Filipinos getting wise to China'd-up Duterte, after China bites off a chunk of the Philippines

Protests are breaking out in the Philippines over China's takeover of Thitu island near the Spratly and Paracel chains in the South China Sea, which is an island recognized in international law as belonging to the Philippines. The Philippine protests are about China. But they're really directed at the Philippines's president, Rodrigo Duterte, who up until now has tried to persuade everyone that he's a tough guy -- who by his actions was all in for bowing to China.

The mask is off. The locals are protesting that he's really not that tough. So now he's got this, as reported by Asia Times:

Reports of a large armada of Chinese boats surrounding a Philippine-occupied island in the South China Sea has renewed tensions between the two rival claimants in the strategic maritime area.

Under rising political pressure, President Rodrigo Duterte’s government has reportedly filed a diplomatic protest with China over the issue, a diplomatic break from his administration’s conciliatory approach towards Beijing.

Opposition figures, meanwhile, are upping the tempo of their criticism that Duterte’s government is intentionally soft-pedaling on China’s maritime assertiveness, politically charged accusations ahead of highly polarized and crucial midterm elections due in May.

Seems that appeasing Beijing wasn't such a bright idea after all. A lot of countries are disputing China over those islands, but only Philippines, under Duterte, thought appeasement would be the way to go with the ravenous behemoth to its northwest. Bowing down to China has not only cost the Philippines an island, it's now leading to domestic turmoil. Asia Times continues:

They have also called on Duterte to take a tougher stance on rising reports that Chinese vessels are harassing Filipino fishermen in the contested waters, including through the use of high-powered water cannons.

So far this year an estimated 617 Chinese fishing vessels suspected of belonging to the People’s Liberal Army Maritime Militia Forces (PLA-MFF) have reportedly swarmed Thitu Island, which has been occupied by Filipino troops since the mid-1970s.

As I noted here last month:

...the activity is directly the result of the Duterte administration of the Philippines' appeasement policies with China.  The AFP story notes that the Duterte administration tore down a fisherman's shack on Thitu at the Chinese government's request in 2017.  Just as important, yet not cited by AFP, they also squelched the construction of a U.S. military base on Palawan — that long, narrow island jutting at an odd angle from the Philippine archipelago — which had been in planning for years (author Robert D. Kaplan describes it in Imperial Grunts), which would have provided a measure of deterrence as well as intelligence capabilities to ward off challenges.  Taiwanese officials have told me they suspect that some Filipino officials have been bought off.

For their efforts, they're now boats, the famous Chinese fishing boats running the genuine Philippine fishermen off their own fishing grounds and denying them access to their island. 

It shows that appeasing the dragon in the hopes it would eat them last is not working out well for them.  China has its choice of countries to kick around, given the six nations that have territorial claims on the Spratlys, and they have chosen the appeasing one, the Philippines.  One can only hope that there will be some domestic repercussions in the Philippines for Duterte over this stupdity.

The Asian Times story provides a lot more detail about why this performance by Duterte is so objectionable, the quotes are enough to make anyone gag. Here's one from a Duterte military official;

“Indeed there (is a) presence of Chinese vessels in the area,” Edgard Arevalo, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson said on April 1.

“What’s happening is they remain stationary in the area. Some come and go, that’s why it’s quite inaccurate to report the number because some of them come and go. Although some of them stay for a few days or weeks,” the spokesperson said.

What an idiot. The Chinese treat him like one, too, with this whopper from China's ambassador:

“They are actually fishermen. If they are fishing there, they must be fishermen,” the Chinese envoy added.

The Asia Times also reports that the Duterte government has asked Filipino fishermen to not go to the islands to fish, but to concentrate on fishing in municipal areas instead. Meanwhile, protestors in the streets are openly questioning whether Duterte really made a protest at all.

With this much to distrust, it's obvious the island-grab is making an impact in Philippine politics. Duterte ran as a populist, which may well cancel out the appeal of populism and preclude the emergence of a corrective Trump-style, or Bolsonaro-style new leader. Duterte has sucked too much oxygen out of the room for that. But with people wanting him out, it's obvious they want someone who actually cares about the country. I wonder if a tough military leader might now be on the cards.

What's clear, though, from this picture, is that appeasing China is no way to make Philippines great again. It's actually the best way to make the Philippines a colony again.