, not on other parts of the disputed waters especially if its about sovereignty. I think we need to review what was the verdict of the Tribunal on this case as its a bit complex.

        “Secondly, China’s claim isn’t time immemorial, it was fairly recent relative to modern history.”

        – the term “immemorial” here is just an exaggeration to emphasize overlapping claims of many nations that no one can ever ascertain which is which because of various historical and legal basis being laid out.

        “Thirdly, ceding sovereignty under duress is no fair lay no matter how high the consideration (compensation).”

        – You are correct especially if we are talking about the constitution. Going with the constitution and the law and the arbitration, the issue to consider here is if sovereignty was really ceded (or to be ceded).

        “Fourthly, selling your house without the approval of all owners is not a right thing to do.”

        – I mean, you are not going to sell the entire Philippines, which is another story.

          • caliphman says:

            For some reason, I seem to have been blocked from posting here for several months now. Einstein said stupidity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. But stranger things have happened and TSOH may be deserving of another fool’s stupid comment. The UNCLOS ruling is complicated and confusing to the legally untrained mind and media. While the arguments forwarded here by Andres are specious at best and completely bogus at worst, IMHO it serves little to rely on a media recap of the UNCLOS decision to rebut these misleading arguments. Suffice it to say that the UNCLOS treaty signed by China predated their 9-dash based claim to the WPS, that sovereignty not over rocks but the rights to the seas adjacent to them is what was decided on, and the Philippine Constitution clealy states that the government cannot cede or alienate not only the country’s land mass but also any adjacent or terrotorial seas within its legally established boundaries.

  5. karlgarcia says:

    From Kit Tatad.

    Is it soon midnight?

    FRANCISCO TATADApril 30, 2018
    MORE and more people seem to believe the nation’s political clock is fast approaching “midnight,” and we could all be hurt very badly when it strikes.

    They believe the following are converging or have converged to hasten it:

    • The projected lynching of Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno by her Supreme Court colleagues at the President’s bidding through the quo warranto process;

    • A political sandstorm arising from the overseas Filipino workers (OFW) issue in Kuwait, which has already caused the expulsion of Philippine Ambassador Renato Villa from his post;

    • President Rodrigo Duterte’s failure to protect Philippine sovereign rights over sea areas within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Spratlys and to respond to China’s recent actual military use of Mischief Reef;

    • Allegations of extrajudicial drug killings involving thousands, topped by DU30’s threats and intimidations of international authorities who seek to inquire into such allegations;

    • Deportation of Sister Patricia Fox, a 71-year-old Australian Catholic missionary, who has been working for the poor in the Philippines for 27 years, and denies making an allegedly politically partisan speech during a rally of the poor.

  6. chemrock says:

    Indeed strange for a foreigner to feel such indignation at the state of affairs of a country where majority remain silent.

    I would just add 2 points:

    1. Other than US, Japan, Australia and Vietnam, I would thing some strategic arrangement with India would be most eye-grabbing. US combined with India interest in this region is the only strategic balance to counter China’s military posturing. In addition, Philippines should try to garner more Asean support, particularly Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and possibly Brunei. These 4 countries together with Philippines and Vietnam would have a very strong voice in Asean. The other Asean countries are pro-China, spineless countries.

    2. Filipinos only know of leftist protests at home, such as the regular ones against the Isreali Embassy. So woe is me, how to protest against China? In our own backyard, have a protest in front of Chinese embassy and consulate in Illocos Norte every time there is an incident, or a Chinese national event. Internationally, protest like hell in all international events where China participates. Instead of spending those intel funds on unckets for Mocha or DDS goods, fund these protests. Of course China is not going to make policy changes because of these protests, but that’s not the purpose. It’s to keep the Chinese incursion fresh in the minds of all policy makers in the world which will play itself out in various channels.

  7. Juan Pablo says:

    I respect and admire Tibetan’s struggles against China’s persecution and invasion. In contrast, I condemn our country’s leaders, so-called educated, who are ignorant of common values and common sense. Woe unto us!

  8. Popoy Del R. Cartanio says:

  9. madlanglupa says:

    It is. Kowtowing to a highly predatory power in exchange for chump change and concessions should be considered the greatest treason, and what damage caused by this lunatic governance would take a longer time to repair.

    Off-topic: found this in a certain fora.

    • karlgarcia says:

      Famous names.

      Monique Wilson
      Leah Salonga
      Risa Hontiveros
      Raymond Lauchenco
      Menchu Lauchenco

  10. Tancio de Leon says:

    Fr. Horacio de la Costa S.J. in his writings may explain why we have this “woe is me” attitude and which in turn is due to the fact that we have not gotten our acts together despite our independence. The following passage comes from his article entitled: “The Filipino: His Identikit.”
    “If there is a problem as to how the Philippines became Christian, there is equally a problem as to how it became a nation. The Philippines may be a natural group of islands, an archipelago – but only up to a point. For whether or not this or that outer island would be included in the group was certainly a Spanish decision. Colonial rule, not a geographical necessity or sociological incongruity, established the national territory. True it is that with the small exception of the most ancient migrants, the food gatherers of the jungle, the people are of the same racial stock. But they share this same racial stock with the peoples of Indonesia and Malaysia; by itself, therefore, it cannot be a basis for a distinct nationality. Neither can language; a rough but serviceable mnemonic that the Philippines comprises (or comprise?) 7,000 islands, 700 dialects, and 7 major languages. These languages belong to the same linguistic family, but are mutually unintlligible to a large extent; so much so, that we have to choose one of them arbitrarily as the basis for a national language. Tagalog is by no means the lingua franca that Bahasa Indonesia is.
    What, then, do we Filipinos have in common that is distinctive of ourselves, enabling us to lay claim to a separate nationhood? The name by which we are called, the Philippines, Filipinos – may suggest one element of that shared distinction. We are called after a Spanish king, Philip II, and our shared experience of Spanish colonial rule may be one of the reasons why we have a national personality different from that of our neighbors.”

    • Thanks for the excerpt. We’ve discussed here from time to time the tribal, non-nationalist forces at work in the Philippines. Fr. De La Costa’s writing fits right in. It causes me to think that somehow Filipinos will have to find enjoyment in their differences to form a nation. That is, they must take pride in being so divided, yet being “in it together”. As far as I can tell, the many languages are not a barrier to thinking here, but moral codes are. Languages provide for a lot of laughter as different peoples cross the lines and try to communicate with others. I can witness this from my wife’s relentless giggles about misunderstood words.

      • NHerrera says:

        Languages provide for a lot of laughter as different peoples cross the lines and try to communicate with others. I can witness this from my wife’s relentless giggles about misunderstood words.

        You are right on that one. My father was a Kapangpangan; my mother and my wife, Tagalog; and I, an Ilonggo. We had a lot of fun on the languages.

        But we do have to work on being “in it together.” Travelling and staying in some countries for a while and lot of reading helps. We can’t all do the travelling, but we can do the latter, especially with the technology available. Alas, being focused on that Facebook thing does not help; it may reinforce the divide.

        • Pampanga is a province the Philippines once stole from China, including the people.

          Bikol is stolen from Mexico, with churches and chilis. Ilocanos are captured Indonesians.

          Iloilo thinks it is a Spanish city. Zamboangans of any religion think they speak Spanish..

          Igorots speak the best English of all and prefer country music to the stuff from Manila.

          The people of Samar are Good Samaritans. Lapulapu built an airport for Cebu in Mactan.

      • Popoy Del R. Cartanio says:

        Just commenting hopefully not taken as kibitzing
        What’s in a word or in a name or words or names?
        The name connotes riches so I like to see the place
        They say two mighty oceans the Atlantic and the Pacific
        Meets somewhere in its coast so the name COSTA RICA.

        With due respect there’s Hooray of the Coast who
        Talks about islands with coastal riches. Who else
        Could speak credibly about nations and their alpha
        But an SJ, too a scholar and guru
        Fr. Horacio de la Costa of A de M?

          • sonny says:

            Caught their writings and truly gold standard scholars in the Jesuit tradition: Fathers Horacio de la Costa, SJ, (PhD Harvard), Miguel Bernad, SJ (PhD Yale) and John Schumacher, SJ (Georgetown). Fr John (originally from Buffalo) at 49, took his Filipino citizenship; recognized expert on Rizal, Propaganda Movement and Frs. Gomez, Burgos, Zamora.

            • Thanks. My, I wish we had that caliber of thinking in government today. The standard today seems like tin and the character nitwit.

              • sonny says:

                Joe, on a broad stroke along the theme of “The standard … like tin and the character nitwit.” the family collective dynamic must be tweaked to create a bridge from school (scholarship & innovation) to home (the change base) and community (volunteerism). American democratic society has a lot of experience on this.

              • School, home, community. The home town model. Volunteerism is not really done here, I think, of the style, say, to provide medical care. There are political volunteers, but I’m not sure they add much other than division.

  11. Oh, small, shriveled soul, thy bearing is thick with hubris, ripe with condescension, and stark with emptiness. If man were destined to rise on wings of glory and spiritual uplift, there would not be a place for you.

    Ode upon a Cayetano, Mayday, Mayday, Mayday

  12. Former SolGen Hilbay has penned the following position on the West Philippine Sea with respect to “sharing” the resource. He notes that China’s “willingness to share” serves as certification that China knows the seas belong to the Philippines for economic development. Otherwise China would keep everything.

  13. Popoy Del R. Cartanio says:

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote
    “Love in the Time of Cholera”
    Is it diagnosis, prognosis and prescient
    when ultra sound and MRI are applied in politics ?
    A rewind to eleven years past
    Written in April 2007 poetry assumed
    medical logic with a sphygmo and stethoscope
    when TATWA meant denial and more . . .

    TATWA : Anthem for a Dead Country
    (Rap for a Beautiful Country)

    The Philippines is not dead
    Filipinos live in denial
    No one will admit
    Philippines when alive
    In the days of the forefathers
    Philippines alive, was different.
    Philippines then stood for something
    Something little about honor
    Among its people.
    Something big about pride
    Pride to stand erect among nations
    A country clean and clear of zombies.

    Philippines then was courageous
    Fighting alongside others, its soldiers
    Dying for what was right, what was
    Peace and freedom and happiness.
    (Ne’er for a dollar’s sinecure)
    Side by side with other nations
    It never learned to fight its own

    War with itself , canker and cancer
    Philippines embraced with a smile
    Hailed crooks and criminals its heroes
    While it tortures and buries its poor
    And misfits denying they are its soul,
    Philippines died unashamed: the new Sodom.

    Denial abounds. Angry yet laughing denials
    In Makati and Alabang, in Cebu and Davao.
    Where people sits and snacks in their Pajero
    In their Chedings, Bimmers and Escalades.
    Philippines is alive, dancing, boozing, copulating
    While Bishops and charlatans pontificate approval.

    It’s sadness higher than denials in the medical
    And dental clinics of the Big Apple, LA and Seattle
    In Jersey and Toronto where Philippines is still
    ICU in the eyes of expats lucky few. For sure these
    Doctors and nurses knew Philippines is alive
    As long as Western Union keeps it revived.

    There is silent denial in Jeddah and Dharran,
    Abu Dhabi and Dubai while nervous breakdown
    Afflicts its women in Hongkong, Singapore and Tokyo.
    Sick of surviving they came home in coffins.
    Drowned in sorrows and wailings by black clad women
    In the tarmac no one cares or noticed. A country lies dead.

    Walking zombies prove Philippines is not dead
    Salvage by cops as they carjack, let go as they kidnapped
    Smiling zombies may be cops or army scalawags
    Who checkpoint their victims in the dead of each night.
    Not a chance to be zombies, the jobless poor,
    Burned in their shanties killed by katol and candles.

    Zoomed by shabu, ecstasy or viagra
    Like libido Philippines stands hard and alive.
    Only love is dead. Dead is love for one’s country
    Peopled by walking zombies. Twin country of .
    -April 18, 2007; CONSTANT WINDS, p.88

  14. karlgarcia says:

    When and not if Iran-Israel war happens, our immediate concern is repatriation of the entire middle east OFWs.

  15. Jack says:

    I support joeam to stand up, but definitely not to roll over and play dead.

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