Philippines needs to start playing to win in #SouthChinaSea

Filipinos need to wake up to the following realities:

1. Duterte’s “insulting” behavior toward Obama was a lot less offensive compared to Noynoy Aquino insulting the whole Chinese nation by comparing it to Nazi Germany when he gave a speech in Japan. The Nazi metaphor was bad enough, but for Aquino to have made that statement in Japan, a country that once invaded and brutalized China, was far worse than Duterte saying “son of a whore” while responding to a journalist’s question regarding Obama.

2. No matter what Duterte or Yasay do, the other ASEAN countries are not going to sign off on a joint statement against China. It is ridiculous to keep blaming them for “not taking a stronger stance” during ASEAN meetings. China is a top trading partner and source of foreign direct investment of nearly every ASEAN country except Brunei. They are not stupid enough to directly antagonize China.

3. The US needs China more than it needs the Philippines. China is the biggest creditor of the US, and China by far makes up a much bigger share of US exports and imports compared to the Philippines. It is highly unlikely that the US will go to war against China over a few rocks in the Philippines, regardless of the posturing.

4. The Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling against China is useless. The Aquino government wasted millions of dollars on an unenforceable decision that is good only for propaganda purposes. The publicity-conscious Aquino administration thought China could be shamed into submission. But since when in a thousand years has China cared about outside opinion more than its own? It has ignored far worse international pressure on bigger issues.

5. The South China Sea issue is not a Hollywood movie where America is the hero, China is the villain, and the Philippines is the damsel in distress. It is not a biblical tale where one side is good and the other side is evil. It is more of a poker game. No heroes, no villains, no victims, no angels, no demons. Just winners or losers. Duterte, unlike Aquino, understands this, so he does not waste time crying and screaming like a girl in need of rescue. Instead, he got on the table and started playing the cards he was dealt.

After three decades of emo governance, Philippine military defense capabilities are nowhere near where they need to be. So, what do you do when a fire-breathing dragon comes to your doorstep? You make it your friend. One day, it may even come to your defense.

To the celebrity-obsessed Filipinos, Duterte is doing a Daenerys Targaryen, get it?

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