“If you want, just make us a province, like Fujian,” quipped Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte before an audience of Filipino-Chinese businessmen on February 19.
Significantly, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua was in attendance among influential tradesmen and industrialists who applauded the Filipino leader’s controversial statement.
Duterte was also quick to downplay in his presentation rising concerns over China’s militarization of artificially created islands in the South China Sea, including on nearby features claimed by the Philippines.
“Military bases, I must admit [it’s presence], but is it intended for us? You must be joking. It’s not intended for us,” claimed the Filipino president. “It’s really intended for those who China thinks will destroy them and that is America.”
The speech was Duterte’s latest bid to defend his pro-China foreign policy, a shift away from the Philippines’ traditional reliance on treaty ally the United States which has sent shockwaves at home and across the region as revelations of China’s expansionist designs come to light.
His statements immediately provoked a firestorm in the Philippines, with government critics claiming that the country is at risk of becoming a full-blown Chinese satellite state under Duterte’s accommodative leadership.
Public anger stirred over recent reports that China unilaterally named and registered five undersea features at the Benham Rise in the eastern Philippine Sea at the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), an intergovernmental body that aims to ensure the world’s seas, oceans and navigable waters are properly charted and surveyed.
The Benham Rise area falls well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but there are growing concerns that China’s naming of seabed features is a prelude to developing a military presence in the maritime area and may eventually lead Beijing into making territorial claims over the resource-rich area.
In 2017, the Philippines officially rechristened the Benham Rise as the “Philippine Rise” to reassert its claim to the seismically active undersea region. Unlike the South China Sea, the eastern Philippine Sea and Benham Rise area is not contested by rival states.
Latest satellite imagery shows that China has virtually completed building a sprawling network of military bases and facilities on contested features in the South China Sea. Those facilities are already being put to strategic use: a flotilla of Chinese naval and civilian vessels recently aggressively surrounded a Philippine Navy vessel conducting routine operations around Thitu Island.
The Philippines has exercised control over the disputed land feature, which hosts a permanent Filipino community, for the past four decades. Manila aims to upgrade Thitu’s airstrip and civilian facilities later this year. China appears to be taking issue with that claim, in a bid to squeeze other claimants out of areas it controls.
Indeed, there is a growing sense among many Filipinos that Duterte’s concessional approach has failed to curb or stall Beijing’s territorial ambitions in the area. That realization has sparked new public rallies calling on the government to take a tougher stance against China’s creeping presence in Philippine-claimed waters.
“It is absolutely unacceptable for the President, the top diplomat of the country, to joke about making the Philippines a province of China,” said Congressman Gary Alejano, a strong critic of Duterte with a military background.
A former naval officer-turned-legislator, Alejano has maintained deep ties with a Philippine defense establishment known to be wary of Duterte’s policies and China’s intentions. Last year, Alejano’s military sources provided him with satellite imagery showing China’s fast growing military presence on Philippine-claimed land features in the Spratly Islands.
The outspoken legislator was also behind the latest report suggesting China is tightening the noose around Thitu Island by restricting the Philippine Navy’s access to the land feature.
Frustrated with Duterte’s perceived soft-pedaling vis-à-vis China, top Philippine defense officials seem increasingly keen to expose China’s creeping consolidation of the South China Sea, both through media leaks and by providing damning information to known Duterte critics in Congress.
Alejano appealed to nationalism in describing Duterte’s recent speech as “irresponsible banter.” He said Duterte’s “colony” quip was tantamount to a “slap in the face of the many Filipinos, including our soldiers stationed in our occupied islands, who work tirelessly to defend our territorial integrity from China.”
Another legislator, Tom Villarin, warned that such statements, even in jest, reflect “a habit of the president to defer always to the wishes of China” and represented “willful subservience at the expense of our sovereignty.”
Ariel Casilao, another left-leaning legislator, condemned what he views as Duterte’s “defeatist stand…against the continuing aggressive behavior of China in the South China Sea.”
Cognizant of growing domestic opposition to Duterte’s China policy, the US Pentagon has doubled down on its efforts to maintain robust security cooperation with the Philippine defense establishment. Duterte has bid to loosen those ties, in part by downgrading annual joint war game exercises which previously pointed largely at China.
Washington recently deployed a carrier battle group, the USS Carl Vinson, to the Philippines for the first time since 2014. While authorities portrayed the visit as a routine expression of the two treaty allies’ bilateral alliance, the deployment’s timing was telling.
The visit came a week after the Pentagon made the unprecedented move of deploying a guided-missile destroyer Hopper within 12 nautical miles of the Scarborough Shoal.
The shoal, which lies just about 100 nautical miles from the Philippine mainland, is claimed by Manila but has been occupied by China since a naval standoff in 2012. The Philippine defense establishment fears that Beijing may soon start to reclaim land around the shoal to eventually establish military facilities on it.
Contrary to Duterte’s statements and moves, the Philippine top brass have remained receptive and supportive of America’s efforts to keep China’s maritime ambitions in check.
Washington seems determined to step up its naval presence in the area with the cooperation of its regional allies, including the Philippines, as well as new partners such as Vietnam. The carrier group is also scheduled to visit Vietnam’s central Da Nang port for the first time in recent memory.
China, however, remains undaunted. As a prominent Chinese academic recently made clear, Beijing “has the right to build whatever it needs within its [claimed] territory,” in the South China Sea. And increasingly Beijing is using US countermeasures as pretext to further expand its growing military footprint in the area.
I think perchance you miss the point that the others are making. The Asians and Africans do not want to interfere with what the U.S. and NATO countries do within their own borders. They can live their Christian Western ideological or spiritual or philosophical lifestyle whatsoever.
BUT allow the Asians and Africans to be jungle pagans or animists or voodoo tom tom worshippers or ancestral spirits or even a belief in a dictatorship or free for all orgy or whatever, if they so desire.
You go your way, we go ours. You take the high road and we take the low.
Trust me, we do not want our naval ships to go near you. So send your naval ships and your soldiers back.
If you like we could do a trade – all Caucasians go back to wherever they originate before their colonial exploits and then we the rest of mankind can rewrite history all over again – that is build a fence so the whites can be totally separated from the rest.
Surely that is a win win situation for both?
LOL@Richard Javad Heydarian
Simply delusional. (Fit to write for New York Times.)
Benham Rise is proabably a staging hideout area for US submarines, hence all the noise from US agents.
Biblical end time countries at play – China as Kings of the East and Turkey as Kings of the north and Arab countries as Kings of the south. China with it’s OBOR Program, need I say more.
The whole World, including most Americans and Europeans have recognized how hypocritical the Western values are. Please save your propaganda to Fox News or CNN.
Fidel Castro described pre-revolutionary Cuba as the whorehouse of imperialism.
Maybe Philippines would be better off as a province of China. It has been a virtual colony of the US since ~1900 and a large portion of the population still suffer grinding poverty. China has bought ~700 million people out of poverty and aims to eliminate it by 2020.
"regional threat"…Of course,that means;US involvment.When is it going to stop!?!
Mr. HEYDARIAN, please don’t confuse these two words: "rising" and "raising"
not to mention.. raisin.
This may be a bit off topic but, I like President Duterte. As far as I can tell he is the first person to be elected to a nation’s highest post by the common people since ancient Athens. I’m also in favor of all he has done to try to "fix" the country. If I’ve offended anybody, I don’t care. BTW, I’m an American.
Brilliant, join the soon to be wealthiest China, Duterte will be one of the most promising and pragmatic Philippine president.
I think this is a better analysis of Duterte’s joke than that of Heydarian’s.
“It is absolutely unacceptable for the President, the top diplomat of the country, to joke about making the Philippines a province of China,”
no more than a President like Trump calling 50 odd African nations "s**t H**e" countries. The entire American media defended Trump for saying that and Dutarte’s comment should be taken in a similar light hearted spirit. Obviously 2017 is the year for leaders to speak their mind.
Regarding the Spratly Islands, please refer to to the Treaty of Taipei between the Republic of China and Japan.
Treaty Of Peace Between The Republic Of China And Japan (Treaty Of Taipei) 1952
It is recognised that under Article 2 of the Treaty of Peace which Japan signed at the city of San Francisco on 8 September 1951 (hereinafter referred to as the San Francisco Treaty), Japan has renounced all right, title, and claim to Taiwan (Formosa) and Penghu (the Pescadores) as well as the Spratley Islands and the Paracel Islands.
Clearly this means that Japan has ceded the Spratlys to China. If not, the Spratlys would not be mentioned in the Treaty.
Vietnam, Philippines, and Taiwan has occupied the Spratlys long before China. No body raised a stir. When China came to the area, all hell broke lose.
Duterte knew very well Philippines didn’t progress much even after be with USA for almost 100 years pre and post WWII.
So he is not stupid to court China to have a try. In 1980s, China’s gdp per capital is lower than Philippines’. Today, China’s is double of Philippines’.
You and people like you are so com on in the philippines. Blame others for your own failures. It’s thinking like this that keeps you a third world country. In WW2 we leveled germany, but with help from the USA germany is the strongest economy in Europe. Japan was totally destroyed and had 2 atomic bombs dropped on them. With help from USA they are a world power today and are even carrying the philippines because you can’t do it for yourselves. So get over yourself and do something for a change
You write with criminal intent to slander the good people of the Philippines. And you speak 1/10 truth leaving out the rest which makes you a gross fraudulent liar as well.
First of all before the war the Germans and Japanese were already industrial powers and had strong scientists and engineers. U.S. left Philippines impoverished with no manufacturing capacity.
The U.S. forfeited the wealth of Germany and Japan – all the gold built on. And on top of that demanded War reparations. What they provided by way of credit under th Marshall Plan was just fiat money!
I presume you know what fiat money is?
You write like someone with no university education and know his WW2 history only from reading newspapers!
Try checking with the Harvard University library to check what were the terms of the surrender by Germany and Japan, and also the fine print of the Marshall Plan.
At the minimum do not ridicule the good people of the Philippines. If the Amricans were to swap places with the good people of Philippines they would not last one day sweating and toiling under the tropical sun and in the tropical climate.
A Chinese province? Hey, that sounds better than becoming a secon Puerto Rico or a Central American US satellite.
Tommy Curlee Couldn’t have said the truth better myself…
Don’t mind Vincey boy Tommy…As you can see he just doesn’t like Americans just like his Chinese president duterte ooops…Philippine president…He’s angry because he has had to work under the hot tropical sun and climate…There are some 20% philipino’s that feel like him…it’s all good…
No one will bring Philippines out of poverty until the corruption of your government stops and the people and economy starts getting some money
I’m American too Steve and livinmg in Phillipines and I also disagree
George Silversurfer or risen
Chainese are another insane who try to bring distructions to worldly peace. Their growing power need to be checked and it could be done only by USA and western countries.
Why u blame duterte? Blame america you jerk!
That man has hidden agenda. Perversion towards China
Be cautious of your stupid comment calling our country a shithole? You talk about drugs, really? As far as i know most of those drugs came from china.
I looked for his apology. When he gave it the apology was a vague diluted message on twitter.
Furthermore websites from "American Thinker" a pro Jewish, pro Israel site to "Daily Caller", "American Spectator" ," PJ Media" to a dozen others articles praised and supported him and the slur. Writers freely indulged in repeating the slur in their articles.
Then came the comments. It was a torrential display of raw hatred and bigotry Everything from genes, DNA, black skin color and I mean every racis comment was allowed. suddenly these websites did not have any rules regarding open blatant racist comments. It was a free for alll. If I did not know better I would have thought I was in the Stormfront Webpage.
what did Trump do to the popular and (conservative) Media take on his slur? nothing. To this day I am dealing with commenters who call Africa and African nations by that slur.
Very well said bro…its perfect…NICE ANALYS…you must be a good adviser that is full of wisdom..keep it upL
Let the war begin, China ,Russia against US. If the China lost the battle and that’s a time Philippine country will become a province of China..
Better Learn ”NI HAO MA” and ”xie,xie” instead of english, Pardner Xing!
Arroyo pala ang may pakana nyang bentahan ng Philippine Spratly island.
To the Chinese, Philippines and Taiwan are the same political locations
I’m Filipino and I also disagree with this dipshit!
Enrique Le Burjer Your avitar says it all.
The US lost 71,834 casualties in the freedom of the PI.
Yes! A Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, only this time with ChiCom masters instead of Japanese. What a genius you are!
I guess in your Western brain, there is nothing other than slave-master relationship. Just like someone said dogs only see the World in different levels of grey.
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