Duterte admin's conflicting stance vs China a 'circus' - analyst

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 04 2021 12:17 PM

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MANILA - A security analyst on Tuesday branded as a "circus" conflicting positions of administration officials towards China amid disputes over the South China Sea. 

De La Salle University international studies professor Renato De Castro said there is no coherent national strategy from the government in dealing with an "emergent and expansionist China," following President Rodrigo Duterte's statements expressing friendliness towards Beijing and his top diplomat's recent expletives. 

"We don't have a consensus on how we look at China. From the defense secretary, it's very clear. China is a challenge. China is competitor," he said in an interview on ANC. 

"Up there, in the level of Malacañang, China is a bestfriend. China could do no wrong. So, what comes out is really a confusion, a divided government without leadership, without any strategy whatsoever."

"We're projecting a circus, a national circus when it comes to the South China Sea dispute," he added.

On Monday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. hurled an expletive-laced tweet demanding that Chinese vessels stop harassing the Philippine Coast Guard and immediately leave Philippine waters.

But in a taped speech that aired Monday night, Duterte said the Philippines need not be rude to China.

"Just because we have a conflict with China does not mean to say that we have to be rude and disrespectful,” the President said.

Duterte went on to thank China for offering COVID-19 vaccines, loans and investments to the Philippines.

For De Castro, Locsin's remark and the country's filing of several diplomatic protests should be backed by action.

"The best action that this government could take at this point in time is to rely on our alliance and security partners," he said.

"If you have the support of your allies and much more your security partners... then China will take us seriously. But at this point in time, what we can only fire at China are those interesting, amusing statements from Secretary Locsin and those diplomatic protest. At the end of the day, they don't matter much."