If anybody is still wondering why President Rodrigo Duterte was included among the 74 most powerful people in the world, one has only to read this piece and see how his decision to “set aside” an international ruling which concluded that China has no legal basis to claim historic rights to the bulk of the South China Sea is impacting the world community.
It ruffled the feathers of some world leaders that the Duterte cozied up with China despite the favorable ruling the country got, but declaring now that he would not press Beijing to honor the ruling even if factual new satellite images released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington reveal weapons emplacements for the first time on their man-made islands, is tantamount to defying the powers that be.
What this simply means is that Duterte is, indeed, putting a premium on the PH-China relationship rather than upholding the tribunal decision that China doesn’t have the right to resources within its “nine-dash line,” which extends hundreds of miles to the south and east of its island province of Hainan and covers some 90% of the disputed waters.
Besides, how could one really justify the implementation of the international tribunal’s ruling when, in the first place, China has not only boycotted the proceeding but also does not acknowledge the decision, and, second, that being the case, what else could the international community do when China has already reclaimed and have created harbors, runways and reinforced hangars big enough for military aircraft on the islands?
America should not blame Duterte if the latter’s statements and pronouncements run counter to their interest in the country and in the region.
Why did America allow China to build up islands in the South China Sea and turn it into military installations when they know what is going on in the world with all their imaging satellites in place?
What else could Duterte do really, if you think about it, but have a pact with the devil for as long as the country benefits from it?
Apparently, the one appearing to be the devil in Duterte’s eyes are the Americans, the way he is now imposing his independent foreign policy.
It looks like the leaders of the ASEAN are all recognizing and acknowledging Duterte’s out of the box leadership and this is what matters most to him because now he is considered as one of them who don’t feel comfortable being America’s lap dog.