Duterte’s auspicious visit to the ME

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

It looks like President Rodrigo Duterte is playing well his cards and is getting the help he badly needs for the country.

Not only has he been able to maintain his high trust rating, though recent survey showed it dipped a little, but overall he is seen to be leading the country with competence despite the criticism he has been getting here and abroad for his bloody and relentless war on drugs.

What makes Duterte heads and shoulder over the past presidents is his tenacity and persistence to do and carry on the work that he thinks is good for the country and the Filipinos regardless of whether or not they are politically correct.

It is simply a blessing in disguise now that the Philippines is hosting the  ASEAN 2017, which also coincides with its 50th year anniversary, and which has chosen a very appropriate theme, “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World.”

This event not only a boast for the country but more than anything it will highlight the leadership of Duterte.

What I am just saying here is that on the bigger picture where Duterte has shown the political will to fight illegal drugs, corruption and criminality, other countries have become sympathetic to us that they have extended a helping hand because that is the only way growth and development of a country could be sustained.

Members of the ASEAN have shown this kind of cooperation, not to mention that China is pouring in money to see us develop. Whether or not China is motivated to help us because of Duterte’s utter silence in the South China Sea territorial dispute is beside the point. History will judge Duterte on that.

The fact is that more assistance will be forthcoming in different shapes and form, no doubt, because of Duterte’s visit to Middle East (ME) countries, like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom of Bahrain, and the State of Qatar.

“We will seek greater politico-security cooperation, collaboration in the field of health and in culture. This, on top of our agenda of spurring two-way trade and investment,” Duterte said before his departure.

What makes this visit significant is because it comes on the heels of the capture of Kuwaiti national Hussein Aldhafiri and his female Syrian companion Rahaf Zina, who are believed to be members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

While Duterte may not be visiting Kuwait, I am sure the neighboring countries where he will be stopping by will be expressing their gratitude for a job well done in helping keep the world safe from these terrorists.

 

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Balikatan exercise 2015 and China’s military build-up in the South China Sea

balikatan-joint-military-exercise-6This year’s Philippine-US Balikatan (shoulder to shoulder) military exercise is considered the largest, being participated by 11,000 soldiers (around 5,000 Filipinos and 6,000 Americans).

The exercise is an annual joint military event which seeks to improve the capability of the two countries’ forces to respond militarily to threats that include terrorists, pirates and smugglers, which could be summed up as maritime security threats, and as well as dealing with natural disasters.

It is also a time to showcase partly America’s newer military hardware with its awesome firepower.

Suffice to say that its primary aim is to maintain security and peace in the Asia Pacific region with the country being a party to the Mutual Defense Treaty Agreement with the US and the armed forces a beneficiary of a modernization program.

But, isn’t is ironic that while the Balikatan exercise is going on today, supposedly to prepare and enhance our bilateral capabilities in confronting and protecting the country’s sovereignty against internal and external threats, China is at the same time aggressively building up its military presence in the South China Sea, encroaching even now in areas which we think and deem our own?

US Ambassador Philip Goldberg expressed that through this bilateral exercise, current challenges being faced by the Asia Pacific region will be solved.

How?

What could be more brazen and menacing challenge to a third world country and the mightiest country in the world than China’s continuing reclamation projects in the South China Sea reaching now within the Philippines’ 200-kilometer Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which is a clear violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)?

Not only is China purposely acting oblivious of the UNCLOS, but China is also flagrantly unmindful of what the US and other Western powers say about its all or nothing claim of the South China Sea.

And yet US Ambassador Philip Goldberg says that this exercise is the kind that will help maintain in Asia the freedom of aviation and navigation as well as the diplomacy in Asia Pacific region.

How could there be freedom of aviation and navigation in the South China Sea when one giant of a nation is dictating the demarcation of claims by sovereign states in the region and controlling the passage of planes and ships later?

It is affecting the livelihood of many Filipino fishermen in the area now.

Tomorrow it will be the people of the world who will be disadvantaged, unless the US and its powerful allies in the Western world will help put order in the South China Sea region.