Why the Philippines Should Stand Up to China in the South China Sea

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why the philippines should stand up to china in the south china sea

The South China Sea dispute between the Philippines and China is not only a matter of territorial sovereignty, but also a matter of national dignity, security, and development. 

The Philippines has a strong legal and historical basis for its claims in the South China Sea, as affirmed by the 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated China’s nine-dash line and excessive maritime claims. However, China has refused to accept or comply with the ruling, and has continued to assert its dominance and aggression in the disputed waters, violating the Philippines’ rights and interests.

The Philippines, under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, has adopted a conciliatory and pragmatic approach towards China, hoping to improve bilateral relations and reap economic benefits. 

Duterte has downplayed the arbitral ruling and the South China Sea issue, and has pursued closer cooperation and friendship with China on various fields, such as trade, investment, infrastructure, and pandemic response. Duterte has also expressed his admiration and gratitude to China and its leader, Xi Jinping, and has often criticized the United States and its allies for interfering in regional affairs.

However, this approach has not yielded the expected results for the Philippines. China has not delivered on its promises of massive aid and investment to the Philippines, and has instead taken advantage of the Philippines’ weak and passive stance to advance its strategic interests and agenda in the South China Sea. 

China has intensified its militarization and construction of artificial islands, its harassment and intimidation of Filipino fishermen and soldiers, and its encroachment and intrusion into the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. China has also disregarded the Philippines’ protests and diplomatic efforts, and has shown no sincerity or willingness to resolve the dispute peacefully and fairly.

The Philippines’ appeasement and accommodation of China has also eroded its credibility and leverage in the international arena, and has undermined its alliance and partnership with the United States and other like-minded countries. 

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The Philippines has failed to capitalize on the support and solidarity of the international community, which has recognized and upheld the arbitral ruling and the rule of law in the South China Sea. The Philippines has also missed the opportunity to join the regional and global initiatives and mechanisms that aim to counter and balance China’s growing influence and assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.

The Philippines should realize that its current policy towards China is not serving its national interest and welfare, and that it is time to change course and adopt a more assertive and principled stance in the South China Sea. The Philippines should assert and defend its sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the South China Sea, and invoke and enforce the arbitral ruling as the basis and framework for the settlement of the dispute. 

The Philippines should also strengthen its maritime and security capabilities, and enhance its cooperation and coordination with the United States and other allies and partners, to deter and resist China’s aggression and coercion. The Philippines should also actively participate and contribute to the regional and multilateral efforts and platforms that promote the freedom of navigation and overflight, the peaceful resolution of disputes, and the stability and order in the South China Sea.

The Philippines should not be afraid or intimidated by China, nor should it be swayed or seduced by its offers and gestures. The Philippines should stand up to China in the South China Sea, and uphold its dignity, sovereignty, and security as a proud and independent nation.

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