The low-down on The West Philippines Sea

By Chemrock

In his column in Manila Times 18 Jun 2018, Rigoberto Tiglao wrote “Yes, Senate must investigate how Aquino, Trillanes and Del Rosario lost Panatag (Scarborough Shoal)”. For a long time now I have since given up on Tiglao’s writings which are biased and border on fraudulence and fakery. His toxic penmanship spoils the rest of my day. Despite my misgivings, I thought everyone deserves a second chance, and after all, this is a story of statesmanship, geopolitics, betrayals, high treason, intrigues and corruption. It’s made of stuff that goes well with my morning coffee.

Back in April 2012, several Chinese fishing vessels were found illegally in Scarborough Shoal. The Philippines deployed the Navy ship Gregario del Pillar to arrest the fishing vessels. Two Chinese Maritime Survellance vessels thwarted the del Pillar. A stand-off followed. Eventually, the Navy recalled the del Pillar but the Chinese presence in the Shoal remained.

According to Tiglao, this was what happened. During the stand-off, then President Aquino sent Senator Trillanes to Beijing as a back-door channel to end the impasse. The US brokered a deal for both parties to leave the Shoal. Foreign Secretary Rosario then ordered the del Pillar to return to base. The Philippines withdrew, and the Chinese remained, thus taking control of the Shoal. The Philippines should not have sent the military into the area, and the bungling by the Pnoy Admin in withdrawing del Pillar unilaterally, instead of a simultaneous withdrawal with the Chinese parties, lost for the Philippines the Scarborough Shoal. Tiglao lambasted the admin in 2015/2016 with this ‘exposure’.

Other sources said del Pillar left to refuel and resupply, not retreat. By May 11, the Chinese imposed a fishing ban at the shoal. The Philippines did not officially recognize the Chinese ban, but likewise imposed it’s own fishing ban which was for purpose of protecting the reefs. By June, with typhoon season approaching, all vessels left the Shoal. In the following month, Chinese Maritime Surveillance vessels returned to the area near the Shoal and they policed the fishing ban.

Tiglao’s ‘exposure’ had 2 lapses — Firstly, a Foreign Affairs Secretary does not issue line commands to the military. Secondly, it is unlikely the US brokered any deals. A state deal broker would never take a broken handshake quietly as it would be a deadly loss of reputation. Whatever happened there in 2012, Tiglao’s version is probably the last to be believed. Tiglao chose to portray a conspiracy and sell a TV drama of bungling miscommunication of Pnoy-Trillanes-Rosario.

Tiglao’s egregious effusion is an example of colorful personalities in Philippines who muddy the water with audacious claims in pursuit of personal agendas. A person’s history betrays his motivation. He was Presidential Spokesman to Arroyo. He has often been described as a trusted aide of Arroyo but the reality is that he was never in her inner circle. Dante Ang, present owner of the Manila Times, was the trusted aide. In fact, Tiglao never lasted his tour of duty. He quit and was rewarded an ambassadorship to Greece. He did nothing to honor the office in Greece but enjoyed a lavish lifestyle which was his contribution to the failed Grecian economy. At the end of Arroyo’s term, he tried to muscle his way with the Pnoy admin for re-appointment for the cushy job in Greece but was denied.

None of Tiglao’s articles speak of love for country or countrymen or contribution toward uplifting the country. They are all confined to two themes — absolution of the Arroyo admin on any contentious issues, and the condemnation of Pnoy admin. So we know where he is coming from. One theme seeks to protect a disgraced and expired admin for which he played a significant role, the other is a fury like a woman scorned.

Here is a man whose departure from Greece was preceded by demonstrating OFWs who made it clear what they thought of his ineptitude in office as they demanded Pnoy have him replaced. Here is a man who believed it is alright to cheat in a Presidential election. In his view “the real fraud in the 2004 elections was the attempt itself of a celebrity, FPJ, to be president.” He justified the massive cheating by Gloria Arroyo and cohorts as a means to counter a real fraud, an Estrada-concocted conspiracy to cheat democracy by fielding movie star Fernando Poe. And here is a man who, for all his prolific writings, has nothing to show of any critique on the current admin. It certainly is not for want of issues to criticize because the Duterte admin is far from perfect. More likely it’s a case of lacking two parts in his anatomy to go against a thug.

With twisted morals and personal vendetta motivations like these, what are the values that underpin his views on many issues such as Scarborough Shoal? His views are so twisted that in fact Raissa Robles called him out as a “Super-Fraud” way back in 2011. Sadly, there are many Tiglaos in the Philippines. This is a rambunctious and colorful crowd with access to media who hound the limelight to disseminate misinformation.

There is no doubt the undoing of the WPS started in 1991 with the tearing up of the US Bases Agreements.

How we lost Panatag as expressed by Tiglao, is like taking one bombing incident in Tel Aviv to explain the Isreali-Palestinian conflict. It’s a text book case of missing the wood for the trees. Panatag has to be seen in the totality of the WPS territorial dispute. How far back into the mist of history should we visit? The Chinese would have wanted to go all the way to the Yuan Dynasty. Filipinos have a natural weakness for history – we forget very fast. Fortunately, we are only trying to understand the actions or omissions of the Philippines that caused the status quo as regards the WPS. For this, we need only to look at fairly recent history.

There is no doubt the undoing of the WPS started in 1991 with the tearing up of the US Bases Agreements. The foolishness of the Philippines back then was not lost on international observers. Why kick out a trusted, strong and loyal friend that provided the military cover at a time when the country was at its weakest, crawling out of the rubbles of a failed dictatorship? Why deny the benefits of significant employment provided by the military bases when the economy was in the doldrums? Did they have wool over eyes that the country had zero defense capabilities, even to this day? Why did they not see the threats on the horizon of a rising China when hundreds of years earlier, a thousand miles away, Napoleon Bonaparte could say of China – “Here lies a sleeping giant. Let it sleep.” By the 1970s, the Philippines had a fairly good idea of the vast resources in the WPS area. The rich fishing ground is for starters. Huge oil and natural gas deposits have been discovered in several areas. Now why oh why do they not realize that treasures need to be protected, particularly with so many territorial claimants in the area? Why chase away a pro-bono cop who helped to keep an eye on the neighborhood?

Of all the countries in Asean, the Philippines has the least understanding of geopolitics in the region. Kicking out the Americans in 1991 bears clear testimony. It was a populist act to trade for an empty illusion of sovereignty given the circumstances that the US has never lorded over the country. Hosting bases of friendly countries are common in many weaker states all over the world. Poor Cory Aquino, imagine her sense of betrayal when in 1986 she had addressed the US Congress (to a standing ovation) to ask for, and obtain, financial assistance for the Philippines, only to be given a faux pas by Filipinos.

American military presence in the Philippines has offered the balance of power that provided the stability to our region ever since the Vietnam War. By kicking out the US, the Philippines created a power vacuum in the region. It was time for Chinese adventurism in the South China Seas. The time is right to exert their influence and concretize their expansionist plans in the region, motivated no doubt, by the possibilities of the vast undersea resources. The Philippines did ASEAN a big disfavor and their act has bounced back to cause severe self-damage. On the other hand, Indonesia and Singapore can offer the Philippines a lesson in geopolitics. Singapore was quick to offer the Americans naval facilities for their vessels. Indonesia recently signed an agreement with India to allow the latter special access to facilities in the island of Sabang which is at the northern tip of Sumatra. This is a strategic arrangement that gives India greater control over the Indian Ocean as well as access to the Straits of Malacca. The Indonesian action sent a very clear message to China. President Xi’s military plans in the nine-dash lines has a soft underbelly. All it needs to choke the Chinese off maritime supplies is a blockade at the Straits of Malacca. Indonesia, with Indian backing, now has that capability. Going into any future discussions with China on maritime disputes, Indonesia now has a card to play. The Philippines threw away the Ace in the pack in 1991.

Lest we all forget, 12 senators voted out the US in 1991. These were Senate President Jovito Salonga and senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Agapito Aquino, Joseph Estrada, Teofisto Guingona Jr., Sotero Laurel, Orlando Mercado, Ernesto Maceda, Aquilino Pimentel Jr, Victor Ziga, Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada. With the Senators sitting to vote, Cory Aquino led 100,000 supporters to the Senate in a last ditch attempt to persuade them to reject the proposal. The historic decision was met with applause and tears in the chamber, while rallyists outside the Senate sang and danced. Do these folks in hindsight recognize their folly is the original cause of the Chinese presence in the WPS today? Whatever their mens rea, whether purposely, knowingly, recklessly or negligently, these 12 are culpable of opening the first sluice gate that let the Chinese in.

It was left to Pnoy in 2014 to beef up the Philippine defense capabilities by signing an executive agreement with the US – the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – that allows US troops rotational presence in Philippine military bases. This mutual defense treaty is the single Ace of Spade that prevents the Chinese hordes from landing on Palawan. Once again, when it comes to crucial matters, the Aquinos have always done what is best in the interest of the country. (Saguisag and Tañada would later join petitioners in questioning the legality of EDCA). Of current concern is that the man who now sits in Malacanang does not appreciate geo-politics and threatens to terminate EDCA. Why Filipinos want to throw away the ace cards up their sleeves is most confounding.

The Philippines, under the watch of Presidents before Arroyo, was never a low lying fruit for China.

All the talk of regaining sovereignty as the reason for tearing up the bases agreements, and crossing the Rubicon with the US, is utter nonsense if one has a more historical world view of the Philippines. As the only Catholic nation in the East, a robust democracy, the Philippines had always displayed a very strong independent streak in international forums, especially ASEAN, ASEAN + 3, and APEC. It had been very outspoken about human rights issues, was very concerned about Chinese intentions in the Spratly Islands. It had been a vocal force within ASEAN to promote multilateralism as an approach to settle territorial disputes peacefully. Back in 1938 when Nazi Germany annexed Austria and started their crimes against the Jews and the whole world was still partying with Hitler, Filipinos demonstrated in Manila in condemnation of the act. When the first refugee ship full of Jews were turned back by Cuba, USA and Canada and forced to return to Europe and to gas chambers, Philippines opened their coutry to them. In 1947, Philippines was the only country in East Asia that voted in the United Nations for the creation of the state of Isreal. All great sovereign decisions. In short, the Philippines, under the watch of Presidents before Arroyo, was never a low-lying fruit for China.

In international disputes, the weaker party defers to multilaterism, transparency, and rule of law. The bully prefers bilateralism, secrecy and under-the table deals. The Philippine position as regards South China Sea disputes was a problem for China in the past. With the sluice gate opened in 1991, China played their tactical games. A golden opportunity opened up for China in 2004 when Philippines-US relationship soured due to Arroyo recalling Filipino soldiers prematurely from Iraq. OFW Angelo dela Cruz had been taken hostage and Arroyo caved-in to demands to pull out the troops earlier. It was also a time when Arroyo’s election cheat was probably discussed in cabinets of governments all over the world. President Bush had to pour some cold water onto the relationship. China seized the opportunity and pursued charm diplomacy on the Philippines. Arroyo, family, friends, cronies, and probably her personal pedicurist, were treated to warm receptions and the best Peking ducks in the Chinese capital. Soon Arroyo became a regular visitor. The Chinese promised easy unaccountable fundings for projects and ODAs. It was a case of see-money-first-then-look-for-projects, a situation where many hands are easily greased under many tables. Out of these deals came the infamous ZTE and North Rail projects.

Pardon my little digression on ZTE and North Rail.

  • ZTE – This was a case where thieves could not agree on how to split the loot and so the plunder eventually erupted into the open. The money trail went all the way up to the First Gentleman Mike Arroyo (are thieves also gentlemen?). Nobody went to jail except the whistleblower!
  • North Rail – Because of endemic corruption in Arroyo’s time, the Pnoy admin reviewed all deals they inherited. North Rail was found over-priced, bribery-ridden, and there had been no public bidding. Transport Sec Mar Roxas axed the project and then came the exit negotiation that ended up in the courts. On Nov 2017, an out of court settlement with the Chinese contractor was reached. DOTR and BCDA, the two agencies in charge of the PNR projects, said that despite the settlement, “the (Duterte) administration will still go after the government officials involved in the allegedly anomalous and overpriced contracts.” Are we to snicker and watch Transportation Sec. Arthur Tugade take on Arroyo and her cronies? They can’t even arrest Arroyo’s nephew for possession of drugs, for heaven sake.

Arroyo’s JMSU played right into China’s hands.

Then China hit jackpot in 2005 by getting Arroyo to agree to the Joint Maritime Seismic Understanding. JMSU was signed by PETRON, the China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC), and belatedly by PetroVietnam who earlier on had strong objections. This agreement allowed a tripartite venture to conduct seismic exploration in over 143,000 square kilometers west of Palawan. This was a tactical victory for China. It caused strong critics Vietnam and the Philippines to flip-flop their position on multilaterism on territorial disputes and drove a sharp wedge in ASEAN’s collectivism when it comes to China’s interest in the region. The division diminished ASEAN’s power as a bargaining block. More significantly, it pushed to the sidelines Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s strong attempt to bring territorial disputes into ASEAN forums with the objective to clobber a multilaterial legal framework. The Chinese preferred engagement based on non-transparency and grease money, bilateralism, and non-interference by other powers. Arroyo’s JMSU played right into China’s hands. If you think the timing suggests JMSU was a possible trade-off for the various project funding and grease money, welcome to the Mickey Mouse Club. Now, in the midst of all this, I’m wondering where was Mr Rigoberto Tiglao.

China was soon to learn the flip-side of non-transparency dealings. The puppeteer needed to keep the marionette strings attached. Too bad that’s something no money can guarantee. Noises grew louder against endemic corruption at the highest levels and the popularity of Arroyo plummeted. Congress, which was then more honorable than the sycophants now sitting in the House, saw the threat to Philippines sovereignty in the way Arroyo engaged China. They passed the Philippines Baseline Act in 2009. Amongst other things, this Act delineated Philippine boundaries in accordance with treaty obligations under UNCLOS and sought to ensure no Presidents in the future can arbitrarily cede away territories to a foreign country.

All the actions taken by the Pnoy admin seemed rational, coherent, focused and within legal bounds in accordance with their approach anchored on multilateralism, transparency, and legality.

President Pnoy came on the scene June 2010 and faced the challenge of the Scaborough Shoal incident in April 2012. In my opinion, it was a bad move on his part to use secretive back-door channels. In all probability Pnoy came into office without any concrete ideas or plans on tackling the China issue. But he soon learned from the JMSU experience and rightly opted for a multilateral and legal approach. These were the significant events in Pnoy’s admin:

  • Pnoy embarked on promoting multilaterism earnestly and spoke at many international and ASEAN forums on the issue of Chinese claims in the region and the need for solidarity of approach. He played the statesman’s role in drumming up support for the Philippines.
  • Pnoy sought closer co-operation with Japan to counter China’s influence.
  • Pnoy beefed up Philippine defense capabilities by increasing the defense budget and military hardware acquisition.
  • 2012 Sep – Pnoy promulgated Administrative Order No. 29, naming maritime areas on the western side of the Philippine archipelago as the West Philippine Sea. The order declares that the Philippines exercises “sovereign jurisdiction” in its exclusive economic zone, an area declared by Presidential Decree No. 1599 of 11 June 1978 to extend to a distance of two hundred nautical miles beyond and from the baseline from which the territorial sea is measured.
  • 2012 Dec – In an interview with the Times of India, VP Binay welcomed the statement made by Indian Navy Admiral Joshi who stated that the Indian Navy is prepared to operate in the South China Sea.
  • 2014 Mar – The Philippines submitted a case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in its case against China over competing South China Sea claims.
  • 2014 Apr – Philippines and US signed EDCA.
  • 2015 Feb – In a, New York Times interview, Pnoy compared the Chinese leadership to Nazi Hitler.
  • 2015 Jun – Pnoy repeated the Hitler comparison in a speech to the Japanese DIET.

Pnoy is not anti-China, but vehemently against Chinese expansionism in the WPS. One of his very first act was leading a trade and investment team to China in early 2011 where they secured US$13B investment pledges by Chinese commercial entities. His message was, we have issues, but we can still do business. Those who criticized Pnoy’s comparison of Chinese leaders to Hitler do not understand history and didn’t read the full text of the comment. He was telling the world to wake up to a rising China that is testing waters and their expansionism should not be met with appeasement policies. When Nazi Germany was testing waters, even when they took over Poland and Austria, the international community was still trying to appease Hitler. In any case, when the Philippines has launched a case against China at the UN, was he expected to say China is a goody-two-shoes? Whilst Pnoy was drumming up regional and international support for Philippines, China’s defense apparachik and Filipino detractors said he was beating war drums.

All the actions taken by the Pnoy admin seemed rational, coherent, focused and within legal bounds in accordance with their approach anchored on multilateralism, transparency, and legality.

Duterte’s China policy is Arroyo ver 2.0 on steroids, an approach based on bilateralism, secrecy, and extralegalities

A couple of weeks after taking office in Jun 2016, President Duterte was gifted with the UNCLOS decision. The Philippines had won the case against China. With his daredevil jetski promise, Filipinos welcomed a tough cookie into office and looked forward to some Chinese head bashing. What happened in the WPS after Duterte’s inauguration till today is still fresh in everybody’s mind; enumeration is unnecessary. In simple terms, Duterte’s China policy is Arroyo ver 2.0 on steroids, an approach based on bilateralism, secrecy, and extralegalities. On 8 July 2016, the new Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said that the Philippines is willing to share the natural resources of the West Philippine Sea with China. That set the tone for this new admin.

Beginning second half of 2015, China began reclamation works on some islands. It was around the time when Duterte was cresting and riding a wave of popularity on the campaign trail. Was the timing pure coincidence, or was there already something going on for the level of confidence by the Chinese? Perhaps at that point, they were certain of good riddance to a pesky Pnoy and the Liberal Party, and had a new marionette in place. China has gone on to build military installations, airports, installation of missiles and even conducted visits by nuclear warships. With each advancement in the Chinese build-up, Duterte’s admin turned their faces the other way in ‘monkey-no-see’ fashion. Duterte has trampled on Congress, the Senate, the Supreme Court, the Baselines Act, and the Constitution – to open all the sluice gates for China. If Arroyo was tempted by Chinese funding for infra projects, it was at least pursued at a time when Chinese debt entrapment was unknown. The Duterte admin is diving headlong into huge Chinese fundings for infra projects with full knowledge of several cases where countries have got into troubles with such debts.

The Philippines is a strange country. A perceived meek Filipino President had the lion’s courage to bring the world’s biggest bully to court in order to protect the country’s interest, and a large segment of the people puked at him. A strong thug of a President now bows cowardly to the bully, forsakes Filipino interests, and how they love him. And when all is lost, the last keeper of Filipino interests pretends to step in and do a public relations job of a Senate Inquiry into Philippines foreign affairs policy. And whereas for such a silly inquiry, purveyors of fraud from the rambunctious crowd like Tiglao, try to persuade an inutile Senate to look at the wrong direction.


168 Responses to “The low-down on The West Philippines Sea”
  1. Francis says:

    In Philippines—Noli and El Fili provide two common “ideals” in changing society: Crisostomo and Simoun.

    Problem with Crisotomo—symbol of all reformists—is he is too nice, thus gets eaten by the crocodiles. Many Crisostomos replace their excessive idealism with excessive cynicism—end up as Simouns. Tiglao is a smart guy, has done good analysis; why he has turned out this way: unfortunate.

    We need more metaphors for change, in any case.

    • karlgarcia says:

      Sorry to complicate matters, but if our coast guard was still part of the Navy we have nothing to replace the Del Pilar with to face those vessels.

      But why is the use of a warship taboo in the case of arresting foreign fishermen?
      Is it like the army assisting the police with arresting criminals.

      Lastly, how can a simultaneous pull-out like what Tiglao’s hindsight told him happen?

      • chemrock says:

        I believe Tiglao’s contention was the Scarborough Shoal was a disputed area, but it was still open seas for fishing. But the moment Philippines sent in the Navy, it is perceived as staking a claim, so other claimants will do try to do same. Thus China has reason for moving in.

        On the other hand, had Pnoy not done anything, Tiglao would surely have said the president was a lame duck, a coward, a chicken who would not do anythin.

        “ can a simultaneous pull-out like what Tiglao’s hindsight told him happen?
        Good question. I suppose we put Tiglao on a bangka there with a whistle….ready, get set, go.

        • karlgarcia says:

          Agree on all points.
          Especially the ready get set go part.

          • karlgarcia says:

            A quick glance on April 11, 2012 news.

            Navy adhere to rules of engagement when it atempted to arrest the fishermen.
            ADR tried to diplomstically resolve things with the Chinese ambassador.

            April 16, 2012

            A new coast guard ship (BRP Edsa)replaced the lone coast coast guard ship patrolling panatag(BRP Pampanga).

            The BRP Gregorio Del Pilar was already recalled for reprovisioning and will be on stand by.
            Navy chief says, the Coast Guard can handle the situation, and no need for Del Pilar.

  2. edgar lores says:

    1. Beautifully researched. The essay reads like “A Tale of Three Countries.” The historical dots connect and fall into place.

    2. The primary antagonists are Macapagal-Arroyo and Duterte. The main supporting casts consist of the lackluster Alberto Romulo (Arroyo’s DFA alter-ego) and the unfortunate Alan Cayetano (Duterte’s DFA alter-ego).

    3. The primary protagonist is PNoy. The main supporting actor is the redoubtable Albert del Rosario.

    4. The turning point that allowed China to dominate the South China Sea was undoubtedly the Magnificent 12’s decision to discontinue the US bases treaty in 1991. Such a short-sighted decision! The main cast consisted of misguided heroes and thorough villains. In particular, I mourn the folly of Salonga, Saguisag, and Tañada. Patriots all but with no understanding of geopolitics.

    4.1. The group should be renamed the Unmagnificent Dozen.

    5. Beware! The primary antagonists still rule the roost. And the slaughter of chickens continue.

    6. I never read Tiglao and Tatad. Perhaps I should in accordance with the Sun Tzu adage:

    “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

    • chemrock says:

      (3) Del Rosario may yet turn out to be the astute foreign affairs sec, But his past involvement with Pangilinan who has interest in Reed Bank will invariably cast him in an enigmatic role. Just as the Bush”s and Chenney’s oil interest may have compromised their decisions in the military conflicts in the middle east.

      [edited by JA: “middle east”]

    • karlgarcia says:


      I am placing the article by Tatad here not to piss you off, but simply to ask for feedback.

      • NHerrera says:

        Geopolitics, China vis-a-vis PH vis-a-vis US, according to Tatad. The article contains elements discussed in TSH. Thanks for the link, karl.

      • edgar lores says:

        The reason I don’t read Tatad is the slant. Here are two examples:

        1. “Large tracts of land and substantial mining operations, otherwise inaccessible to foreigners, are reported to have passed on to Chinese hands through Filipino dummies, and the clandestine arming and funding of communist armed groups are said to have exponentially increased. Informed sources expect two million Chinese “tourists” to visit the country next year, and every year thereafter, prompting a former tourism high official and some Department of Foreign Affairs bigwigs to propose outsourcing the issuance of Philippine visas to a private firm in Hong Kong, which has reportedly agreed to pay off the Filipino officials $20 per visa.” [Bolding mine.]

        1.1. Note the caveats. All the claims are hedged by “reported,” “said to have exponentially increased,” “informed sources expect,” and “reportedly.”

        2. “…They see him increasingly as a Chinese “political project” who was programmed to succeed Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2010 when she ended her term on a wreckage of multi-billion economic deals with Beijing. However, the plan ran aground when former President Corazon Aquino, who had been president from 1986 to 1992, died after a short illness, and her death was used by her family to catapult Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd to the presidency, with the help of Smartmatic, the Venezuelan election provider, which discarded all the legally required security and safety measures to win the election.” [Bolding mine.]

        2.1. “…her death was used by her family?” Really? This suggest manipulation when no manipulation took place.
        2.2. “…with the help of Smartmatic…” Really? Innuendo without proof.
        2.3. “…discarded all the legally required security and safety measures to win the election.” Really? What were the required security and safety measures? Innuendo without proof.

        You have to be on your toes to read Tatad to separate fact from fiction, chaff from grain.

  3. NHerrera01 says:

    Wow! Talk about a comprehensive article about geopolitics of the Philippines in relation to WPS and China. Look no more. This should be among the top 10 in the list, if not at the top of the list. Chemrock, my salute to you. Thanks TSH for publishing this article. Another of those articles here which is sure to elicit a lot of interesting and useful information on the subject. I see Edgar and Francis have already posted their useful comments.

  4. karlgarcia says:

    Recalling Francis statement that Duterte can Yes/No simultaneously.

    He said Trillanes committed treason for losing Scarborough, but Duterte just gave it away without a fight.

  5. madlanglupa says:

    OT: watching this now, after HBO and John Oliver has been banned in the Mainland.

  6. Before the Americas were conquered by Europeans, the Philippines was basically at the edge of Eurasian trade routes – both maritime and land-based.The Arabs, then the Portuguese followed Indian trade routes to reach what is now Indonesia. Shipping is cheaper than the old Silk Road.

    Spain only cared about conquering the Philippines when they had discovered a massive silver mine at Potosi, Bolivia. The galleon trade was born. The USA basically just took over the Spanish route over the Pacific when they in turn entered into the Asia trade.

    What China is trying to do is to roll everything back. The ports it is trying to own or owns like Hambantota etc. are like tracing back the old Portuguese/Arab trade route. The ideas of First and Second Island Chain sound like a rollback of the Spanish/US advance into the Pacific Ocean.

    During the periods before, Chinese emperors assumed everybody who came to trade was coming to pay TRIBUTE. China was the center of the known world, everybody else was a barbarian. This certainty or illusion was destroyed by Western gunboats in the 19th century – the truth hurt.

    Of course if one looks at the Philippines, it has been a keystone for global trade routes since the Americas came into the picture. Insignificant and left blissfully alone, it became an object of contention roughly 500 years ago. The mindset still has not fully adjusted to this nasty reality.


    Chempo, thanks for the backgrounder on the developments from 1991 onwards. One might also want to put some more context:

    1) most of the present Philippine oligarchs are of Chinese origin and came in after WW2.

    2) Marcos didn’t like the old Spanish mestizo oligarchy, but mass naturalized Chinese in 1975.

    Some more points:

    a) the pro-Western, pro-UN policies were by a Philippines that was still Western-dominated in its thinking and in terms of its influential money.

    b) there was a wide, American-system-educated middle class in postwar Philippines. About a million of them migrated to the USA from the mid-1960s onwards – including Manong sonny.

    c) Before 1991, Filipinos were very welcome to work in US Embassies and US bases. This crowd was in terms of social origin similar to the present-day OFWs.

    So in all classes, the formerly strong personal connection to the West has eroded by now, I think. Which explains why so few people seem to care about the annexation by China.

    “Beliefs” like Christianity or “convictions” like democracy never truly entered most Filipino minds – they were just a way of telling masters what they wanted to hear, I think. Even Christianity may prove not to have too deep roots in the country, except for its mere ceremonial value. We have discussed often that the Philippine mentality is “llamado”, meaning to bet on the winning rooster. China is seen as the winning rooster in world affairs, the West as receding in importance. The switch to China will be as opportunistic for the elites as the switches to Brunei, Spain, USA, Japan..

    • NHerrera says:

      Thanks for giving more context to chempo’s background, that is: looking back farther in time. About the chempo’s statement of lack of geopolitical experts, I would like to softly disagree — my opinion. This may be due to our observation that the Boss’ ideas, whoever he is at the time and this includes the DFA boss, is given more weight. I am writing without knowledge of the staff and consultants at DFA and the National Security Group. Rolio Golez, I believe was such a one. Also, the non-aggressiveness of geopol experts in the face of statements from above, again a cultural trait.

      • karlgarcia says:

        Maybe NH what he meant was the DFA is populated by cullinary graduates, that is why we have too many cooks.

      • sonny says:

        Ditto NH’s thanks to chempo, for masterfully crystallizing WPS situation & geo-politics of the Philippines. Thanks also to PiE for keeping track of our pre-Hispanic history, especially references to the Silk Road and the Great Crossings of the 16th century Age of discovery. Many points brought out and up in this blog-installment are both new and old to me. My own age of innocence (aka bubble) in geo-politics ended only in 1998 during the Philippine centennial celebrations in Chicago; my own Rizal-in-the-British-Museum moment, compliments of the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History, their 42,000 sq feet collection of Filipiniana, Chicago Art Museum collection of Daniel Burnham’s city plans of Manila and Baguio City and the Newberry Library Avery Philippine collection.

        My timeline for pre-Hispanic Philippines goes back 200 BC with the discovery of frankincense for trade, mostly compliments of the Internet. 🙂

    • chemrock says:

      Thks for the additional backgrounder.

      The 1 million emmigrating to US must have been a serious brain drain at the time, Is your figure on the mark?

      “So in all classes, the formerly strong personal connection to the West has eroded by now, I think. Which explains why so few people seem to care about the annexation by China.”
      I’m not quite sure of this, seeing the majority of Filipinos still have a higher trust rating of US in the surveys. It’s more like the people are not empowered to do anything. They just see the country slipping away under dictatorial hands.

      • sonny says:

        Chempo, I stopped counting (US million mark) in 1999, if memory serves; will verify. (I hope Karl beats me to it.)

      • “I’m not quite sure of this, seeing the majority of Filipinos still have a higher trust rating of US in the surveys. ” I also think it is a mixed bag.

        But to some extent, the trolls criticizing Leni Robredo for her US family visits, her daughter studying at Harvard etc. – making her look “pretentious”, almost Imeldific even (ridiculous) are reaching a certain audience, probably those jealous of those who made it to the US.

    • Francis says:


      There is still a considerable “Westernized” portion of the elite—especially higher up or closer to the “metropole” of Manila.

      They may go along with our pivot towards Beijing (if they agree with the administration or find it in their self-interest to do so) but their souls are still closely intertwined with the West, with conversations and discourses in the West.

      That “sentimental” subjective factor—I don’t see China being competitive in, anytime too soon. Perhaps, a reason why Beijing is still not convinced (despite Duterte’s pangliligaw) of the pivot’s authenticity?

  7. When Britain announced to withdraw its forces east of Suez in 1968, Singapore asked them to postpone if not remain. This was three years after Singapore was kicked out of Malaysia. The war in Vietnam was in full swing. Being surrounded by Malaysia and Indonesia, which sanctioned a terrorist attack in Singapore to destabilize Malaysia (Konfrontasi, MacDonald House bombing), Singapore knew damn well what the balance of power meant. We Filipinos should have known better.

  8. NHerrera says:


    Sometime later — not now when chempo’s article and associated comments are hot, will you kindly give your comment on Erdogan’s win in Turkey, and if you have the time.

  9. karlgarcia says:

    Thank you for your note on Appeasement and Pnoy’s Hitler comment.

    British Foreign policy was geared towards appeasing Nazi Germany.

    • karlgarcia says:

      This reminds me of the Mel Brooks movie “To Be or Not to Be”. Hitler wanted Peace… A peace of Italy, A peace of Poland, etc.

  10. caliphman says:

    Its hard to wrap ones head around the various threads of chemmies generally excellent article. My own view is Tiglao is hardly worth any space in the blog. His opinions and reporting have long been discredited and his fake and flawed narrative add little to understanding as to who and how Scarborough Shoal was lost to China.

    It is my belief that the impetus for China to claim and convert the WPS to its own territorial sea has its origins in Xi’s spectacular rise to power in the Politburo. From an economic standpoint, Scarbor ough and the Spratleys offer little benefit and great risk to China’s reputation as a peaceful and non-threatening business and trading partner in the region.As a signatory to the international treaties on control and rights to the open seas, it signaled to irs neighbors its willingness to refrain from the use of force or to expand its claims.of sovereignty over waters stated in the agreements.

    It is no coincidence that Xi’s gathering strength at first came with his early success in steering the transformation of China’s giant economic engine from one reliant on the exporter and manufacturer of goods wanted by the world to one where the growing wealth of its populace and industrial growth became the driver of its economic muscle.

    In recent years, Xi has been announcing that it is China’s priority to defend its sovereignity and put into place an ambitious plan to strengthen its military including.its naval capability.This appears to have consolidated his power within he strong military faction within the Politburo and put into play an aggressive and expansive strategy with regard to its regional neighbors. It explains the strategic turnaround in scuttling its international ocean agreements, coming up with its 9-line territorial claim, and more ominiously militarizing and using its artificial island bases as a prelude to turning the WPS to a Chinese territorial inland sea.

    Whether or not keeping US bases, the Trillanes-del Rosario imbroglio, the use of bilateral instead of regional or UN based approaches, etc would ultimately have changed the end results is questionable given the larger context of China’s strategy and its eillingness to resort to firce ir the use of it, if necessary.

    • NHerrera says:


      We have at least two geopolitical views here: one expressed by chemrock in the blog article; the other by caliphman — this one driven by Chinese Leaders Strategic Imperatives, one in turn driven by Chinese domestic considerations, outside of those explained in the blog article. Let me call the first one GP1 and the latter, GP2. Distinct from these two, there may be a plausible other view which we may call GPX. A hybrid scenario may look something like,

      GPH = a*GP1 + b*GP2 + c*GPX

      where a, b, c are percentage numbers which total 100 percent.

      I do not know what GPX is, but If I have to assign percentages, it may look something like,

      a = 35%
      b = 50%
      c = 15%

      with the related note that the gifting of Duterte to China of items we have repeatedly discussed strengthens the more, China’s strategy.

      (I concede, this is a crazy assignment of percentage numbers to a, b, c, since I do not know what GPX is. If you believe this post is not worth the blog space it occupies, I may agree with you.)

    • chemrock says:

      We are in agreement on Tiglao. The reason I place him in this blog is to call out a detractor who is currently rehashing his old claims in advance of a senate inquiry.

      My article isolated the subject matter purely to Philippines actions and omissions that contributed to the status quo in the WPS.

      You have nicely suggested the external factors, the Chinese political and economic development. You provided the raison d’être for China’s push into the South China Seas.

      While we confine ourselves to relatively developments, China holds a very long term view in their plans. They probably calculate their moves from their perspective of a continium of their long history. I wrote a blog some time back on this. Much as I agree to your reasonings, and not in support of Chinese actions in WPS, I believe the linked video may evoke some empathy on Chinese motives.

      The video provides a good perspective of Chinese history and highlights the naked agression the country has suffered for hundres of years when they were a large but weak nation. It’s easy to understand their frame of mind if you watch the video.

      • caliphman says:

        Chemmie, ours is but a difference in perspective and scale. The US and China have been global actors and competitors in a chess match where we are but pawns defending our territory but more importantly our pride.

        This chess match was for about fifty years was more ideological and even more titanic until the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the emergence and success of China’s new political/economic model. Before then the emphasis was expanding if not containing the dominance of the competing ideological blocs and this was through military, political, and economic power. Fast forward to the present and we are at a juncture where the US is the world’s strongest military power and China the second biggest, most powerful, and faster growing economy. The US now is less willing to spend its treasure and risk an armed or pitentially nuclear confrontation except in self-defense or where it can project its power where the risk to its forces are relatively minimal. And flush with its economic strength, China seeks to use its wealth to buildup its military and naval forces so it can exert its will to reacquire its proclaimed lost provinces and more recent questionable territorial claims, without being deterred by the intervention of the US Seventh Fleet.

        Which leaves the Philippines where it is. Deprived of its rights to Scarborough Shoals and its vital fish resources, and more tragically the loss of its national pride and willingness to fight for its own territory. Without doubt, the current strategy of appeasement will fail just as Neville Chamberlain’s idea of surrendering a piece of Europe to Hitler did not prevent the bloodbath which was World War II. Perhaps the seizure and occupation by force of Scarborough was a foregone conclusiion in the long run, given that it has been all along Chinese military strategy to create and fortify their artificial islands to achieve their ultimate hoal of turning the WPS as their inland sea. But perhaps the prize for Xi and the Politburo is not the territorial but, with Duterte’s collaboration, the economic and political manipulation and domination of the Philippines as part of the party’s five and ten year plan.

        • I think that a clearer US-Philippine alliance would have China treading more carefully..

          The Chinese propaganda line is of course that Chinese expansion is totally inevitable.

          Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal, so clearly in Philippine territorial waters, would be under the US-Philippine MDT. The Chinese line is that the US will not help the Philippines. Well, there would have been a chance to test that assumption.

          As chemrock mentioned, there are those who are more strident like Vietnam and Indonesia.

          The Philippines is more like “if rape is coming, lie down and enjoy it”.

          • chemrock says:

            I believe Caliphman too is inclined to the idea the march of Chinese expansion is inevitable. Im skewed towards that too. But I think Philippines facllitated that. With US out of the bases, that emboldebed China’s adventurism in this region and probably put their plans one gear up and speeded up developments maybe 10 or 20 years.

            • The Chinese believe in the inevitability of their expansion just like they believed they were “All under Heaven” before and that all “barbarians” came not to trade, but to pay tribute.

              Unlike Western Empires (Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Rome, Turkey) China was lucky to never be dismantled. But also never got the idea that started in Medieval Europe, that there is a God above Emperors and Kings, that states follow common rules and the Pope is higher – ideas which eventually developed into the likes of the EU and the UN. The flexibility of both organization and ideas in the West, as opposed to the rigidity of China, was its advantage.

              Japan was also assumed to be an unstoppable power in the 1980s – where is it now?

              Possibly China will in some decades reach the coast of Hawaii, and then what? Will the USA cave in as it is “weakened by having many races” like Duterte once literally said?

              The Sons of Heaven (Chinese) may not quite be the Master Race they think they are.

              • Thank you for collecting the thoughts that were bouncing around in my mind. It is a measure of justice that the world should begin to end in 100 years as Stephen Hawking predicted. When great races such as China believe in supreme destiny rather than rational consideration that recognizes the worth of other peoples, then such an ending is somehow morally satisfying. That is, we can know that even China cannot win the big one.

              • NHerrera says:

                I would have said that you un-made my day. One can write several books painting the different scenarios, but the end time of more or less a century does not seem improbable, no thanks only to China. That fulfills in a grand way, “from dust thou art, to dust thou shall return.”

              • karlgarcia says:

                Have no fear, Andres 2118 will make sure that the world will not end in 100 years. Maybe when he reads about Hawking, he will say that he is overrated.

              • sonny says:

                Can’t pinpoint. All I can say is that the American transformer is blessed with so much going for it: it can be eagle, elephant, donkey, human when it wills to be so.

              • chemrock says:

                Irineo, I think you painted a somewhat unbalanced view of the Chinese. They were rather civilised’ compared to Europe in the dark ages. China had civil service, proper examinations for legislative and executive jobs in govt, they had banking system etc long before the anywhere in the world. The advancement of the Han people declined in mid 1600s onwards after Manchuria lorded over the country in the form of the last dynasty – the Ching Dynasty I think it is more or less from the Renaissance period that European civilisation stepped up and from then went on to surpass the East in terms of intellectual and innovative development.

                If you view Chinese ancient history, they have never ever went out conquering nations, like the hordes of Ghenzis Khan or Attila the Hun, despite the great advantage in numbers and at times when at the height of economic powers. Admiral Cheng Hoe’s maritime voyage with 100,000+ vessels was the biggest naval voyage the world has ever seen. They went on exploratory mission, much like Jacqui Cousteau, to promote Chinese culture, and to encourage trade. To secure strong friendship, they took many young princesses and married them off to local lords.

                Of course they are no angels and there are human rights issues and some aggression agsint Nepal and Tibet in their modern history. Just like any other country.If you view the video I attached above, it is obvious China’s aggression is coming from the insecurity of a country that had been traumatised in the last 600 years by wars brought upon them by far stronger military powers.

                As to the idea of monothelitism. well the Chinese had been under a strong pacificist Buddhist influence and the numerous gods of Taoism. They bow to emperors, Buddha and various gods, Confucianism had been. and sill is, a very strong moral anchor.

                The Chinese had never spoken of Master Race, in the manner of Nazi Hitler for the Aryans, or the Ku Klux Jlan and other white supremacists. The idea of the Middle Kingdom was a very long ago thinking that they were civilised as compared to those regions surrounding them that they consider babarians. It led to an inward looking society – they rather not have dealings with babarians and left them alone, rather than an outward conquering drive as was the case with all other countries in world history.

                To take things into perspective, China and India, by sheer size of population, can do things that all other more powerful countries cannot. Nazi Germany, WW2 Japan, modern day America, Great Britain, and all other colonialists of the past — they all can win battles and wars, but they cannot retain territority foreever. They simply don’t have the manpower to colonise the land. Its to our great luck that both India and China has never pursued such ambitions as all those Judeo-Christian colonialists of the past.

                As to your question where is Japan now, the implication is that China will fizzle out. I think China will go on and contribute greatly to mankind’s advancement in terms of innovation. 400 years under the Manchus and 200 years under communism retarded the Chinese mind. Just imagine, in one generation they have leapfrogged into the forefront of the modern scientific world. No doubt they have got to where they are now with the help of the world that want their products, with the help of investments from international players, with lots of other countries assistance in terms of taking in Chinese students, and with knowledge gained inappropriately. Having reached par level, the indomitable Chinese spirit and mind. projecting forward, I think their contribution will be unstoppable’. My hope only is that they will in turn play a useful and positive role for human kind.

              • Chemrock, yes, the decline of China came after Cheng Ho’s fleet was dismantled and Europe made its comeback. The Han and the Roman empire were around the same time early AD and were similar in level of civilization, until the Roman empire was destroyed.

                China was self-contained, protected by deserts, mountains, steppes, jungles and the sea in different directions. It never was challenged as much as any empire in Western Eurasia. Therefore it also was less aggressive while the warlike West eventually came around 1840.

                The danger of China is now that of a certain desire for revenge – and making up for lost opportunities from the scrapped armada of Cheng Ho. Building “treaty ports” much like the Portuguese, who forced their way into Goa, Malacca, Ternate, Macau and Nagasaki.

                Conquering island chains much like the US did by getting Hawaii first, Samoa later, Guam and the Philippines last. Rolling back the perceived injustice of history to rule the world, just like the West has ruled the world for the past 200 years? Global Chinese Heavenly Peace?

                But as you mentioned there is India. They will definitely not submit to any kind of Pax Sinica. Russians are allied with China against the USA, but at heart they are even more white supremacist and fundamentalist Christian. Even if both defeat the USA, they will not be friends anymore after that, much like the USA and Russia were no longer really allies the moment they had defeated the Germans. The world always tends to find its own balance.

              • “As to your question where is Japan now, the implication is that China will fizzle out.”

                The Japanese have not fizzled out. They have taken a certain place in the international community, a pretty respectable one and will remain technologically advanced.

                China has that chance also. It may have to go through some lessons the Japanese (and Germans) went through. Or the conflict that ensues might destroy the world completely.

            • caliphman says:

              Chemmie, that generally is my thinking. However I think China’s expansionist behavior and recent use of force to seize control of its territorial claims is in line with its publicly self-declared priority of building up its military strength and using it to establish its sovereignty. It is not driven by the desire for me too colonial conquest and empire building that led to thregione US subjugating the Philippines. Neither is it like the Japanee military invasions of the region in WW where the motivation was economic and to control strategic resources through an Asian Coprosperity sphere. Neither is it ideological like it was in the in the last midcentury where the titanic struggle was between capitlalism and communism.

              If one believes the CCP’s declarations on its aggressiive military policy, the strategy is primarily defensive with the intent of reacquiring territories and seas which were historically once part of China. This explanation is more plausible in the case of Taiwan and less so with the questionable 9-line claim which fllies in the face of the international agreements it has signed on the rights and control if the seas adjacent to the territories of neighboring countries.

              The main deterent to implementing China’s territorial ambitions in the region has been US military and naval muscle. Whether it is to invade Taiwan or to turn WPS to an inland sea. A surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and US military assets in the region as Japan did is no longer a feasible option. Building a deep water naval capability to counter the Seventh Fleet is a very long term project and acquiiring a thirty year old converted aircraft carrier is a very dubious start. So it is hardly surprising that China has opted for an alternative and more realistic strategy of springing its 9-line claim, establishing eventual sovereignty and military control over its claimed inland sea via its artificial island bases to deal with its very extended supply lines from the mainland.

              Whether or not keeping the US bases in Subic and Clark would have delayed or deterred China’a aggressive and expansive new posture is unclear. China is much stronger and bolder and the US apparently less willing to militarily defend its traditional allies than when the bases were closed. As I mentioned in a previous comment, to ask who in the Philippines was responsible or culpable in losing Scarborough Shoals to China is a very complex one and has no easy answer.The loss of Scarborough was the outcome of China’s new sovereignty and military policy being put to a test intentionally or not, perhaps prematurely, by the Philippines trying to reassert its own right to control foreign fishing or coral mining activities within the atoll. The fact that control was decided by who had the military might to enforce it and the willingness to use it changes the nature of the argument. That is almost always the outcome in such situations and the strategic response of the weaker country is to look to a credible and willing military alliance to even up or counter the mismatch. In this instance, US willingness even if it had Philippine bases would have been the issue.

              • No colonial ambitions? Belt and Road, control of ports and bases worldwide is at least an attempt to control global trade routes, have its own ports like Portugal had back then.

                Island Chain strategy can be seen as “defensive”, creating buffer zones against the USA – but those island chains are basically Taiwan, the Philippines and further outwards.

                Somewhat like the Warsaw pact was a “defensive” layer for the Soviet Union before.

                As for the US being reluctant to defend, that is exactly what China and Duterte say.

                Where this reluctance comes if true is another question. Another question is: would other alliances like Indonesia, Vietnam, India give more insurance? Other countries also want to keep the trade routes open, not controlled by China, so I think creativity was lacking.

              • caliphman says:

                A colony as traditionally understood usually meant a separate country or territory under government and military control and cosidered part of the colonizer’s possessions or empire. This is the context I am using it in reference to China’s expansionist policies. This could be extended to Hongkong and Macau which were former foreiign colonies carved out from China. But I would be unsure whether China would characterize a recovered Taiwan as a colony nor have any plans to turn the Philippines as a vassal state.

                As for the US being a reluctant military and base ally, this is not only what China and Duterte claims, but it is also what Trump is saying. His campaign rhetoric included NATO and the EU carrying more of the financial and military burden to defend Europe. Not that his recent tweets about halting military drills with South Korea and reducing US troops in South Korea and Japan any less troubling.

              • All right, then we can call it neocolonialism. Grabbing ports and natural resources. Installing puppet governments in banana republics. Debt trap diplomacy – no need for direct control.

                And of course the Chinese attitude of racial superiority towards brown Southeast Asians.

                Again, if Trump/USA doesn’t help, there are other alternatives to get help. Doing nothing might even mean Sinification of the Philippines. The original Filipinos marginalized like the original inhabitants of Taiwan maybe, to make space for millions from the mainland?

              • chemrock says:

                Caliphman, I share your sentiments wholesale. China’s moves even in the WPS is defensive in nature. Largely in part due to their traumatic experience in the past 600 years where they have been humiliated and suffered terribly under the hands of very much smaller countries with superior military might. Now that they have caught up militarily, in fact, surpassed many of their previous tormentors, they are trying to minimise past events, they wont let happen again. They are building spheres of influence to esconce a China with friendly neighbourhoods but in a way that is different from Russia, Nazi Germany and Japan in the past. In most other countries, they are doing it with loans and development assistance/ This is what they are doing except for Nepal and WPS where our argument is lost.

                As to debt trap, I think countries cannot argue like cry babies. They took the loans with open hands and all creditors demand repayment. No different from any Wall Street loan. If Philippines go for Chinese fundings for the huge infra programme, and if unfortunately the iron law of megatproject is true, and debt trap is the destiny, it is a trap that Filipinos walked into willingly. Don’t blame nor cuss the Chinese.

              • edgar lores says:

                I have to disagree.

                To characterize China’s moves as defensive is a serious miscalculation.

                Internally and externally, China’s moves are predatory in nature. The country seeks dominion and domination. And whether they do so out of insecurity, out of survivalist mode, out of PTSD for historical wrongs, as a defense mechanism, is no excuse.

                At core, the Chinese government does not have respect for human rights. And it is this non-recognition of a self-evident truth that is dangerous. From this core of disrespect grows the comprehensive disrespect for other countries and other people.

              • Yes, one of the major flaws in the “defensive” argument is the lack of respect granted to other nations such as the Philippines. That is not defensive. Where are the good faith efforts to demonstrate that respect? High interest loans? Zero help after disasters? Occupying Scarborough even though it will, according to China, not be developed? Then let the fishermen fish this common ground without such an offensive presence. Remove the ships.

        • caliphman says:

          There are no vast riches or proven natural resources on or underneath the WPS worth grabbing using China’s gunboat diplomacy. As for ports, it remains to be seen whether Subic offers anything that the Chinese artificial ports and airfields are not capable of providing its surface, aircraft and missile forces.

          As I undertstand neocolonialism, it was a practice of influencing and controlling other countries,particulatly former dependencies using economic, cultural, and political pressure. This is not the case here as China is using bully boy tactics to occupy Scarborough and other Spratley islands to carry out its strategic agenda of turning WPS to its inland sea.

          Do not get me wrong. I have not advocated doing nothing to resist the Chinese seizure of our legal territories and seas. To me finding out who is culpable in the loss of Scarborough is not as concerning as the lack of will and effort by the present regime to contest or even to protest the Chinese takeover. If the governnent is unwilling to engage the Chinese militarily, the alternative is not to placate, submit to, or pay protection money or deals to contain or alkeviate the adverse effects of China’s policy and military strategy. In the end, the countrynot only loses its self-respect and national pride but the government will offer China deals not for the benefit of its citizens but to appease and favor the Chinese.

    • caliphman says:

      -edit: “…its willingness to resort to firce or threaten the use of it, if necessary.

    • NHerrera says:

      There is a website that regularly comes out with comments on the geopolitics of the world powers. It names itself as GPF — Geopolitical Futures, introduced to me by karl. One of its regular commentary is on the geopolitics of China. In one, it comments that although Xi Jingping is set to rule for life, if he wants to, the future is not necessarily hunky dory for him and the Politburo. It notes the truism of a statement that China will have to balance a lot of things, in its desire to be “numero uno.” One of GPF’s e-book [which I have not read, cheap that I am to buy it] is “Taming the Bureaucratic Beasts in China.” Which book is supposed to geopolitically explain the big constraints confronting China in its forward march. The book was probably written before Trump’s more recent moves that add further barrier to China’s ambition.

      • NHerrera says:

        Referring to my post above [NHerrera says: June 25, 2018 at 6:11 pm], the website’s geopolitical view on China, is what I may have in mind for my GPX.

        • karlgarcia says:

          I am cheap too, before i download via torrent from software to e-books,but after 2 laptops becoming unusable, I refrained from downloading.

          We have rich articles and commentaries now in TSH about WPS and geopolitics from Joe,Yvonne, Andrew,Distantobserver,chemrock and josephivo, of course Irineo has his articles in his blog.
          Forgive me if I missed anyone.

          • NHerrera says:

            I was tempted once to use torrent but never did. Thanks for the note: the sad fate of your two laptops from using torrent.

  11. Andres 2018. says:

    1. The 2016 Arbitration Case victory is overrated. It never address any sovereignty issue on Scarborough Shoal, or never acknowledged that Scarborough Shoal is part of PH EEZ . It never commanded China to dismantle its installations in Mischief Reef. The Arbitration Case is open ended, it leaves the Philippines so many choices after that.

    2. I wonder, we are willing to offer some parcels of our land for the US bases, why not offer it to China? We can be friend the US, why not China?

    • karlgarcia says:

      Hi Andres!
      Someone asked Joe something similar, but it s about Chinese workers in the Philippines.

      • “We can be friend the US, why not China?” Strange grammar. Chinese?

        I wonder if Filipinos have thought about the answer to that question.

        If all they have as an answer is gaping open mouths, sorry for them.

    • NHerrera says:

      I too like simple explanations or views on things as most of us do. But if befriending countries, as we should China is done this way — insult the US and EU but be very very servile to China, then my understanding of befriending is all wrong.

      • I read a comment somewhere that those who think the relationship with China is friendship cannot distinguish between courtship and rape.

        And added it is not surprising that Duterte might not know the difference.

    • The short answer is because China does not demonstrate a good faith interest in Filipino interests. Friday’s blog will consider Duterte’s cooperative approach to the WPS. You’ll be right at home with that discussion.

    • caliphman says:

      You might want to be better briefed on what the Arbitration decision was all about. It concluded that Scarborough atoll, regardless of who owned it, was not legally entitled to an EEZ zone in accordance with an international agreement China itself signed. By doing do, the open seas adjacent to Scarborough were affirmed to be part of the Philippine EEZ, being within 200 miles of Masinloc, Zambales.

  12. karlgarcia says:

    Last months news.

    Cayetano: Philippines will go to war with China, if it crosses the red line.
    Duterte: I won’t go to war, I can not win.

  13. karlgarcia says:


    NH has a hanging question.
    He ask for your comment about Erdogan’s win.

    • NHerrera says:

      Thanks for the prompt, karl. But Irineo is probably busy, especially considering the complexity of the Erdogan conundrum.

    • chemrock says:

      Edrogan’s win in this time of history is scary for those who study eschatology, or the end times. Isreal will battle Mog and Magog in a final war. Who is Magog? bible say its the land far North of Isreal, so many are divided between Russia and Turkey. If Turkey is Magog, Endrogan is Gog.

      My money is on Turkey, for the simple reason the seat of Satan was in Turkey in the Pergamon Temple. (By the way, the altar of Pergamon was taken by Nazi Germany and placed in a Pergamon Musuem. One end time prophecy is when the nations of Europe unite as one. Long after the Roman Empire, there has been 2 failed attempts to unite Europe — by Hitler and Napoleon Bonaparte. And now we have EU, under German leadership),

      Something scary — Isreal will be invaded by 200 million people of Magog and others identified as Persia (Iran), Libya and Sudan, all Muslim countries. The aggregate of the population of these 4 countries is about 200m.

      Why is Edrogan scary at this time. He has alliance with Russia and both armies are now in Syria.

  14. Francis says:

    I would disagree with characterizing the decision to kick out US Bases as merely populist. While I suppose that there were populist motivations there—there were also sincere reasons that were and are deeply rooted in the Filipino soul.

    Why is Duterte being such a “little man” when it comes to geopolitics? A possible reason may be his inexperience as a mere mayor—while another reason may be the self-interest of the shady company that he keeps. I think these are superficial though—and do not adress the fundamental question: how can a nation tolerate such cowardly words and actions from her elite?

    If there is anything that must be true in geopolitics—it is that love is not forever, but realpolitik is. You don’t have to be a bleeding-heart liberal to realize the importance of realpolitik, of being pragmatic and realistic when it comes to the hard-knocks world of geopolitics. You don’t have to be a democratic society to act in a realistic fashion and seek all means to pursue the self-interest of your state; look at North Korea, and see an authoritarian elite that seeks the self-interest of its state—because without a strong position for the North Korean state, the elite at Pyongyang know they are nothing.

    Realpolitik comes as natural to nations as breathing. Why the Filipinos are naive—why realpolitik is foreign to us—says a lot about our sense of nation, particularly our elite’s sense of nation.

    Independence is not something you attain in one day. It is a state of mind that one gradually grows into. To ground our discussions—before speaking of the independence of nations, let us speak of the independence of men. How does an child become an adult? He learns from school and life; he reads books and builds friendships that are outside the control of his parents. He eventually graduates from the system of formal education; the certificates he earned, he uses to get a job. A salary enables him to start slowly providing for himself. Eventually—there comes a point where the once-kid is now able to rent (or perhaps—own) his own house or apartment, his own space as it were.

    Yet, independence is not the end-goal. There are friendships; one blossoms into love. Marriage. Children. Family. Parents, now requiring your care. Civic Life. We live in a society; no man is an island. Interdependence. However—to be in a state of proper interdependence (i.e. to be fit for a relationship, to provide for your parents) one must have gained a sufficient degree of independence. You cannot be interdependent, without having once been independent. And no one is born independent.

    What can we learn from this analogy of adulthood?

    1. Independence is not binary. It is a continuum.

    2. Independence is not a static trait, where one is born inherently “independent” and the other isn’t. It is something that is trained, that is honed—a skill of sorts, a mindset that is gradually developed. Milestones, from this perspective, are critical; they not only mark key points in one’s life—but also are crucial to building momentum and confidence.

    3. Independence is not the ultimate goal—living with others is that ultimate goal, I reckon: that is—interdependence. However, you have to be independent first before becoming interdependent.

    Let us place those three insights into the realm of nations and geopolitics:

    1. A formal declaration of independence doesn’t necessarily mean you are independent in the fullest sense. Some formally independent states may be more independent that other formally independent states.

    2. A culture of independence among the elite is not something that comes inherently to an elite class or group. These elite classes or groups have to repeatedly “practice” or “hone” their culture of independence by repeated action. Milestones are also important here—they can become a significant part of an elite group’s identity (i.e. historical moments become key parts of national history—narrative bolstering elite legitimacy to rule, and elite’s confidence in themselves) and a series of reference points whenever an elite class or group has to take significant action.

    3. Nations cannot live alone. They live in a world, a community of nations. The peoples of the world need each other. However—to be successful in this community, to not be a target of “panggogoyo” or to not be taken advantage of—you must have proven a certain degree of independence.

    How can one fit Duterte, Gloria and the US Bases here?

    The articles notes, “Of all the countries in Asean, the Philippines has the least understanding of geopolitics in the region.”

    There is one possible reason for that: we never had to worry about geopolitics. As much as the nationalists may like to moan—the “Filipino” began with the Spanish colonization; enough proof of that is in the name alone: “Filipino” after “Felipe” the King. What has set us apart in the ASEAN is this:

    “As the only Catholic nation in the East, a robust democracy, the Philippines had always displayed a very strong independent streak in international forums, especially ASEAN…”

    Colonialism has laid deeper roots in the Philippines than in any other nation in the ASEAN. We were the ex-colony most versed in the language of our colonizer (English) and most attached to the religion brought by our colonizer (Christianity). This is simply not true elsewhere in the ASEAN except maybe Singapore—and Singapore is a special case being a city-state.

    You have understand what this does to an elite class or group. It is not just that the Spanish (and American) militaries have guarded us for centuries—though that is very important too. It is also that—unlike other elites in our fellow ASEAN nations—our elite has never quite seen itself as the metropole to aspire to; the metropole, the ideal was always in Madrid—in Washington D.C.

    We must never forget that the first demand of Rizal and his contemporaries was autonomy not independence. They considered themselves both Filipinos and Spanish; entitled to their dignity as Filipinos, and their rights as Spaniards.

    (This is a bit unrelated to the main thrust of my comment—but this is why I strongly disagree with Irineo’s pessimistic vision of the future, where he suggests that we may eventually all speak Mandarin as we all speak English now. The conditions for the total colonization necessary for such a drastic shift are impossible bar the unrealistic prospect of war. And the deep influence of Western civilization among the elite means that—bar any attempt to impose a new elite i.e war—the elite will always have this preference towards the West, and if not the nations of the West, then its ideals.)

    If our elite never quite saw themselves as ever detached from the foreign metropole—and if said foreign metropole(s) have consistently done the duty that was supposed done by our elite: police our borders—then, it is worth re-examining #2 and ask:

    “Is there a weak culture of independence among our elite—resulting from not only an ambiguous identity, but also repeated lack of practice.”

    I concede that, in the short-term and medium-term, the US Bases—in hindsight—may have been necessary to us now. But I insist in the long run that being free of the US Bases—to not enjoy the subsidies that come with hosting a base, and more importantly, to not have an elite psychologically dependent on them—was necessary in building a long term culture of independence that could truly facilitate independent (and maybe later, interdependent) action.

    This is not a leftist thing. This is just me being concerned with an elite unable to practice (or unused to practicing) realpolitik—and questions of how to get to an elite that can “pee itself in the bathroom by itself” so to speak. This is the sort of thing that Lenin and Kissinger can agree on.

    (Of course—how we survive, how we do realpolitik, is an inherently ideological thing like all questions of politics. I don’t want to paint realpolitik as a purely objective thing—what state of survival we aim for is a subjective question, dependent on our subjective interpretation of facts, facts that will never be truly objective as a result of our always-biases/always-normative lens of interpretation—but that is outside the scope of this comment.)

    There are some people who will point out Europe? Is Europe any less independent because of US Bases, because of NATO? No—because the European elite (see Merkel’s recent picture with Trump) see themselves as partners of America; they have a clear culture of independence—once upon a time, they were empires…

    What about South Korea and Japan? What about their cultures of independence? Well, I will say that while the Koreans and Japanese are a bit dependent in military terms—their economic and cultural independence is quite clear. In the economic realm, particularly—their elites practice and hone their culture/sense of independence a lot. Worth noting too that Japan used to be imperialistic, and Korea had a life-or-death national security concern up north—conditions that possibly helped Japanese and Korean elites’ “independence muscles” to not atrophy.

    A teenager is almost always rebellious to his or her parents, at some point. He must “go out of the house” and experience the world–perhaps meet people his or her parents would otherwise not want him or her to meet. It is shame that, in the case of the young adolescent Philippines—we yell at Uncle Sam, go out of his house and towards that suspicious man from Beijing. I suppose that the leftists may have a point—Uncle Sam may have been sometimes abusive—but I don’t think that Beijing is any better.

    In fact, Beijing’s activities abroad, such as their actions in Africa and nations like Sri Lanka—and even her treatment of her own countrymen and near-abroad, i.e. Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, etc. should raise a lot of concerns of how they would treat mere “foreigners” like ourselves. America has done bad things—but in America, it is possible for a Twain to call bullshit on the imperialistic fantasies of Washington, it is possible for investigative reporters to put a fire up the ass of Foggy Bottom, it is not seen as odd for a substantial portion of the intelligentsia and citizenry to sometimes put aside their own self-interest as citizens—and consider things from a universal and humanistic standpoint; in China, I doubt a Twain could survive for longer than a day, much less arise and thrive unscathed—and I am scared of how a combination of the population fed on nationalistic propaganda by a party desperate to maintain legitimacy, the fact of men outnumbering women and men unable to find wives, and a general need for compensation after having the “Middle Kingdom” to a piddling status during the heyday of European Imperialism, will maybe mesh into something…ugly.

    In life—it is necessary for us to go outside our parents’ shadows. We must grow up. So too with nations.

    I am not advising that right now, we dismiss American aid—but should start considering now how to build a “culture of independence” on the psychological level, at least. We must foster “independent” mindsets, and institutions with institutional cultures that can foster this “culture of independence” in our nation.

    I love the West, I love her ideals—but we cannot gain true appreciation for her ideals (interdependence) without having our nation experience some distance at first. That is where I diverge with the nationalists and leftists, who seem to think that independence is the end not the means for something higher, nobler.

    What concrete policy should we work towards?

    I hate to be a cynic—but assume islands lost. In any case: to consider West Philippines Sea as the theater of war, the stage—that is mistaken. The “quest” for “a culture of independence” must start here, at home. The real battle is here. Fukoku Kyohei: a Meiji-era slogan in Imperial Japan that meant, “Rich Country, Strong Army.” Note that a strong army is impossible without a rich country.

    We—or rather, our naive elite—should not just see economic growth as mere vote-getters (the thought process of the trapos) or as (per the thought process of the good reformers) ways to alleviate the suffering poor—but as a means to further the strategic interests of nation, the strategic space of the nation to act, etcetera.

    We require a unified, holistic strategy from our elite—Grand Strategy—for the islands are just a symptom.

    Question of the Day:

    “How can nation-states preserve and expand strategic spaces for action, in a globalizing world where usual state action options (i.e. tariffs) are now limited?”

    Creativity is a must.

    • Francis says:


      The opposition would do a lot of good—if it paired calls for defense of our sovereignty in thosse disputed maritime territories in the West PH Sea with calls for nation-building: strengthening our institutions here, economic development.

      Makes it less a theoretical issue. Makes it more real. Also: good inspiration and motivation for useful theories and policies.

    • Francis says:


      Duterte backtracking victory at Hague = Quitting Gym for “Independence Muscles”

    • Adulthood and independence and mutual dependence are phases of life, and one can go through them blindly or emotionally and never put them into a kind of thinking context of accountability and giving that is necessary for real independence. The Philippines has not found true independence for the failure to find sacrifice, I think . . . yes, because of all the historical dependencies. But lost love is a teaching moment, and the loss of US bases is instructive. The lesson is NOT to sever ties with the US, but to build them on Philippine terms. That means being willing to make the sacrifices to satisfy American terms, which are not really demanding at all, in 2018. Having an alliance that protects independence rather than threatens it ought to be as easy as falling in love.

      • Francis says:

        I agree.

        I am concerned though, by this odd binary in Filipino discourse. Either one is blindly attached to the US (or China) or one is rabidly nationalistic, as if seeking constant assurance of one’s independence.

        Extremes. I desire a middle-way; be neither weak and dependent or independent and lonely—but strong with others: interdependent.

        This middle-way involves balancing short-term pragmatic needs of alliance with long-term pragmatic imperative to build a culture of independence, to hone our capabilities for independence—so that in the future, we can partake of the fruits of interdependence.

        It’s just that, I feel that this middle-way is obscured by the implicit divisions we place between foreign policy and domestic policy. In placing too much emphasis on the US and the West (whether consciously or unconciously) in this debate—we risk falling unaware into that dependent, “vassal” mindset; the same “vassal” mindset that inclines the current administration to praise Beijing in such an uncritical fashion.

        What I intended to do via this comment was to carve this middle-way—by emphasizing that calls for alliance with the US must be paired with calls for furthering our domestic capabilities. In this globalizing world, the lines between foreign and domestic are blurry.

        Critique Duterte’s false “strong nation” rhetoric by presenting a genuine strategy for national strength—building strength outside by building closer ties to Vietnam, Japan, America, India, etc. and building strength inside by strengthening our institutions and developing economy.

        As a person who leans towards cosmopolitan interpretations of my citizenship—I am tired that the nationalists often monopolize this part of the rhetorical spectrum to themselves.

        • Today’s world is highly interdependent. The UK is noticing that the more they realize the true consequences of Brexit. I hope (for them) they will discontinue that naive move which will give them back blue passports but will affect their prosperity severely.

          Turkey plays the game of having an independent foreign policy relatively well, but one most remember that they are a former empire, their elite knows has this idea of independence. They will most probably NOT leave the NATO, but they can play their game because unlike Duterte, Erdogan the Sultan knows how far he can go. He knows that Turkey is a keystone (much like the Philippines is) due to its political geography and plays poker with that asset – but he does not go too far and endanger the relationship with allies like USA and Germany.

          The brown-colored tanks in Syria are a German model, manufactured in license by Turkey. As far as I know the only countries that manufacture the Leopard II (the “Leo”) in license are Turkey and Indonesia. Germany has refused upgrades to Turkey, due to the Syrian war.

          Turkey’s pose towards the West is partly due to the EU’s decade-long refusal to let them in – old Turkish elites are also pro-Western from Atatürk’s time onwards. There is a bit of pride that was wounded at play. So flirt a bit with Russia – but do not go too far like Duterte does.

          There is also a bit of the “lost empire” factor at play with Turkey. Somewhat like Brexit, or the way Turkey acts toward Kurds is like Spain with Catalunya. Spain and Turkey were empires at similar times and with similar macho imperialism. So Erdogan is a bit of a Franco. Maybe.


          Back to the Philippines. Of course there is no practice in being independent. 500 years ago the Philippines was at the edge of the known world. Suddenly Magellan came, somewhat later Spanish and Chinese ships met at Bulalacao, Mindoro. Ever since the world is round, officially, the Philippines has been a beachhead for other powers to the Asian market. Now China wants to make the Philippines part of its “glacis”, a vassal within its protective ring. Similar to Russia which is “surrounded either by enemies or vassals” (George Kennan)

          Unlike Turkey, the Philippines has no true practice in playing out its keystone role between different civilizations to its advantage. Unlike Turkey it was created by other’s influence. It hopes to be a backwater again, but it cannot be undiscovered, the world not unrounded.

      • edgar lores says:

        That last sentence… is a humdinger.

    • chemrock says:

      Worthy of a blog this comment, Francis.

      I restrict my thoughta to geopolitics.

      You and Irineo have made excellent points on the reasons for the lack of skills in geopolitics in Philippines. But surely we can’t go on with excuses and be led by leadership as we see today.

      Let me add just one more ilustration of lack of geopolitics. Marcos’ adventurism with the Sabah claim, which Duterte has indicated he might bring it back into play again. This is a serious matter that can lead to confrontation with Malaysia. Whilst Marcos and Duterte can thumb chest to champion this cause, the reality is the Philippines is a country that is unable of defending itself. In a full blown confrontation, Malaysia probably can have Philippines for breakfast. I’m not saying we should drop the claim. If it is legit, best to do like what Pnoy did with China. Go the legal way.

      • Francis says:

        Agree on Sabah.

        Just let sleeping dogs lie. And if anything—let us consider not the interests of Manila, Davao or Kuala Lumpur, but the interests of the people in Sabah as well. Worth noting (if I’m not mistaken, and from what scraps I’ve gotten for overhearing a bit of the historic 2018 Malaysian GE) that Sabah has an identity that is a bit “separate” from the rest of Malaysia.

        • karlgarcia says:

          If there is a plebiscite today., Sabah would choose Malaysia, I suppose.
          Unlike Brexit, they would not regret it.

          • chemrock says:

            Ah Brexit. Wanna go OT a bit.

            If you believe in the Divine. There was divine hand in the Brexit. However preposterous it may seem, Brexit has to occur for the End Days to be fulfilled. Britain has a role to play in the End Days and to do this, they have to be not a part of EU. The biblical reference to Britain is Tarshian.

            The vote was predicted to be for the ‘Stay’ side, with the majority of young voters in the big cities like London carrying the vote for PM Cameron. It was predited to be a very close fight with “Stayers” wining 52%. On the day of voting, the skies opened up and there was torrendous rain in London, which is very rare. This resulted in floodings in many areas and crippled public transportation. Thier Underground, or MRT, was out of business that day. London is not Manila, they don’t have floods like that.

            So with the floods, and secured in the knowledge “Stayers” will win, millenials are lulled into inaction. After all, my single vote won’t matter, others will vote to stay. On the other hand, “Leavers” are the angry population, and they are very committed. No rain or flood can stop them from voting.

  15. NHerrera says:

    At these times of general loss of civility — a kinder word I am using for vulgarity, it makes the sun shine and warms the heart even on a rainy day to read of the story about how a young girl in an airplane helped an old deaf and blind man communicate; in fact, many in the plane tried to help the old man unsuccessfully, but the girl was successful because she knew sign language by touching and “writing” on the old man’s palm.

    • karlgarcia says:

      A feel good true story.

      • NHerrera says:

        Yes, karl. But I feel I have to make some explanation. I was touched by that story, but we also have plenty of similar stories which warm the heart in the Philippines. Unfortunately, most of them happen when natural crisis such as earthquakes and typhoons come.

        Here is a true story. Some years back, I can’t remember how many years back, my wife and I was at a fast food place. We saw a well-off smartly dressed young woman with two children eating at a table — the kids must be her children. They eyed three poor kids by the window looking in. We saw the mother talking to their kids, apparently in consultation with them. The mother went out and when she came in she had the three poor kids in tow . The mother seated the kid with her own and I saw the two kids pleasantly talk — at first tentatively — with the new arrivals while the mother went and bought another three meals. She came back and offered the meals to the poor kids and the six had shortly an enjoyable time together. [What a real-life lesson of kindness that must have given the two kids; and the poor kids must have in their memory too that well-off families are not all uncaring that they perceive them to be.]

        My wife and I can’t forget that wonderful picture.

        • karlgarcia says:

          Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience,NH.
          Kindness still abounds.

        • chemrock says:

          NHerrera, I’m a real softie. Such acts of kindness, and show of gratitude, these can bring tears to my eyes. Many people don’t appreciate the feeling of joy in giving, Whether it is out of guilt, or pity, or for the selfish want to feel good, or simply out of purity of heart, it doesnt matter,

          I am not a man of great means but I do my fair bit in small ways. A few ocassions I have given out what was really the last few dollars in my pocket with no pay check in the coming months. But what joy the memories bring to me. I remember one very cold rainy night, Mother’s day it was, I was courting the lady who is now my wife. We were having a meal in a restaurant near Boardwalk, Roxas Boulevard. I saw a few poor kids and a very old craggy lady selling roses outside. They were wet and trembling. I told my wife no old woman should be working like this on Mother’s Day. I gave my wife 500 pesos to buy a stalk of rose from her and to ask her to go home to be with her family. Aftet dinner, where we had ordered way too much, we packed the food out for the street kids. Its something I do all the time. Outside, the first dejected looking youngster we saw, he got the food packages. Then we went for a stroll in the light drizzle along the seafront. We saw some really wreteched urchins playing in the wet and we thought with a tinge of regret oh we should have given the food to these kids instead. A reality that no one can do everything for everybody. The helplessness of it all. We just have to give blessings for what we have and do our bit to light up someone’s life even if its for just a moment.

  16. karlgarcia says:

    We were noticing the influx of Koreans in the recent years, but we have not noticed the influx of Chinese nationals since we have been used to it for centuries.

    The thing is with so many new Chinese nationals here, I do not see them invading us World war style.
    Maybe that was the plan all along, I do not know.

    If before we were questionig malls taking away opportunities from small stores.
    Now small shops and stores are taking away opportunities from small shops and stores.
    There is no charter change yet.

    Rather than lay down and play dead, we need the will to find ways.

    • chemrock says:

      Some people take positively to the economic benefits from the great iflux of Chinese into their country. If they come in great numers as tourists or even workers, just like OFWs, of course they contribute to the economy. However, the experience the world all over is that these Chinese flock is often followed by small time Chinese investors mostly in F&B who will cater to Chinese nationals, then they move into hospitality business. I later times they carve out chunks of the tourist belt owning all sorts f small usiness, or rent out premises to locals. This has happened to many cities, including Singapore. So we end up with Chinese $ going back to the Chinese.

      • karlgarcia says:

        Thanks, Chemrock.
        More on earnings.
        SM did not do well in the mainland, because there are not so many Filipinos there.
        Jollibee is luckier in the US because there are lots of Filipinos there.

        • Interesting, makes me recognize the catering to one’s own ethnic people in a foreign land, as China is doing, or as Jollibee is doing, is not necessarily politically wrong, it is business-wise the right thing to do. Thanks for the wake up. I believe Jollibee in the US is buying other food outlets that have a broader market, the ideal way to go about it.

          • karlgarcia says:

            Thanks Joe.

          • Francis says:

            If I am not mistaken, food manufacturing is a major sector in the economy.

            The supermarket is filled with constant new snacks and old favorites being rolled out.

            Jollibee is possibly the Filipino company with the biggest shot at becoming internationally recognized consumers. Unlike other Filipino-Chinese ventures; Jollibee is not a “Jack of All Trades” conglomerate, but further specializes in food.

            Filipinos are great innovators when it comes to the stomach. 🙂

    • NHerrera says:

      Almost like a virus replicating itself and soon the host becomes an empty shell to be thrown away. But there is a scientific explanation to that I suppose. An old story with a modern flavor.

  17. caliphman says:

    To characterize China’s declared priorities and WPS policy as defensive or hegemonistic is of not much value. That it is has the overwhelming force and the willingness to use it to establish control if not occupy what it claims as its territory is a given. To presume that its ultimate goals inthe WPS is to swallow its neighbors, subjugate their populations, or to acquire their natural or industrial resources is purely speculative and would be a hidden agenda not supported by facts on the ground or in the seas.It is inconsistent with China’s history and culture as well as the geopolitical factors that have shaped that history. Perhaps China’s ambitions in the WPS is better described as contained or limited instead of defensive.

    It us hard to understand how the lack of respect for human rights or neighbors makes China any more or less dangerous to the Philippines or the region. The Duterte regime and the country as a whole is hardly a model for respectful behavior nor of self-respect or nationalism. Seeking out military conflict with neighbors much less theit conquest is akways bad for trade or business which has been the key to China’s strength and prosperity, including the continued power of the politburo.

    If anything, China’s action has been pretty consistent with its announced emphasis of forcefully asserting its sovereignty. In carrying out this policy and enforcing its 9-line WPS claim, China had to renege on the international laws and treaties on neighboring seas that it had signed and agreed to. As mentioned before, building ports and airfields on artificial islands achieved the dual goals in controlling and occupying by force on disputed territory snd providing supply chains for remote coast guard patrols as well as countering US naval interdiction to enforce rights of passage in contested open seas.

    What the Philippines must do is to perform a realistic assessment of the extent of Chinese Ambitions as it affects our disputed territories. It should leave all options on the table to defend its own claims, whether it be legal, trade, stengthened alliances with US, Australia, India, or possibly Israelites, and the threat of military force if necessary.

    • “To presume that its ultimate goals inthe WPS is to swallow its neighbors, subjugate their populations, or to acquire their natural or industrial resources is purely speculative and would be a hidden agenda not supported by facts on the ground or in the seas.It is inconsistent with China’s history and culture as well as the geopolitical factors that have shaped that history. ”

      Let us look at the recent history. Tibet? Debt traps in Africa, a chain of ports leading to the natural resources there? The entire Belt and Road project? Global Go Game. Speculate or wait too late?

      most of Southern China has aboriginal people related to Southeast Asians. Taiwan’s aboriginal people are related to Ivatans and Ibanags. Both may have been majorities before Chinese came.

      “If anything, China’s action has been pretty consistent with its announced emphasis of forcefully asserting its sovereignty.” Duterte would call rape forcefully asserting his desire.

      Is that what expansionism is now called? The illusion of All under Heaven was shattered by Western gunboats. Now make sure All under Heaven is really under Chinese control?

      • Francis says:

        Was bored and flipped through a certain page in a certain book at bookstore. I may be mistaken, but the nugget I got was that it was possible that the “tributary” system was more symbolic than actualized at times; way to save face/gain prestige for empire and vassal.

        This is really the mania of the Communist Party turning some old imperial tendencies into some scary totalitarian brew. The expansionism of China is perhaps more of a creature of our modern age.

        • Francis says:


          Chinese History may play a key role—but it is worth looking at the interpreter of that history, the one sitting on the throne:

          The Party.

          • Stories of old glory, victimization and revenge (revanchism) are perfect narratives to mobilize people (in a bad way) and maintain power.

            Just like Japan once did, China has borrowed this kind of narrative from.. the West!

            • Francis says:

              The Party, I think though—leaves the Chinese elite less flexible, I think, compared to the Japanese elite.

              At the end of the day, the Japanese elite could be quite flexible with their nationalistic ideology—re-adjusting per the needs of the times: imperialistic before WW2, a subtler and softer tone after WW2. It’s amazing how the Japanese elite was able to smoothly swerve from isolationist state to swaggering Imperial Meiji to their current pacifist (but with some nationalist undercurrents) stance now. Very pragmatic bunch.

              Thing about the guys in Beijing—they’re true believers.

            • chemrock says:

              I think there is a big difference that is overlooked given the emotions. One, a country setting out to beef up their weakness from which they suffered in their past. The aggressiveness stemming from a defensive objective. That there is disrespect of people and law is of course something not to be condoned. The other, a country setting out to reverse past humiliation by war, such as the case of Hitler who was driven by humiliation of the lost in WW! and the Versailles Treaty.

              • But such drives reflect a psychological neediness that is not healthy. Vengeance is defensive? I understand a desire to excel, to grow, to have capable and rich people. China ought to look at her past 20 years with great pride, the leaders pat themselves on the back, and feel satisfied that they have found their rightful place in the world. To go past that to find a superior place over lesser peoples is hardly defensive.

  18. caliphman says:

    I agree with Francis that the CCP and in particular the Politburo are the main shapers of what Chinese policy and goals are for WPS and its relationships with its neighbors. The primary directive of the CCP has always been above all the retention of power and setting the future domestic and foreign priorities through its five and ten year programs. It should not be surprising that members of the Politburo have parlayed their power and influence to accumulate massive wealth and elite status to the extent that promoting its international trading and business relationships have to be balanced against its recent focus on flexing its military muscle and reclaiming its sovereignty.

    If one considers the CCP’s major use of its military strength in support of or against its neighbors throughout its history, there is little evidence of the People’s Army being employed for territorial conquest beyond its contiguous borders or areas which were part of its empire. This is because China faced gargantuan domestic problems, feeding its teeming and starving population and figuring out how to industrialize and strengthen a failing economy. Sure, there was its ideological
    Imperative to sponsor and support peasant movements to overthrow capitalist and feudal governments but with the failure of the traditional communist econonomic political model, these activites have been significantly diminished.

    Granted that China’s geopolitics and extended historical experience may factor in party politics as to what direction and who will lead its long term agenda. But to characterize and fear Chinese intentions based on these considerations are IMHO unwarranred.

    • ” there is little evidence of the People’s Army being employed for territorial conquest beyond its contiguous borders or areas which were part of its empire.”

      The 9-dash-line is being portrayed as having been part of it’s empire. Now don’t seriously tell me it was, because there is no evidence of it having been.

      The Philippines is contiguous. It borders with Taiwan on the South. President Aquino compared Chinese tactics to Nazi tactics in relation to contiguous Czechoslovakia. There may be “no evidence” know (are you their spokesman?) but it may still happen because..

      “China faced gargantuan domestic problems, feeding its teeming and starving population”

      Starvation has often been the start of empires. NOW Chinese Coast Guard are taking Filipino fish and Chinese fishing boats are poaching in what used to be Filipino waters.

      One of the major motives in Prussia’s early wars and extreme militarization was it’s bad soil. Frederick the Great’s conquest of Silesia was important to feed people and soldiers..

      Then of course taking contiguous territories to defend oneself is a classic imperial motive – even if one does not start out imperialistic, the dynamics of power itself can lead to that.

      No, no, please don’t repeat the old tired line of Chinese civilization and benevolence. Ja ja..

      All imperialists came in peace and with benevolent intentions. Even Nazi Germany couched its imperialism in the language of Europe – something a lot of people have forgotten today. The United States spoke of Manifest Destiny and Benevolent Assimiliation, we all know..

      Another motive for imperialism can be protecting one’s own people abroad. Germany started annexing the Sudetenland for that. Russia Eastern Ukraine – and in Estonia and Latvia there is the fear that the same doctrine may be invoked. All of Southeast Asia has ethnic Chinese.

      But of course Chinese will say the only imperialists are white people, they wil NEVER be.. possibly they may spread over island chains, making brown Southeast Asians into servants, maybe they won’t. History will tell. All that benevolence propaganda makes me suspicious.

      • karlgarcia says:

        Even if there is a body of water separating the south of Taiwan and PH northernmost island can that still be called contiguous?

      • karlgarcia says:

        Chinese Civilization.
        In the video posted by ML.
        Trump: China is 5000 years old… Egypt is 8000 years old!
        Xi: Yes, Egypt is older.

        • Chinese archaelogists desperately tried to find evidence that China is older, but found none.

          Same with Chinese paleontologists who tried to find evidence of a separate origin of man in China, separate from Europeans and Africans – but found no evidence whatsoever.

  19. NHerrera says:

    I enjoyed reading the geopolitical discussions here, guys. Thanks again, chemrock, for starting the ball rolling.

  20. karlgarcia says:

    Xi to Mattis: We will not give up any inchof its territory in the Pacific.

    Meanwhile at the Miscommunication Office at Manila.

    PCOO: Xi did not mention anything abouth the South China Sea, because they are our friends.

  21. caliphman says:

    The above two links, one to an article written by local Professor Heydarian, discusses s very disturbing recent development in the WPS crisis. As I have tried to explain here, this crisis is much more than the Philippines losing jurisdiction over Scarborough which is within the scope of its EEZ. It is about China abandoning interntionall maritime law and resorting to force and coercion in determining who has access and control to the waters of the WPS aka SCS. That Duterte is in effect also conceding the country’s legal rights granted by these laws and appealing to China for continued enjoyment of the reef’s marine resources in exchange for not contesting the latter’s territorial and jurisdictional cllaims.

    The alarming new development in the WPS situation is the expansion in the nature and extent of these Chinese claims. These claims are based on the Chinese assertion of historical rights over an expanse of the WPS bounded by the so-called by the 9-line which encompasses Scarborough and other disputed islands of the Spratley chain. The original map laying out the extent of the claim was researched and drawn in 1949 first by the Nationalist government and then by Red China after its takeover. Hence both China and Taiwan claim the Spratleys based on the 9-line maps which of couse preceded the UN Laws of the Seas which was agreed to and first ratified in 1986.

    There has been much ignorance and misunderstanding of what this treaty is all about, especially among non-lawyers and sadly even those with legal backgrounds. What is most relevant is it is the international law that governs jurisdiction (read rights and control) and NOT sovereignty or owners of adjacent seas and oceans.. Therefore the treaty lays out definitions of territorial seas, EEZs, open oceans and rights to fish, patrol, navigate and other jurisdictional issues without which conflucts and confrontations would be unavoidable. The treaty itself is silent on sovereignity or ownership of land or geographic features.

    Hence, the PCA ruling was all about whether the waters around Scarborough or the other Spratleys were covered by separate EEZs and other juridictional rights, regardless of actually isned the reefs or islands. Consequently, it makes no sense to dismiss the Arbitration ruling because it did not decide who owned Scarborough or any of the Spratleys. It did resolve whether the EEZs defined by the boundaries of uncontested Philippines archipelagic territoty would be overlapped and contested by a separate EEZ conttolled by another country. It should be noted that traditional fishing grounds are accessible to fishermen of any country, whovever owns Scarborough.Ownership though confers rights to establish and enforce fishing regulations. The fact that Chinese cutters are doing this function instead of in Coordination with the Philippines is very troubling.

    Why this needs to be understood as context to the above articles is the Chinese government has to the present been unclear as to what is covered the 9-line claim. One imore common presumption is China is clainiing only the overwater geographical territories and not all the jurisdiction and sovereignty over the maritime waters within the 9-line boundaries, perhaps in order to appear still consistent uf not compliant with UNCLOS. It seems though that China is researching a continuous boundary, turning the dashes into a orecise satellitte mapped line. This is ominuous since one of the major reasons the Arbitration ruling decided against the 9-line claim was it imprecise and discontinuous.

    So even if the articles are a bit technical, it is worth reading as it potentially represents a nullification the EEZs encompassed by China’s claim, those of the Philippines and othet neighboring countries.

    • “The original map laying out the extent of the claim was researched and drawn in 1949 first by the Nationalist government and then by Red China after its takeover. ”

      The original territory of the Vatican State was based on a document called the Donation of Constantine. That document was by the consensus of most historians a fake.

      Yeah, yeah, only Westerners do that. I forgot. May the Benevolent Dragon show me leniency.

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  1. […] recent article here by Chemrock explored how the Philippines ‘lost’ the West Philippine Sea (WPS) to China. There were two prominent historical moments that led to the loss: (1) The […]

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