Wednesday, July 20, 2016


map borrowed from

ABOUT entering into bilateral talks with China concerning the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea and China’s claims to geomorphological forms within the same sea as well as to the sea itself, I trust that the Duterte government realizes this: that such a venture, while welcome for the benefit of letting China announce to the world what it now has to say to a “cooperative” Philippines in these talks, remains a very tall order for attaining any target result due to the following unchanging reasons that would make it impossible for those talks to please the various parties:
    For one, collectively the Filipino nation will maintain its position that it cannot give up its sovereign rights in its EEZ and in some, if not all, of the shoals, reefs, and/or islands within this 200-nautical-miles-from-the-main-archipelago’s-shoreline EEZ. The thing is that it would even be ludicrous to imagine the Filipino people still debating today on the issue of whether we should give up our EEZ claims (or parts of it) or not. We also know that we cannot abandon the principles of freedom of navigation in seas as per the demand of international trade between nations, which freedom of navigation in the waters and airspace in question has its own historical background that runs centuries long prior to China’s recent occupation of the same waters and its conscription of the same airspace; in short, this same freedom of navigation had hitherto and heretofore witnessed a long and stable situation of international use. Therefore, given all this, the Philippines cannot be other than persistent in staying put—that is, cannot have a sympathy other than for remaining where it stands with the overlapping claims to zones within its EEZ as well as to the free seas beyond (and in managing claims to these through a sea and airspace Code of Conduct).
    Many, therefore, are curious or would like to know as soon as now the target of the Duterte leadership in relation to the bilateral talks it is planning to humbly launch with China. Yes, it is understandable why it is now looking to experiment with alternative ways of resolving the problem, from parties other than our own international law and history experts, the United States’ and other Western powers’ advice, the United Nations, or the ASEAN as a body. But here are the givens, which we trust the Duterte government knows full well:
    The Philippines cannot be other than prepared, not least for negative results concerning what China has to say, for it is almost certain that China will put on the table tempting pictures of expanded opportunities for the Filipino nation that it
—directly or through the AIIBcan offer as a neighbor and friend and as a “co-investor in progress”. Those temptations by economic cajoling we can, and must, resist if in exchange we are expected to give up our sovereign rights within certain geologic features within our EEZ that we have hitherto strongly (peacefully) demanded. The bone China will offer will be just that: for us to give these claims up, to which withdrawal China would presumably reciprocate through an offer to share access to, as well as resources and profits to be derived from, the area; in short, China will grant the benefits of paternalism to any nation that kowtows to its international patrimonialism. But we are not fools, of course, who would bite into non-binding concessions or compromises that the Other can at anytime withdraw. Or into binding concessions that the Other can anytime announce as expired, as per instructions that may suddenly be downloaded from its centralized patrimonialist wisdom.
    We are weak and are an easy target to those who would like to take advantage of that weakness, of that state of being open season to empires’ sudden macho hunting urges. Thankfully, though, we have our strength in our faith in the natural persistence of correctness, in our adherence to international law that China—in contrast—would not allow itself to submit to, and in our belief in the right and the fair. This persistence is gentle, which is also fortunate, in contrast to persistence that is hard. True, from the perspective of impatience, our kind of persistence is the persistence that is difficult to fulfill, but it is also the sort that is more likely to succeed. In fact it’s the sort that has the potential to convince the Other (and most of the world), presenting fertile opportunities to improve the situation through means that—however difficult and farcould in the end shorten the problem instead of prolong it.
    Prolong? Well, prolonging is precisely what the other sort of persistence could threaten to move us into. Which, fortunately, we still have the majority wisdom to dismiss. For there are no drastic solutions to this dispute that can avoid an easy slide towards breaking up everything into another series of problems; thus the correctness of a delicate treatment of it by leaders from both sides and all sides who may have honest hope for things to go well.
    We don’t know if China has such a leader—with honest hope for things to go well, in ways other than what its pronouncements have been envisioning for itself (through preponderance over the small and weak). But we can be thankful for the fact that to the eyes of the world the Philippines inhabits the humble position of the non-threatening claimant armed solely with a law or set of laws (and a history of being abused by power). Some sensibilities see this as a humiliating position, the position that can have no other means to deliver its resistance than through terrorist demonstrations of non-submission. But the humble position can actually be a position of strength where, albeit one cannot make demands from it, one can make claims to the international sensibility of being one ambitious superpowers’ imperialist victim. To be the occupant of an oppressed body is to be threatening enough in the eyes of the civilized world. That’s not being threatening in the Communist sense, which is probably the only threat that China can understand; that’s being threatening in the sense that one
s commission of oppression by sudden ambition towards the humble instantly commits the demeaning and discrediting of oneself, of ones respectability, the possibly irreversible painting of oneself henceforward as unworthy of anyone’s trust. [S / -I]

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