Not to douse water on what is, in truth and in fact, a historic win for the Philippines but one cannot take the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration dismissing the claims of China over much of the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea through the use of their magical nine-dash line and separate it from the realities of navigating those waters. The truth is that any Philippine vessel in the area from fishing boats to navy ships gets chased off by big bad China.
Again, not taking anything away from the legal team that gave the Philippines this victory, one must understand that the ruling was practically a shoo-in when China refused to participate in the process other than to challenge the jurisdiction of the tribunal. Once the tribunal said that it had jurisdiction, that was it. It is tempting to describe the battle as David versus Goliath but, truth be told, this is really a paper victory because unlike the Philistines who turned and ran when Goliath was felled by David’s stone, China is not going anywhere anytime soon. The Philippines will be hard put to enforce the arbitral award. No one, not one nation, not even the US for all its talk, will risk war with China. In the end, the Philippines will be forced to enter into bilateral talks with China in order to be able to exploit the resources found in that part of world. Bilateral talks which China has been proposing all along, and something which China can dominate in. So, really, this is a win for the Philippines but once the dust settles, I fear the Philippines will be going to China to appease the beast and get something going. In the end, China wins.
Whatever else we may believe, we also have to face reality. We have to find creative ways to use the ruling in our favor against China. That’s no easy feat. To do so needs a credible use of force, or the threat of it. We cannot do that without a respectable navy with ships capable of exerting force.
So, what do we have? We have the ruling. We also have friends. Friends with guns. Now, some of those friends like playing by their own rules much like China. So if we are really going to be smart about this, we have to play by our own rules. What do we have? A president that doesn’t play by the rules and a ruling earned by playing by the rules. That ladies and gentlemen is a lethal cocktail. If our Government doesn’t just roll over and play dead for China, then we have the makings of a very interesting diplomatic situation. Time I think for us to make our own reality.