Self-esteem and bullies
Published by the Visayan Daily Star Publications, Inc.
|NINFA R. LEONARDIA|
Editor-in-Chief & President
NIDA A. BUENAFE
MAJA P. DELY
ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA|
Now that China is aggressively staking its claim on the disputed Spratly Islands, with several incidents from February to May of this year where the Chinese Navy allegedly opened fire on Filipino fishermen, intimidated a Philippine oil exploration vessel, and put posts and buoys in a Philippine-claimed area; our worst fears with regards to that disputed area are starting to come true. The Philippines, with its woefully equipped Navy and Air Force, does not have a lot of options when it comes to standing up to the big and powerful neighborhood bully who is now taking advantage of our obvious weaknesses to push us around and blatantly take something that it does not own.
Amidst the growing conflict and the deepening sense of helplessness with regards to biggest foreign policy challenge this country has faced, Malacañang has taken great pains to express confidence that the United States would side with the Philippines in its conflict with China over the disputed Spratly Islands, banking on the fact that we can invoke the ancient and nebulous Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 between Manila and Washington, if the situation deteriorates to the point that it becomes necessary.
The US has already said that it does not take sides in regional territorial disputes, and that these issues need to be resolved peacefully within the framework of international law. Although this statement does not categorically lay out what the US would actually do, in the hypothetical event of conflict, the Americans are basically telling us that for now, we are on our own and as powerful China may be, there are options available for the Philippines when it comes to settling this dispute through peaceful yet forceful diplomatic means and we must exhaust all those options before flexing our false muscles by invoking the Mutual Defense Treaty.
Because this particular challenge is mainly diplomatic in nature, the Philippines should approach this conflict with more self-esteem because if we can strike up alliances with the right countries and be successful in deploying our diplomats to use all available international fora to project China as a misbehaving international bully, as Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez suggests, we may actually have an advantage in the negotiating table.
When push comes to shove, there is still a chance that the US will come to our aid. But now it is still up to us to push back smartly and firmly. This will be the greatest foreign policy challenge our country has ever faced and all we can do now is hope and pray that P-Noy and his men are up to the task.*