Is Duterte’s kowtowing to China over?

When Duterte spoke before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) a few days ago, he asserted that the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Arbitration Court is “now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon.” He declared: “We firmly reject attempts to undermine it” and welcomed the support of a number of states for the award.

Since 2016, Duterte has shelved this ruling in exchange for promises of loans worth several billion dollar and infrastructure projects. Thus, Duterte’s address appeared to be a turnaround from years of bowing and bootlicking to China’s power. It, thus, prompted not a few comments of commendation by some quarters praising Duterte for “finally” standing up to China.

Duterte’s address before the UN has prompted the Filipino people to raise the following questions:

Will Duterte now demand China to dismantle the seven military facilities it has illegally built within the country’s territorial waters?

Will he now demand China to pay remuneration for the damage to hundreds of hectares of coral reefs and mineral resources amounting to not less than P30 billion?

Will he now demand China to stop further land reclamation and construction of military and other facilities in the country’s territorial waters?

Will he now heed the clamor of the Filipino people to blacklist large Chinese firms involved in the destruction of the country’s marine and mineral resources in the South China Sea?

Will he now demand China to withdraw its large Coast Guard ships which has intimidated and prevented Filipino fishermen from accessing the Scarborrough Shoals?

Will he now assert the removal of hundreds of Chinese militia fishing boats which prevent Filipinos from fishing in Philippine waters?

Will he now demand China to stop overfishing in Philippine waters which has resulted in massive loss of fish supplies for Filipino fishermen?

Will he now demand China’s military to pull back and recognize Philippine sea and air space?

Will he now invoke the 2016 award before the United Nations and other international bodies and raise the question of China’s refusal to abide by the ruling?

Without these steps and assertions, Duterte’s address before the UNGA are hollow and will prove to have been made only to satisfy the growing number of countries who are standing up to China’s refusal to abide by international agreements.

Just one day after Duterte’s address, Malacañang clarified Duterte’s address and said his policy on China “has not changed” and that his speech before the UN was merely restating a legal fact and that “nothing else has to be done.” Without concrete action assertive of Philippine sovereignty, Duterte’s UN address are empty words.

Thus, to the question: Will Duterte now stop kowtowing to China and genuinely stand for Philippine sovereignty? Clearly not.

The Filipino people must hold to account the Duterte regime for national treachery for having failed to assert the country’s sovereign rights under the 2016 arbitral ruling and for having allowed China to construct seven military facilities and continue expanding its power within the country’s territorial seas. Duterte must be put to task for colluding with the Chinese government and big Chinese companies in plundering the country’s resources and allowing China to gain greater control of the commanding heights of the country’s economy.

Is Duterte's kowtowing to China over?