COMMENTARY: It’s the Same, Nothing has Changed

The formalities of the ASEAN Summits made Duterte sick, so in jest, he said: “Son of a… if Summits are like this, the one scheduled in November would be canceled… That’s true. It’s the same. Nothing has changed…”

Joke it might be, but Duterte’s quip bites: Nothing has changed in the ASEAN’s stand. It’s the same. No unified solution coming from them to counter China’s assertiveness on the disputed territories of the South China Sea. China’s unfettered constructions of island-building projects for military use is a grave concern. This can disrupt the region’s stability.

Due to China’s determined pursuit of jurisdictional and territorial claims, China get seduce to ignoring the international law. In that case, the regional order is in danger.

Three suggested ways, which the ASEAN claimants can resolve the disputes themselves: Challenge the legal jurisdiction. Push for political negotiations. Indulge in joints exploration of resource exploitation.

These options, however, are hampered, as the ASEAN members cannot find a common ground or a unified approach.

This is understandable because each of the ASEAN members has varied national interests. Their struggles are different. For them to arrive at a common consensus to contentious issues, requires an agreeable resolution mechanism.

For their next Summit meeting in November 2017, they have to be unified on the finer points of the “Code of Conduct” they are fine tuning.

Duterte, for the Philippines, seemed amenable to the two-suggested doable solution: Push for political negotiation, and joint exploration of resource exploitation.

China disregards the recent ruling of the UNCLOS in Hague, where the Philippines won. Duterte didn’t hammer it on China. It’s useless anyway but kept it as his ace on his chest in case future wrangling arises. He pivoted to China and he got lots of goodies.

Meanwhile, Duterte seemed to have cozy relationships with Donald Trump of the US; a complete reversal of his attitudes towards Obama. In May, Duterte will visit Russia and meet Vladimir Putin.

Connecting the dots, what does this say? Duterte is playing his foreign policy hand adroitly and it is for the good of his country. The three superpower nations have the Philippines’ ears now for them to recognize that the Philippines is ready for takeoff in a new height of development with their partnership.

Some quarter said that the concluding statement of the ASEAN, chaired by the Philippines, is lame. It didn’t condemn China for its land reclamation and militarization of the South China Sea.

Duterte said: it’s Pointless to Pressure. China will do her thing no matter what. So, it will boil down to “It’s the same. Nothing has changed.”