MANILA, Philippines – What can the Philippines, a “mosquito,” do against the “dragon” that is China?
For Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, who used these words to describe the two countries, the Philippines can remedy its smaller stature in the Scarborough Shoal dispute that has now entered its 4th month.
“We are created tiny so we have to use our wit. If you are lacking in physical attributes, use your brain!” Santiago said Thursday, June 12, during the regular forum called Kapihan sa Senado.
Santiago explained that due to its political and economic might, China will act like a “bully.” She noted that China has repeatedly shunned bringing the Scarborough Shoal dispute before an international court, a venue that the Philippines has described as the “great equalizer” in the issue.
To counter China’s attitude, Santiago suggested resorting to “power politics,” and turning to its allies like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the United States, Australia, South Korea, and Singapore.
“We have to convince the US, Australia, South Korea, and Singapore that it will be to their best interest to protect the South China Sea from incursions by China,” Santiago said.
This is similar to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement amid Asean’s ongoing discussions on the code of conduct on the South China Sea. (Read: Clinton to Asean: Take a stand on Scarborough.)
“What might be a challenge today for some of Asean’s members, if left unaddressed by all of Asean, could lead tomorrow to issues that may become problems for (the rest of) other Asean members,” Clinton said, according to a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) statement Thursday.
Santiago, however, downplayed the need to allot the biggest share of the Philippines’ budget for defense, as Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile suggested. (Read: DND needs more budget for South China Sea.)
“That is wrong. We simply don’t have resources to be a world military power anyway,” Santiago said.
In the first place, she said, China will likely use soft power, not hard power or gunboat diplomacy, in the next 5 years.
Santiago thus said the Philippines’ Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States is irrelevant in the present row with China. The treaty says the US will aid the Philippines only in the case of an armed attack, she noted.
Meanwhile, Asean states remain sharply divided on the draft South China Sea code of conduct. Based on interviews with diplomatic sources, the Philippines wants the Asean’s joint statement to mention the Scarborough Shoal dispute, but Cambodia — the summit’s organizer and a staunch Chinese ally — has opposed the proposal. (Read: Asean sharply split on South China Sea.) — Rappler.com
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