President Rodrigo Duterte and President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China shake hands after declaring their joint press statements during the expanded bilateral meeting at the Malacañan Palace on November 20, 2018. (Alfred Frias/Presidential Photo)

Despite the incoherence, contradictions and sheer illogic of the declarations of President Duterte, his mouthpiece, secretary of foreign affairs and other officials on the country’s foreign relations, the Duterte regime does have a foreign policy.  It can be summed up as accommodation if not outright obeisance to China no matter what the costs to the Philippines and its people. Nothing else, it seems, matters — not ASEAN, and certainly not the rest of the international community.

Mr. Duterte justifies his agreement with Xi Jinping allowing Chinese access to the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone, his standing with China even in the sinking of the F/B Gem-Vir, and his refusal to bar Chinese ships from Philippine territorial waters by saying he doesn’t want a war with China that the Philippines can’t win. He also ignores such other options as declaring those waters off-limits to foreign poachers and bringing the case to the United Nations.

No one can be blamed for concluding that  despite the Philippine Constitution, Mr. Duterte and company are simply doing everything to justify their pro-China bias. Hence such attempts at explaining it as Mr. Duterte’s supposed concern for the police and military, which he has repeatedly said he won’t utilize to secure the country’s territorial waters and EEZ, his minimizing the sinking of the F/B Gem Vir,  his recent challenge — which he knows will be ignored — for the United States to declare war on China, and, of course, his fear-mongering claim that any Philippine attempt to defend its sovereignty will invite Chinese retaliation.

Photo from PCOO.

Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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