Government News Analysis

That smell’s not fish – it’s politics

One of the most emotive issues of the four-year-long stand-off over Scarborough Shoal – a collection of South China Sea rock outcrops – has taken a step closer to being resolved. Filipino fishermen are back hauling fish from the once more-troubled waters as Chinese marine patrols stand down. It’s a major breakthrough and is the direct result of President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent trip to China. He asked that Filipino fishing vessels be left alone and the evidence coming in is that they are being.

In 2012, relations between the Philippines and China soured when a Chinese naval patrol prevented Filipino fishermen from approaching the disputed fishing grounds. That led to former president, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, ratcheting-up the tension by taking the issue to an international arbitration court which earlier this year ruled that the shoal is part of Philippine marine territory and not part of China’s. That, however, didn’t remove the impasse: China never recognised the court and the court, actually a tribunal, has no means of implementing its ruling in any case.

That’s the background. So what does it show? Simply this; that for the past four years, Filipino fishermen in that region have seen their livelihoods decimated while Aquino and his Western backers – specifically the US – played Russian roulette with them as the “special-partnership” allies sought to put China in its place. It’s been the fishermen who have paid the highest price; no fish for them has meant no money and an inability for them to provide for their families. In truth, they were little more than pawns in a reckless game of political chess.

But that, it seems, was an acceptable price in the context of the far bigger high-stakes game of geo-politics. Although first presented as a simple issue concerning fishermen and fishing, at its heart it was nothing of the sort. This was always about ensuring that the US had a sustainable sphere of influence in East Asia and commanded the global shipping routes that slide close to Scarborough Shoal. Chinese military outposts on those rocks, then, threatened that influence and so Washington needed Manila’s help to get them removed.

But all that would never work on a protestor’s T shirt; it wouldn’t get people out on the streets burning Chinese flags. It wouldn’t give the cause the angry public face it needed. This needed a human story – one that would fire emotions; grab news coverage around the world. What better, then, than a fisherman’s story?

And so Aquino’s saber-rattling and megaphone diplomacy got louder, and in direct proportion any solution to the issue got more intractable. Military options were sort of hinted at and the crowds on the street swelled further, warming to that prospect. But of course that again was just part of the political theatre. There was never a military option to remove the Chinese from the area – certainly not by the Philippine Navy and, despite its rhetoric and its “guarantees”, the Americans were never going to engage the People’s Liberation Army either. All that was nothing more than Hollywood bluff. And of course the Chinese knew it.

But so did Duterte; and that’s why – even well before he was elected – he was trying to deflate the situation by playing down the arbitration court’s ruling and suggesting that the ultimate solution would have to come from bilateral talks between Manila and Beijing. Naturally, Duterte’s critics seized on this, accusing him of selling the Philippines out as they flourished the practically worthless arbitration court’s decision. They called him a traitor for going against the people’s will, when in fact it was his people’s welfare, and the future of his people, he was trying to protect.

Time will tell how astute Duterte has been over this matter, but from all the present angles The Volatilian™believes that he has so far successfully navigated the tricky waters that battered Philippine-bound trade and investment from China for two-thirds of the last administration. His recent state visit to Beijing built the bridge.

The US, meanwhile, doesn’t have the luxury of time. Washington – at least under President Obama, and Hillary Clinton should she succeed him – is desperate to get the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) up and running. This initiative, the biggest trade bloc ever, is the flagship of Obama’s legacy and the central plank to Clinton’s future international trade policy. And integral to its success is Obama’s much-vaunted “Pivot to East Asia” strategy – effectively switching US might to this region from a failed Middle East.

Through the TPP the US seeks to become a major trade beneficiary by creating a massive market for its products throughout the entire reach of the Pacific. Trade is the main battleground for global supremacy – essentially, then, it’s a fight between the US and China. And that, right there, in a nutshell, is the real reason why those Filipino fishermen were such important pawns.

The TPP, under one name or another has been on the drawing board since 2004. By 2008 it had been fully fleshed out. The Philippines and China have wrangled over these rocks for decades, but up until 2012 they held little significance for the US.  By 2012, efforts to pave the way of the TPP were progressing and so the Scarborough Shoal incident provided a golden opportunity – not just to smooth TPP access, but to show the world that the Pivot to East Asia was underway. Without question, that pivot has now been set back.

So where does Washington go from here? Well, it will endeavour to exploit any cracks it can find between China and any of the countries in this region. Who knows which? Vietnam, of course, is possible given the right circumstances. But the Philippines must still remain its best hope – even despite the chilly war between the two capitals right now. America has plenty of friends on the ground in the Philippines and we can expect them to keep this issue alive as long as they can. What will make that more difficult though, is when the tangible benefits from China start really kicking in.

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  • If they let the fishermen come in, then drive them away whenever they feel like it, that would only strengthen their claim that these are part of their territory. And when they leave for the moment and the Philippines do not retake them permanently, then that weakens our ownership claim over this territory

    • It’s not for him to solve this, it’s DU who MUST and accepting this compromise of letting your own fisherman to fish YOUR OWN territory is not solving anything, it’s putting it off for another day and another President ;((

  • if it smells politics not a fish we can’t blame our pres.duterte to the fact that the chinese authorities already comes in and successfully built their posilities in our country.and we must accept the thruth that we cannot drive them away anymore even though we won our let us say protest of claiming the said island.the only thing that phils can do is to negotiate or offer partnership towards china if they will operate oil exploration in the scarborough shoal just to earn income for the benifits to all of us.and the only one who can do it is the pres.either theirs something unusual to the negotiation.the past administration are responsible enough with this matter bec.they have no legal action to stop theme.but instead they are waiting china finished it before they assert our rights which is too late.what ever pattern made by our pres.i understand with my little instinct and support him whole heartedlly.again.we have no choice but to send noynoy and trillanes in the death row for betraying the pilipinos to the phils. in general.thats the main root why it smells politics not a fish in there own blue world.

  • Haha big effort by duterte small rewards for us only fish for the fishermen then we call it big accomplishment the un tribunal gave the philippines the ownership of scarborough and duterte ridiculed the un big accplishment also haha because duterte says so, we say amen haha stupidity

    • Yes,we can say it accomplishment for Digong & for the fishermen,do you think the past administration has done something to talk with Chinese govt.,imagine four years of not allowing us to fish is a big burden to the fishermen,& what do you think why this claim of Scarborough happened during the time of Pinoy??? Stupidity isn’t it!!!!!!

    • sir walang sinabi ang tribunal about the ownership of Scarborough shoal ang sinabi nila “common fishing ground ng pilipinas, China at iba pang umaangkin dito ang Scarborough shoal” . please read and try to understand the news very well po, bago kayo mag comment!😠

    • Nathaniel Cavada Did the UN Tribunal say the Philippines owns Scarborough? Or just said that China does not own it. It didn’t say Philippines owns it. There are other countries claiming it also.

    • Well what do you call that? China is always ready for a war
      Tayo? Kaya ba natin? Kaya ba ninyo? Sabi ni PRRD I will not let our soldiers die in war. We are not ready. We will develop and train our soldiers buy armaments when the problem cannot be resolve we will plan and decide what is best.
      High blood kc iba jan kung maka pagsalita kala niyo madali…utak pls… isip isip naman po ipinagbili na nga ng dating admin. Viva ! d kayo nagreact , bakit now parang walang ginawa so khit papa no makapaghanapbuhay at makakain na ang mga tao dun
      Ok na yun for now.

  • Tuwang tuwa ka na dahil pinapayagan tayong mangisda sa sarili natin teretoryo . Anong magandang balita doon. Wag nalang tayong sumali sa UN nayan kung ang makapangyarihan ang nasusunod. Alam ko ang UN Tinatag para di apihin ang mahihinang bansa.

    • Agree with you Mr Woodside, in a issues like this territorial claim there is only two options. It’s by negotiation or war. The latter is not an option for all we know is Philippines has no match for China, not the even the so called ally of Philippines is not ready to spend and die for it. It would be a massacre if so for Philippines. So president Duterte is left with one option that is to negotiate, and he did it the Asian way, with humility and RESPECT.

  • It is a small but important step. Of course, the Chinese will not relinquish their territorial claim as a consequence of just one talk, Had Philippines president Duterte insisted on the verdict from The Hague, he would not have gotten anything, not even the right to fish there. Everything would have been back to square one.

  • US doesn’t help us Filipino in term of agreement they said we are in iron clad relationship but why they train abusayap to fight in war in middleeast against Russia and then they allowed China to reclaim some island exclusive to us based on UNCLOS they have power to stop them but they didn’t because China give them credits in Trillion dollars. We don’t want war anymore same as ww2 were Manila devastated the most

    • Re-colonization? USA must have forgotten our ancestors who fought to death our independence. But with the current sutuation where we have traitors in our midst loyal to them rather than our own country & its sovereignty, another civil war will follow. We just hope & pray it won’t get to that point. Otherwise we will be another Libya, Iraq, or Syria. All courtesy of USA.

    • Yan ang resulta ng abnoy na pamumuno, alam na nilang nagtatayo na ng structures jan hinayaan pa nila at idinulog ang issue sa arbitrary tribunal na wala namang kakayahang ipatupad ang ruling nya at hindi din naman kinikilala ng tsina. Tapos ngayun puro ngawa eh kung sa simulat sapul nilagyan na yan ng navy natin di sana di na tayo nakakapag pagalingan pa ng komento ngayun.

    • Tama ka Zer ngaun cla dakdak ng dakdak ilang presidente na ang nagdaan bkit hndi ginawan ng tamang hakbang parang ang sisi sa bagong upong presidente na nman eh dinatnan nlang nya developed na ang lugar ang pinangtambak galing pa sa bundok ng zambalez anu un? Bka ibinenta na yan sa china ng naunang naupong presidente at.mga galamay.nya. tapos ngaun gusto makigiyera pa china para bawiin ang lugar, ang tatapang nila, bkit hindi cla lumusob doon at giyerahin nila china.


  • Who is going to implement the so-called UN ruling? The Philippines or the UN? Honestly, I do not think the Philippines can. And realistically, a David with his slingshot cannot with win any war with today’s Goliaths. Perhaps, the US can. After all this Goliath loves war. Whenever there is war, US economy grows.

  • Ikaw kya wilfredo.halimbawa lang may isang taong 7 footer tpos ikaw 5 feet lang ang taas.inagawan ka ng isang bagay na pag aari mo..ano xa palagay mo ang iyong gagawin.?mkikipagsuntukan ka kaya.pra mabawi ang pag aari mo.?o kakausapin mo ng mahinahon.pra maibalik xau ang bagay na pag aari mo.?ganyan din ang gobyerno natin.ayaw nyang ilagay xa balag ng alanganin ang pilipinas..ndi lang ikaw ang rao xa pilipinas.wla ka bang pamilyang pnangangalagaan.?

  • Tama ginawa ni duterte na hindi na ipaglaban yang desisyon ng tribunal giera lang yan pag pinilit..siempre hindi magpapatalo ang china…pag di mo kaya kalabanin..kaibiganin mo!!! Ayaw nya ng digmaan dahil magiging battle ground tayo at us lang ang makikinabang habang dito sa atin ay milyon ang mamamatay sa giera.. maiintindihan nyo rin pagdating ng araw..kung gaano katalino ating pangulo…isipin nyo na lng lahat ng gusto nyong isipin..pero wala ng magandang solusyon kundi kaibiganin ang china..


  • Dhenz Jo..ikaw ang tama sa mga kuminto..d nten kailangan ng giera..isipin nyo ang ginawa ng pangulo wlang gulo kaibigan nten cla handang tumolong ang china sa pagpapaunlad ng ating bansa..million million ang mamatay at dpa nten alam kong cno ang mananalo at mananalo jan sasakupin ang pinas iba. Na ang my ari..mga utak talangka ang hndi nakakaintindi sa sitwasyon….

  • ung mga nagcomment dyan na at in nga yang lugar na yan kesyo hihingi pa tayo ng pahintolot eh d nag iisip aasa tayo sa UN ala nmang kapangyarihan ipatupad ang desisyon…gyera talaga hahantungan nyan ewan ko lang yong mga nagmamagaling kong hahawak ng baril paggyera na..yayabang magkomento iiyak yan pagnagkagulo…..

    • Korek. Magbasa basa muna. Kainis galit pa sila Kay Pres. Duterte. BTW sa admin na nagbenta ng isla natin bakit d nyo murahin? Hahaha …#peopletAlkswdoutthinkingiftamasila

    • Saan po b nyo nabasa n bnenta ung isla?nagtataka lang aq s comment nung iba.cno naman tanga n bibili ng isla n walang kumpletong kasulatan?kakatawa dn ung iba?nung ibnenta ng russia ang alaska s america dokumentado po yun.wag puro chismis mga comment ntn mga kbayan kc katatawa tayo.

  • Tamagotsina.its better to give credit to the owner rather than fighting for nothing.nagkagaganda ng mga chinese na babae at mga nagkang gugwapo tapos mabobomba lang ng tubig tabang sayang.bagyo iyon sa mga puso ng mga tao.tayo ang may-ari ng planet earth.kaya dapat lang na huwag mahaluan ng sayad nice fishing.

  • Dragon fly na kasi sila sa mga maliliit na bansang katulad ng pilipinas.kahit maliliit na bansa kapag nagkaisa isa ring malaking bansa kapag nabuo katulad ng Asean.ang lumingon sa maling pamahalaan ay magiging abo. Magiging asin?

  • Oh my debbie salem the un tribunal states that scarborough is within our area of jurisdiction or whatever you call it so of course china does not own and philippines does. If other countries are claiming ownership also well they might as well interpret the un decision as one in our favor. Simple. So my point is why are we beftiending china and what we get is the fish instead of the island itself, china does not need the fish it is what in the scarborough that they want to get.

  • Ikaw Simon.ano ang ktapat mo.?may ngawa ka na ba pra mkatulong xa problema ng WPS.?puro kay daldal.qng may kakayahan kang maresulba ang problema xa WPS.gawin mo qng kaya mo.pasasalamatan ka nmin.


  • Simon alamanin mo kaya bkt nka pag stablish ang china bkt sa bago nakaupo mo sinisisi naghabol tau sa isda kamo hindi sa isla dapt noon mpa cnabi yn sa dating nakaupo pati narn yn saba. FTI .baselco ang dami nawawala sa pilipinas yng naging talamak sa droga na apektohan ang lahat yn sa yolanda asan dn yn cguro bigo klang sa pangako sau ng amo mo kaya nawala ka sa sarili isip isip dn para sa mga apo mo at anak ng apo mo hindi sarili mo kala mo pag aari mo yng isla

  • Kahit anong gawin mo dyang GYERA laban sa Tsina pra lng PANINDIGAN lng ang tunay na PAGMAMAY-ARI ng isla wala taung laban dyan PERO tingnan nyo sa halip ay PAKIKIPAG-KAIBIGAN ang GINAWA ng Pangulong DU30 ay NAKATANGGAP pa tau ng mga BIYAYA na pwedeng maging TULONG pra sa Mamamayang Pilipino !

  • the best move of Tatay are the e j k issue and ignore c h r plus minura nya si obama ng maraming besis at sino naman ang hindi magreact so by that moment he have reason to side china at tinangiha ang US aid at alam niya marami matamaan just in one stone the whole clan has been hit by only one strike kaya bilib ako sayo tay simple lang tumira pati si agot pari drilon jim nag iyakan …sa totoo lang hindi kayo maguton nasayangan lang kayo sa cash donation nakayo lang nakikinabang ano ngayun walang forever talaga ako sa inyo lumohod kayo sa harap ni tatay at hingi kayo permiso pwede ba magbigti sa harap ng publiko

  • One of my favorite classic American literary writer and all time favorite of AMERICA is Mark Twain whose real name is Samuel Clemens

    Guys, may mga sinulat pala sya na TINAGO ng Amerika! Guess what? Tungkol sa ginawang milagro ng gobyerno ng US sa Pilipinas. Grabe!
    Pagtyagaan nyo po konti. Pagtapos nyo basahin, you will betrayed. Hindi nyo natitignan ang US katulad ng dati.

    Galit si Mark Twain sa ginawa ng gobyerno nya sa Pilipinas. Nakakahiya daw!Thank you Mark sa pagsulat ng katotohan.

    -read now-

    Mark Twain (1835-1910)

    Although born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, the author adopted what is one of the most famous pen names in literature, Mark Twain, He wrote about a myriad of topics, ranging from life along the Mississippi River, detailed in famous works such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1872) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), to a collection of essays written while abroad, to political essays.

    Twain was an influential writer of his time and remains so today.


    During the Spanish-American War, Twain became a fervent anti-imperialist, even joining the Anti-Imperialist League. His sentiments about the war and the war in the Phillippines.

    ExcerptsFrom the New York Herald, October 15, 1900:
    I left these shores, at Vancouver, a red-hot imperialist. I wanted the American eagle to go screaming into the Pacific. It seemed tiresome and tame for it to content itself with he Rockies. Why not spread its wings over the Phillippines, I asked myself? And I thought it would be a real good thing to do. I said to myself, here are a people who have suffered for three centuries. We can make them as free as ourselves, give them a government and country of their own, put a miniature of the American constitution afloat in the Pacific, start a brand new republic to take its place among the free nations of the world. It seemed to me a great task to which had addressed ourselves.But I have thought some more, since then, and I have read carefully the treaty of Paris, and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Phillippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem. . .

    It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.

    A Boston Herald transcript of a speech he gave in 1900 began thus:Oh, you have been doing many things in this time that I have been absent; you have done lots of things, some that are well worth remembering, too. Now, we have fought a righteous war since I have been gone, and that is rare in history–a righteous war is so rare that it is almost unknown in history; but by the grace of that war we set Cuba free, and we joined her to those three or four free nations that exist on this earth; and we started out to set those poor Filipinos free too, and why, why, why that most righteous purpose of ours has apparently miscarried I suppose I never shall know.

    In a 1906 essay about the Moro massacre in the Phillippines, which was not published until after his death, Twain criticized the military: General Wood was present and looking on. His order had been, “Kill or capture those savages.” Apparently our little army considered that the “or” left them authorized to kill or capture according to taste, and that their taste had remained what it had been for eight years in our army out there–the taste of Christian butchers.

    In a February 1901 article titled, “To the Person Sitting in Darkness,” he continued to criticize the U.S.:There must be two Americas: one that sets the captive free, and one that takes a once-captive’s new freedom away from him, and picks a quarrel with him with nothing to found it on; then kills him to get his land. . .True, we have crushed a deceived and confiding people; we have turned against the weak and the friendless who trusted us; we have stamped out a just and intelligent and well-ordered republic; we have stabbed an ally in the back and slapped the face of a guest; we have bought a Shadow from an enemy that hadn’t it to sell; we have robbed a trusting friend of his land and his liberty; we have invited clean young men to shoulder a discredited musket and do bandit’s work under a flag which bandits have been accustomed to fear, not to follow; we have debauched America’s honor and blackened her face before the world. . .

  • Scarborough Shoal or whatever it is belongs to the Philippines. Under international law, our historic rights, etc. The presence of Chinese naval vessels means they are not abandoning their claim to the area. And, allowing our fishermen to fish in the area on the other hand does not mean we are completely in control of the territory in question already. The Chinese simply find an alibi that they are not a country that will be pressured by anybody much more an international court. The territory in question are largely under water, and, an oil exploration will be very much expensive compared to land base oil exploration or oil drilling like in Saudi Arabia. This is the main reason for the Chinese to hold and study futher any economic venture in the area. The weather condition in the area was so dangerous and they have to spend trillions of dollars to construct a permanent oil rig and install underwater an oil pipeline from the area to the mainland China. The Chinese in the end of the day will abandon the area not because of any pressure from other countries government or the UN, or because of Duterte’s diplomatic overtures to China, but because of non-economic viability or importance to the economy of China. The bulk of Chinese oil investment is in Africa and in the Middle East. In these places, all oil exploration is land base and less risk. The Chinese government had their own domestic financial problems right now because of flop real estate ventures that cost them billion of dollars which for so many years remain unsold. I wonder why die hards Duterte supporters will have to includes the history about colonizations, proxy war theories and anything about American influence on the issues about the WPS. The USA is still our much reliable ally than the Chinese. And, 85% of Pilipinos prefer the Americans than the Chinese. Our economy depends much from the Americans which buy more of our profucts than the Chinese. It is the same thing for the Chinese who depends much from the Americans which buy more of their products and services. The Chinese government will have to attend first to the needs of their 1.2 billion people than the needs of 100 million Pilipinos. The diplomatic and international policy of Duterte is unclear and nuisance. It main concern is for his government to escape the scrutiny and criticisms of the international community on his war on drugs which is doom to fail because of more and more violations of human rights and extra-judicial killings and murders. Its aim is to protect himself and not the benefits of the majority of Pilipinos. He is leading the countries on the way of economic destructions, unemployment, higher criminality and government bankruptcy.

  • PDE nmn tlgang pgusapan na lng.. Khit pa may international ruling pa blewala nmn tlga.. Npakasimple lng nmn lumabas ka na lng sa bahay at kausapin mo ang kpitbahay mo kung ano ang dapat gagawin sa bakod na nmamagitan sa loTE …. E d mo alam ano agenda ng US using this rison kailngan mamagitan an UN.. Bago pa gnawa ni Tatay Digong un pgpunta sa China. sinabi na nya at tinanong nya ang U’S ano gagawin nila Kung mgkainitan tayo ng dalawang mgkakapitbahay, meaning ahead na sya sa mga scenarios.. he’s just simply toying the idea of a war.. D sya tuta un ang mlaking pnanalita nya.. So knausap nya China, so ano gameplay ng US? Ala na! d natin Alam anong spark gagawin ng mga Kano..? Kaya vocal si Digong bout his fate.. Those were the possibilities ksi.

  • Kung hindi mawala ang ugali natin mapikon at mamersonal sa social media..puro galit lang ikakalat natin sa kabataan..usap lang alisin ang Angasan..makipagkaibigan sa lahat..mapa pro or anti pa tayo..irespeto ang kanya kanyang pananaw

  • If ever i make a comment on this poat irs not because i am an expert or something on that level i am just merely stating my observation if given a chance i would be happy to tell it to the president face to face so my point is i have my opinion you have yours lets respect each others opinions no insults it cant help the president another thing if you are a WELL MEANING Duterte supporter dont just say yes to everything he says even if its not helpful to the country just because he says so God bless all of us

  • Duwag lang ang natatakot dyan kay Dugong. Wa epek sa amin yan. Mukha lang niya ang nakakatakot ika nga pang Halloween ang mukha. Padaanin mo siya sa madilim na kalsada at padaanin ninyo ang mga anak niyo siguradong magtatakbuhan ang mga bata sa takot. Happy Dugonggong!