"It’s not going to be easy to sabotage Duterte and his legacy project."
Michael Pompeo, dubbed as the “worst US secretary of state” by a bevy of American political analysts ranging from Thomas Friedman to Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky, is quoted on the local US CNN clone One News as saying that “China wants to push through with the Code of Conduct in the SCS to avoid the aggressive American engagement." One News is owned by Manny Pangilinan's MediaQuest, along with other media entities.
The report was written by Manny Mogato, a pro-American journalist who had won the Pulitzer Award in 2018 with Clare Baldwin and Andrew R. C. Marshall of Reuters for their fake news series on the so-called 60,000 EJK victims of President Rodrigo R. Duterte. The Pulitzer Prize is normally okay until it awards written works on geopolitical issues. The real figure in anti-drug related deaths is actually closer to 6,000, and well documented by the Philippine National Police.
The TV report misrepresents and grossly exaggerates the political weight and significance of the U.S. in the region, creating the misleading impression of its importance in the affairs of ASEAN with China and the South China Sea. When the U.S. is actually only relevant as a persistent spoiler of the peace and stability already achieved by the SCS stakeholders over the years of painstaking confidence building and negotiations.
Any fake news to help destabilize the relations of countries in the region and, as a bonus, destabilize an independent government like Duterte’s that is cooperating with China is par for the course for the U.S. and the Amboys. This is particularly true now that the region has been recovering fastest from the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis than any other area in the world – good news that the US sees as a threat to its comeback big as hegemon in the region.
The report in question is totally unjust to ASEAN which for three decades now, long before the US became serious in the South China Sea issues, has worked with China in formulating the rules of engagement in the SCS. It is ridiculous for Pompeo, One News and Mogato to claim that the U.S. has anything to do with the progress of the collective negotiations and particularly insulting to China and ASEAN that the US can claim to “pressure” these countries and the region.
The Philippines and China are co-chairs of the ASEAN Code of Conduct negotiations. At the 33rd ASEAN Summit in November 2018, President Rodrigo R. Duterte assured the body that the “Philippines will do its part to realize a more peaceful, stable and secure region... as Country Coordinator of ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations until 2021, we are committed to work with all... in the substantive negotiations and early conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct ...”
The Code of Conduct is the set of rules outlining the norms and responsibilities to prevent conflicting territorial claims in the WPS. Since 2002, ASEAN and China have agreed to set up that code over the South China Sea activities, an area that is one of the world’s most important shipping lanes. Thus, during several reciprocal visits in the late 2010s both President Duterte and President Xi Jinping expressed the desire to complete the Code of Conduct as early as possible and have it sealed and signed by 2021 - before the end of President Duterte’s term.
Citing Duterte in a 2019 interview, Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. said, "This sea code is taking forever. Can we rush this so we can avoid all of these tensions and we know who’s right and who’s wrong when something happens?'"
Actually, ASEAN and China don’t need to rush – they just need to stick to the schedule of 2021 as originally envisioned. It is the US that is in a rush to scuttle the hard-earned stability between ASEAN and China in forging harmony and peace in the South China Sea. ASEAN has all the reasons to maintain peace and tranquility so that trade will continue to prosper, particularly in this period of economic recovery from the COVID-19 economic depression.
Despite the pandemic, the ASEAN became China’s largest trading partner in the first three months of 2020, surpassing both the EU and the United States. This trend is likely to ascend in the months to come as China is the only global major economy to recover quickly from the pandemic. China registered 3.2-percent growth in the second quarter of 2020, while both the EU and US shrank by 12.1 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively. This trend is likely to linger for a longer time.
The US reaction to the myriad successes of China-ASEAN cooperation has been to ramp up its propaganda to confuse and destabilize the mind of the populations in ASEAN hoping to upset them enough to disrupt any or all collaborative work between ASEAN countries and China. Pompeo has tried to recruit ASEAN members to an anti-China alliance by upping US support for militant claims against China; but as Asia Times reported in August, the “US fails to build regional coalition against China.”
The ASEAN is now a bastion of goodwill for China; in fact, the headcount of ASEAN populations favoring China over the U.S. is 7 to 3. As the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute survey of January 2020 reflected, “China was given the nod by the majority of respondents from seven of the 10 ASEAN countries, with 69 percent from Brunei favoring the country, 58 percent from Cambodia, 52% percent from Indonesia, 74 percent from Laos, 61 percent from Malaysia, 62 percent from Myanmar and 52 percent from Thailand.”
Let us dispel the illusion that Western media and Amboys have been spreading that ASEAN can be made to sway against China. Vietnam may be militant in its SCS claims but China is its top trading partner, Singapore is walking the tightrope but clearly knows the future lies in Asia. Although the Philippines suffers from a colonial mentality thanks to the dominance of Western-dominated media, China is its only hope for economic survival and growth.
The US continues to harbor hopes of destabilizing the SCS and subverting the Philippines by a false flag using the Philippine Navy to snare the PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy) into an “accident” reminiscent of the sinking of the Maine in the Gulf of Tonkin attack. And following through, an electoral coup in 2022 with anti-Duterte campaigns paving the way to install one of the following tandems –a Robredo-Carpio, Lacson-Sotto or Isko-plus-one and maybe a Pacquiao-plus-one team.
The only No-No for the US is any team that includes a Marcos or a Duterte. The US sees these to be dyed-in-the-wool anti-US political forces. The Yellows’ propaganda and campaign strategy revolves around the South China Sea, shifting to peripheral issues to keep the pot boiling – such as, the President’s health, corruption and on and on from nitpicking on Francisco Duque to Manila Bay dolomite sands beach-building around Manila Bay.
Despite all the efforts at sabotage, Duterte is still sky high in the ratings. It’s not going to be easy to sabotage Duterte and his legacy project – the China-ASEAN COC for the South China Sea.