Duterte policy of 'appeasing' China failed amid latest West PH Sea tensions – int'l studies expert

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 25) — The Duterte administration's policy of "appeasing" China has failed amid the latest tensions in the West Philippine Sea, according to an international studies expert.

"Since 2016, he basically announced he is trying to resolve this according to China's conditions: bilateral talks and joint development. But nothing concrete has come out from all these efforts to appease China," International Studies professor Renato de Castro told CNN Philippines' The Final Word on Thursday. "The policy that this administration has adopted in 2016 is an utter failure."

Citing history, de Castro emphasized efforts to appease an aggressive power do not work in situations like maritime stand-offs. He also sees a possible three to four months of standoff in the disputed waters, just like the Scarborough Shoal incident in 2013.

"If we will have another President who will adopt the policy of appeasing China, this might be Duterte administration part two. The people will have to be really careful about the leader they will choose, somebody who will not see himself as a lapdog of China," de Castro said.

The De La Salle University International Studies professor noted the presence of over 200 Chinese militia vessels in the Julian Felipe Reef, located inside the Philippines' exclusive economic zone, demonstrates China's "gray zone operations" which are intimidating activities that are short of actual use of force.

"Japan provided us 13 multi-purpose coast guard vessels. Where did this government deploy these vessels? In Boracay and in Mindanao, but not one in the South China Sea. That's why the Japanese are very much disappointed," de Castro said.

On the silence of the country's Southeast Asian neighbors over the latest West Philippine Sea row, de Castro said most nations in the region don't want to get involved in delicate issues like this.

"We might expect probably some words from Vietnam. But that's it, don't expect," de Castro said. Vietnam also has its own maritime row with China in the South China Sea.

Since assuming the presidency in 2016, Duterte has been friendly with China despite its continuing maritime activities in the West Philippine Sea. Beijing has refused to honor the historic 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration that invalidated its sweeping claims over the South China Sea.

Several countries led by the United States backed the Philippines' latest diplomatic protest over the presence of Chinese boats at the Julian Felipe Reef. The Chinese Embassy in Manila denied the boats are militia vessels, arguing those are merely fishing vessels that took shelter near the area due to rough sea conditions.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative in December 2020 warned that China may have "increased the frequency" of its patrols in the South China Sea during the COVID-19 pandemic, including areas Manila claims as part of the West Philippine Sea. In the same report, the U.S. think tank flagged that Chinese forces conducted patrols at Scarborough Shoal, also known as Panatag, for a total of 287 days from Dec. 1, 2019.