President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, May 17, said that China’s “might makes it right” on the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) as he conceded that the Philippines cannot compete because it is not equal to the Asian giant.
“I was frank enough in the early days and I said that might makes it right. And we are not unfortunately on the side of might, so we can’t do anything because we can’t be in parity, in force,” the President said during his televised public address on Monday night.
For Duterte, the country just needs “to talk, just talk, and talk until such time by the grace of God, if there is an opportune time for all these things to correct itself.”
Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the architect and implementer of Martial Law with former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, was in attendance during Duterte's talk to the nation.
The President complained that the public and the opposition have been criticizing him for not asking the United Nations (UN) for help to enforce the arbitral ruling the Philippines won in 2016.
“This is really the dilemma of the nation. For me, Sir, the beginning of this problem was when we retreated. And since then ‘yung mga (all the) paperworks about that the arbitral award has become meaningless,” Duterte said, referring to the decision of the Aquino administration to retreat from the standoff at the Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) in 2012.
But former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario explained the decision was borne out of a negotiation with the United States and China, wherein both parties agreed to retreat from the shoal. China apparently reneged on the deal.
Enrile, who was also embroiled in territorial disputes with Malaysia over Sabah Island, was part of the Marcos regime that once relied on American military presence on Philippine soil to claim the Kalayaan Group of Islands (KIG) as under the sovereignty of the Philippines and part of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Reports said the former dictator had “secret military operations” to take over the entire Spratly group of islands.
But on Monday night, Enrile maintained that the Philippines should have a “friendly approach” to the disputes because even with a resolution from the UN, the international body has “no police force.”
“Sa level ng mga bansa mananatili diyan eh kung ano ang kakayahan mo kontra sa kabila, iyon lang (At the level of countries, what’s important there is your capacity against the other, that’s all). What operates in the level of relations, Mr. President, is what we call the law of nature, the law of force, and nothing more. That is international law,” the former senator said.
Critics have been calling out Duterte’s defeatist stance against Beijing’s aggressive incursions in the region believed to be the future flashpoint of war. The Philippines and China, along with Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, and Brunei Darussalam, claim in whole and in part the oil- and mineral-rich waters.