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We’re now the US’ puppet state, and a boiling frog

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NOT in my worst nightmare did I think the US could revert us to puppet status in less than two years, a status that ended when a nationalistic Senate kicked out American military bases here in 1999, despite the popular Corazon Aquino’s huge efforts to retain them.

One is defending his country’s huge territory; the other is fighting for a dilapidated, rust-covered WW2 ship. PHOTOS FROM AFP AND BBM FACEBOOK

Ironically, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the dictator whom Aquino believed had her husband killed, has now trampled on our independence to make the country the US’ certified vassal — the squire-member more accurately of “trilateral alliances” among the US, Japan and Australia, designed to contain the rise of China, the superpower challenging US hegemony. We’re now Asia’s Ukraine.

But the vassal state is in a boiling-frog situation: While its puppetry right now has put it in the tepid waters of a pan, it is under a fire that will slowly boil, not perceiving the mortal danger it is in until it is too weak to escape.

In the Chinese view, the US has prodded Marcos to quarrel with China over the control of the Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal. With its expertise in propaganda and control of local and global media, it succeeded in portraying China as a bully, water-cannoning and blocking Filipinos from that area that is “Philippine territory.” US propaganda has portrayed Beijing as having no basis at all for claiming that group of islands we call the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) and which the Chinese call Nansha Qundao, and that it is an imperialist power. This is, of course, false, as China had claimed the area as a sovereign territory even before World War II, even centuries before.

The Philippine claims are based on President Ferdinand E. Marcos’ 1978 annexation of the island group and its patently false interpretation of exclusive economic zones (invented by the treaty called Unclos that took effect only in 1994) as superior to sovereign territory and territorial waters. The US also has successfully brainwashed even intelligent Filipinos that China’s claims are based on its arbitrary “nine-dash” line, which China has never claimed.

Basis

We have to understand the basis of our claims in the Spratlys, as well as that of other claimants, as US propagandists have effectively used the disputes to paint China as our enemy rather than just another claimant, the others being Vietnan, Taiwan and Malaysia, pursuing their own interests based on their understanding of history and international law.

Marcos, goaded by the US, insists that Ayungin Shoal is within our EEZ. China insists that it is within its sovereign territory, Nansha Qundao, which is clearly mapped in its maps as early as 1947. Marcos ignores that claim and sends his Navy Coast Guard, contracting civilian wooden vessels, to assert the Philippines’ rights as EEZ holder of the shoal to supply with repair materials the BRP Sierra Madre that had been deliberately grounded there in 1999. China claims Marcos is violating an agreement in 1999 not to do that, which was honored by the Estrada, Arroyo and Duterte administrations.

For the first time since the dispute emerged mainly in the 1950s, the US openly backs the Philippine claims, and declared that it will militarily defend the country if conflict breaks out, if China blocks Filipino vessels from supplying the all-but-sinking Navy ship.

What is a nuclear superpower like China, which has a bigger Navy in Asia than the US, to do? Be cowed by the US nuclear arsenal and its Seventh Fleet? The fact that it was China’s Ministry of National Defense, and not its foreign ministry, which recently “[vowed] to take resolute measures against the Philippines should it continue to challenge China,” is a very strong signal that the Chinese could be moving toward a military stance against the Philippines to resolve the Ayungin issue.

My bet is that it will be gradually raising the temperature of the waters of the pan where we have been placed by Marcos. At first, we will hardly notice as the Chinese stop all investments in the Philippines and reduce the number of tourists coming here.

Move

Its last move would be for its authoritarian government to order the slowdown and then cessation of trade with us on the grounds that the Philippines has joined the de facto military alliances that the US has set up to contain its rise, and in particular, to battle with it when it takes over its rogue province Taiwan. China probably won’t declare such a move, but it will do so quietly and gradually.

In 2012, President Aquino 3rd started backing down from his belligerent stance against China after Filipino fruit exporters lost hundreds of millions of pesos when their banana exports were left to rot in Chinese ports, with Chinese officials claiming they had to check the reported presence of pests in those shipments.

A trade cessation or even just a major slowdown of our trade with China will result in an economic catastrophe for our country.

China is our biggest trading partner, accounting for 20 percent of our trade, twice that of the US. The Philippines, on the other hand, accounts for 2 percent of its trade, which means the Chinese would hardly feel the loss of that market. Our imports from China in 2023 totaled $29.4 billion, or 23 percent of our total $126.2 billion imports. By comparison, the US accounted for only 7 percent. While the US is officially our biggest export market, accounting for 16 percent of the total, China is on its heels, accounting for 15 percent. Add exports to the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong to that figure, and China accounts for 27 percent of our exports.

Are you sure you want a quarrel with this country? DTI DATA

Check out how many made-in-China products fill supermarket shelves, and you will be surprised. What has also not been noticed is that China is the fastest-growing source of petroleum products, ranking third in 2022 with a 15.4 percent share. Its share is actually higher, as Singapore, the second-biggest supplier of gasoline here, gets much of its petroleum products from China. Many of the never-heard ubiquitous gasoline stations in areas outside the metropolis import their gas and diesel from China. We’ll have a transportation crisis the day China orders its state-owned companies to stop selling gas and diesel to us.

Quarrel

Do we really want to quarrel with China? Or just swallow our pride, stop the US from using us as its pawn, and give up a dilapidated, rusting-to-its-core WW II-era vessel that will, except by some miracle, soon sink to the bottom of the sea, which we proudly claim symbolizes our sovereignty over a useless permanently submerged tiny shoal that can fit in half of Taal Lake.

I sincerely hope I’m wrong. Unlike our political-economic elite and even our Congress, half of whom I estimate have houses in the US and Spain, my family and I are stuck here in an unlucky country ravaged by an uncaring ruling class. Indeed, a top-ranking Marcos official who has been the No. 1 spokesman against China late last year made a down payment for an apartment in New York. Maybe he was already on his second glass of Scotch when I talked to him since he even intriguingly told me, “Where will I go if someone with a monosyllabic name becomes president?”

Viewed from all angles, quarreling with the superpower in our neighborhood is insane. Our Asean neighbors, two of which are claimants themselves, are laughing at our asininity, happy that whatever trade and investments China would have brought here would instead flow to them.


Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao

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My website: www.rigobertotiglao.com

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Butch

    We will back you up., We are behind you 100%, and We will support you as long as it takes. US famous quote to Ukraine. At present, It appears the US is abandoning Ukraine as they are losing badly in the battlefield against Russia. The US never fought war against their par. They even lost the war against goat herder in Afghanistan with AK-47, with no air support or artillery. They can’t stop the Houthis in Yemen with cheap missiles or drones.
    Perhaps the young Marcos is being blackmailed as they were ordered by US court to pay $350 million to the victims’ family due to the atrocity during his late father’s regime.

  2. Mikay

    Most Filipinos refuse to acknowledge the reality that we pale in comparison to China in terms of military might. It’s imperative that we unite to halt the President’s reckless actions that provoke China. I eagerly await the day when we recognize that his tenure is a nightmare for Filipinos, and we must swiftly remove him from office.

  3. Dorina S. Rojas

    Suggested title for a Korean-Pinoy telenovela —Krung Krung in the Palace.

  4. The sooner the Asian Zelensky, Bonget Kutingsky, is kicked out, the better for the country. I’m eagerly waiting for the release of the PDEA surveillance pictures and videos from Maharlika’s police and military sources because that would be the catalyst for the right-thinking citizens to finally rise up and oust these drug-addled US puppets.

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