Commentary: The irrationality of the Aquino-Del Rosario foreign policy regime

The Aquino-del Rosario foreign policy regime was so antagonistic towards China. President Benigno Aquino III compared China to Nazi Germany twice. The Philippines didn’t have an ambassador to China for a year. And the Arbitral court’s records have shown that Albert Del Rosario didn’t engage in sustained diplomatic bilateral negotiations with China.

This is odd because as Louis B. Sohn, international law scholar and one of the drafters of the UN Charter, said:

“It is an axiom of international diplomacy that the most efficient method of settling international disputes is through diplomatic negotiations between the two governments concerned, without any meddling of third parties, other states or international organizations.”

Why didn’t we take the efficient method?

Furthermore, no sustained confidence building measures were initiated. A hotline between Manila and Beijing could have been established in order for the top leaders of the two countries to be able to de-escalate tensions quickly. This is elementary international relations. Yet it wasn’t done. No credible efforts to build trust, find common ground, and forge mutual understanding with China. Why?

Why did the Philippines file the arbitration case, even though we know it wouldn’t amount to anything substantial? Why didn’t Vietnam do it? Vietnam and China have been fighting since ever – they even went to war several times in their bilateral history! Yet they managed to enter into bilateral negotiations on several very contentious issues, successfully, such as the delimitation of the Gulf of Tonkin.

We never had a war with China — never in our entire history. Since our territorial disputes with China began in the 70’s, not a single Filipino was killed by China. But the Philippines has killed at least 2 Chinese: one from the mainland, one from Taiwan.

Just like before, the del Rosario group is selling the fairytale that the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) can unite against China. Yet after the decision was released on July 12, 2016, Asean didn’t release a statement. And they were blaming former Secretary of Foreign Affairs Perfecto Yasay because he didn’t fight so hard to have the decision included in the statement of Asean.

But what’s the practical use of that statement besides massaging the egos of #CHexit peeps?

But the real and consequential question is: are these Asean countries really willing to be like the Philippines: antagonise China? Is it really in their best interests to antagonise Beijing?

Let’s be realistic now. Examine the trade relationship of China and the Philippines with each Asean country. Given that the Philippines is a negligible trade partner to ALL Asean countries while China is a major one, how realistic is it for them to copy Philippines’ uncompromising attitude towards China?

Filipinos should stop basing their understanding of international relations on the telenovelas they watch, on fairytales, and on vapid newscasters, journalists, and pundits who explain world politics to them without making their strategic thinking transparent.

They should turn off their TVs and start reading this classic international relations text and learn from it: Thucydides’ The Peloponessian War. There they would encounter the conflict between Corcyra and the Corinthians.

Just like how Athens decided with whom it would ally between Corcyra and Corinthians during the Peloponessian War, Asean states will decide on the basis of their own interests. The Philippines’ appeal to international law and self-righteous morality might be as evocative as the speech of the Corinthians, but as Thucydides narrated, it was Corcyra’s promise of material gains that enticed Athens. The inconvenient truth is: the Philippines is a very negligible trade partner of these Asean countries!

It’s not very convincing that Asean countries would see that it’s in their best interests to strain their economic ties with China. China is no longer the China during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest that the world could easily turn its back on. This doesn’t mean that Asean countries will bandwagon with China. They will just not see it in their best interests to take an aggressive balancing stance against Beijing in order to support the moral crusade of Manila.

When it pursued the arbitration case against China, the Philippine government spent around 1 billion pesos in order to buy the biggest moral horse it could ride; but it’s so big and heavy, it couldn’t run anymore.

Why did the Philippines acted irrationally?

1. Filipino foreign policy makers are just naturally irrational; or
2. There’s an outside power directing Philippine foreign policy.


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One comment

  1. The PH government acted irrationally because the foreign policy makers were naturally selfish and non patriotic. and There’s an outside power directing Philippine foreign policy.

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