This is what the Philippines has become when it comes to the teritorrial dispute that it has with China regading the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea.
During his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Rodrigo Duterte once again admitted he could not afford to go to war against China in asserting the Philippines’ sovereignty in the South China Sea.
"We have to go to war. And I cannot afford it. Maybe some other president can but I cannot. Inutil ako diyan. Talagang inutil ako diyan. Walang magawa [I’m useless when it comes to that. Really, I’m useless to that. I can’t do anything]. I cannot,” the President said.
With that being said, we lost the fight without even going to the "battlefield".
While we do acknowledge the threat that a possible war poses, is war our last bastion of hope?
Every thing boils down to the fact that legally speaking, we own that sea. We actually won the international suit at the Permanent Court Arbitration (PCA) in 2016. However, the problem is that China does not recognize this arbitration award. Ironic but we seem to be the losers when we are supposed to be the victors, and now, we are sharing it without the assurance of its property.
See, we have legal basis on claiming it as ours but we as one nation are passive and do not mind to foist it upon an intransigent China. Well, who would dare to pull the trigger? Our president himself, who once promised to ride on a jet ski and put up the Philippine Flag in one of the islands in the disputed sea, does not want to pull the trigger either.
No one would dare for the future of the country could be either the prize or the price. The prize if we keep meeking and licking the shoes of China wherein we lose ourselves, and the price if we insist our claim yet we lose a great friendship with the risen country which has the world's second largest economy and military to date.
Uphold our claim but prepare for a nightmare, or befriend China but lose our integrity? Hence, prize or price, we would be at the losing end point of either of these two.
But there is this last option for us with the best promise: We maintain a healthy relationship with China but claim what is ours.
While it is true that we are a friend of China, it doesn't necessarily mean that we are going to adjust our constitution, adjust our teritorrial rights solely for the idea that we are in alliance with them.
So what can we actually do? We have the UN and the ASEAN to back us up. But, they will do nothing if we don't initiate. Other countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia are asserting their sovereign rights to their maritime zones against China's claims... and here we are silent about the issue.
Others argue that we don't have the means to engage to war. This is actually an insult to our national heroes because they did not also have enough warfare equipment during their time. It was carved in history that Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio did not waiver their claims just because they did not have enough warfare equipment. Besides, a country does not have to go to war to assert its sovereign rights.
We should maintain our professional relationship with China while claiming what is rightfully ours. Claiming what is rightfully ours does not insinuate fear or tension. We are simply abiding by our legal frameworks and by the decision of the international court. And this is what China has to fathom.
The perk of being a friend to China could be the investments and development assistance that they give us. Good to hear but it does not worth the price.
If we remain mum on this issue, if we remain a puppet of China due to the economic benefits that we get from them, then what are we really as an independent country?
This is no longer about the reefs, shoals, and banks in the disputed sea, more than these is a question of our national sovereignty and integrity.
The moment our President said that he is inutile, our rights over the islands in the disputed sea became USELESS.#