ASEAN Notes. Duterte central to South China Sea Crisis

  • Rodrigo Duterte at ASEAN 2018 says China is in possession of South China Sea.
  • Duterte tells USA to get out of South China Sea with Freedom of Nav. Exercises
  • Duterte will host China Pres. Xi Jinping on Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • Chinese doctoral candidates speculate Chinese control of Philippines.
  • Duterte has accepted USD $170B loans and grants from China.

Singapore, ASEAN 2018 – by Melissa Hemingway  Feminine Perspective Magazine, Senior Staff Writer

South China Seas are Swilling Around Rodrigo Duterte

Photo: Official Release from Beijing

China’s H-6 Nuclear Bomber flying near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. Photo: Official Release from Beijing

Regardless of wishing for this or not, the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is in the middle of a significant controversy over the South China Sea.

For ASEAN Duterte is the coordinator this year between China and the South East Asian Nations.

Duterte and China are Tight

Duterte has given the appearance of making an extremely sketchy deal with the Chinese through some personal connections in Davao City like the China Telecom deal to supply PH with mobile and broadband internet services in 2019. The telecom deal brings to the Philippines the state-owned China Telecommunications Corporation (the only consortium member with telecommunications experience) into a new venture partnered with Dennis Uy (Mislatel Consortium in Davao City made up of Udenna Corporation, China Telecom, Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corporation, and the Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company) as a 40% owner.

Mislatel Consortium won the license by default after its two legitimate-looking competitors were eliminated on technical paperwork grounds. But on paper, Mislatel looks like a straw dog and a Trojan horse rolled into one four-legged thing. But don’t try to phone them. Their corporate phone number is a dead end. It acquired its congressional franchise on April 19, 1998, under Republic Act No. 8627 but has done nothing since, which should have caused its abolition.

The new license for the Philippines telecommunications Mislatel Consortium (which on the basis of its corporate records and disconnected phone looks very fishy) will be managed by Dennis Uy who was Duterte’s primary election campaign financier (31 million pisos reported). There are more than a few eyebrows raised about security and interest conflicts. Raisa Robles published a must-read article on 14 November in the South China Morning Post.

The China connections exposed by this deal bring to surface some suspicious  energy, real estate and shipping deals and have caused some observers to dub Dennis Uy “a Duterte “crony” – similar to the ones the late Ferdinand Marcos kept close to his side throughout his dictatorship” says JC Punongbayan in an analysis updated 7:37 PM, November 15 in Rappler.

Infrastructure is a Philippines Shortfall China Answers

More importantly for the country, China has promised loans and grants of $169-billion for an infrastructure-building programme, according to Duterte.

One of the Philippines projects China has promised is a railway from Manila to the northern tip of Luzon Island. This would mean refrigerated-car transport to market of produce and grains from the northern Luzon agriculturally rich regions. It would likely bring a staggering improvement to the lives of about 30 million people living in the Luzon provinces outside of the greater Manila region.

China is brilliant at infrastructure analysis and engineering. The Philippines needs these skills. Infrastructure in the country is poor says numerous UN evaluations and generally, the Philippines is regarded as not having a strategic thinking government. In fact the Philippines in all its history has seldom been governed by its own people which makes for short term thinking.

China is Good for the Philippines

In many ways, Duterte doesn’t have a choice. If the only way to build infrastructure for Luzon and Mindanao islands is to get in bed with China, most ASEAN observers seem to agree, there’s no choice.

The Philippines has a staggering birth rate causing a population explosion into poverty, monumental unemployment and an immeasurable poverty problem. And there’s no infrastructure. Farmers cannot get all their product to market in good condition and the country is hungry. Every significant meteorological event cuts into people’s lives and every corrupt level of government does the same. Tax dollars are to be found in the pockets and bank accounts of a series of corrupt government dynasties but not in services nor infrastructure in the Philippines. The country is very much reliant on foreign assistance and development. And it suffers under violent government authoritarianism.

I sat in a Philippines Starbucks a couple months ago with a table of Chinese university students. two of them political science Doctoral candidates. Somehow the conversation came around to Philippines/China relationships and history. There was a consensus that China may be the next, best and last nation to take control of the Philippines.

Yesterday Duterte and the Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Bin Mohamad told media that a unanimous ASEAN decision had been reached.

We all agreed on ways and means not to increase tension in the South China Sea, that means not bringing in warships, allow freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, and also flights over the South China Sea should not be interfered with. Apart from that, of course, we understand the need for security, and the need for security will be resolved with simple patrol boats,”  Mahathir told media in a between-sessions scrum.

Duterte also made the dubious statement that China is “already in possession of the South China Seas” which would seem outrageous considering that according to international law, nobody owns the high seas which are free for all to use.

Everything’s been excellent between China and the rest of Asean, except for the fact that there’s friction between Western nations and China”, Duterte told a media scrum.

ABS-CBN Philippines Caught the Philippines Declaration that “China is already in possession of the South China Sea” on Video.

Last time a Chinese President visited Philippines was 2005.

Next week, Chinese President Xi Jinping will make a two-day state visit to the Philippines on Nov. 20-21. He will visit Manila on Luzon Island and Davao City on Mindanao Island. You can read the propaganda release of Duterte’s palace yesterday, down below.

Brunei, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Taiwan all have claims with China in various parts of the South China Sea. Vietnam for example has made it clear it does not intend to acquiesce to China on its claims.

There is a divergence of opinion in the Philippines and not all Filipinos feel comfortable with giving up the fisheries that have been lost and moreover losing the Philippines’ share of the mega $billion oil and gas riches under the South China Seas (and West Philippines Sea).

The Philippines people in the provinces suffers great poverty whereas its small number of corrupt government officials are hiding away in Manila enjoying enormous wealth,” says Maria, a Filipino house wife in Rosario who says that she and her neighbours endure  poverty level wages even with both spouses working because their employers don’t make much money.


Background From 18 March 2018 FPMag Article

What was the ruling in the South China Sea case?

The Spratly Islands are claimed by China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines, and Brunei.

China has built extensive military bases there capable of attacking shipping.

The Scarborough Shoal is claimed by China, Taiwan and Philippines.

The Paracel Islands are claimed by Vietnam, China and Taiwan.

On July 12, 2016 the Hague international tribunal overwhelmingly backed the Philippines in a case on the disputed waters of the South China Sea, ruling that rocky outcrops claimed by China – some of which are exposed only at low tide – cannot be used as the basis of territorial claims. It said some of the waters were “within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, because those areas are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China”.

The tribunal furthermore found China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in those waters by interfering with its fishing and petroleum exploration and by constructing artificial islands for military bases.

Duterte has not made any friends by setting aside the Hague tribunal decision and allowing China to militarily take over the islands of the south China Seas.

*Malacañang Palace Reads-like-Propaganda Release

(*Official Residence of Rodrigo Duterte)

Chinese President Xi Jinping will make a two-day state visit to the Philippines on Nov. 20-21 this year, Malacañang announced on Thursday, 15 November.

“The Palace wishes to announce the forthcoming State Visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

“Panelo said Xi’s visit, the first of a Chinese President in 13 years, was upon the invitation of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“During the state visit, Panelo said Duterte and Xi will exchange views on areas of mutual concern and chart the course for the future of Philippines-China bilateral relations.

“Panelo said he has no idea whether major agreements between the Philippines and China will be signed during Xi’s visit.

“None that I know but I think he is going over to the Philippines with a good opportunity to discuss certain issues that requires attention,” Panelo said in a media interview in Singapore where Duterte is attending the 33rd ASEAN Summit and Related Summits.

“In previous media interview, Panelo said Duterte intends to invite the Chinese leader to his home in Davao City.

“The Philippines-China relations had achieved positive turnaround since Duterte embarked on his first state visit to China in October 2016.

“Xi had described Duterte’s first visit to Beijing as a “milestone” that mended the two countries’ ties derailed by the Philippines’ filing of arbitration case against China in 2013.

“In July 2016, the Hague-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) nullified China’s nine-dash line map which covers nearly the entire West Philippine Sea or South China Sea.

“Duterte shelved the PCA’s ruling after China rejected the verdict to allow peaceful and friendly settlement of the dispute.

“In May 2017, Duterte returned to Beijing to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.

“For the third time, Duterte went to China in April this year to attend the Boao Forum for Asia held in Hainan, a southern island province of China.

“Xi’s first trip to the Philippines will take place a year after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Manila that led to the signing of 14 deals on infrastructures, climate change, defense cooperation, drug rehabilitation centers and Marawi rehabilitation.”

by Melissa Hemingway (on assignment with Feminine Perspective Magazine)