By Jun Ledesma

A time for everything

September 28, 2020, 3:20 pm

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has been in the receiving end of debasing criticisms from the time he entered the Presidential derby. He has been called “taga bundok” and one who lacks decency by people in filmdom who themselves wallow in the murk of indecency. An ex-diplomat who felt she is the guru of foreign affairs chided him for tongue-lashing US Pres. Barack Obama who tactlessly called his attention on alleged human rights abuses in the Philippines. And there is this bacchanalian ex-President who described Duterte as lacking in diplomatic savvy.

But this man from the boondocks is loved by his people, a popularity that BBC Hard Talk host Stephen Sakur described as devoutly wished by other leaders in the world. There must something in his “profanities” that deliver a strong message to heads of states. He was accorded a red carpet reception in Beijing and in Moscow courtesy of Pres. Xi Jinping and Pres. Vladimir Putin respectively while the lines between him and US President Donald Trump are always open and exchanges are always on a personal level and among equals. If that will not boggle the mind, Japan’s erstwhile Prime Minister Shinzo Abe flew to Davao City and was overwhelmed by the extremely intimate reception he had and where he had a glimpse of the rustic lifestyle of the Philippine President.

The grumbling opposition finds President Duterte so difficult to read. He had crafted a foreign affairs policy that had virtually departed from the norm of dependency that invites abuse and ridicule. A cabal of former officials led by ex-Foreign Affairs Sec. Albert del Rosario and griping legal eggheads Antonio Carpio and a horde of others had been egging Duterte to invoke the arbitral ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration that invalidated the Claim of China over the West Philippine Sea (WPS). It was not the fault of the Duterte administration after all why China occupied the Scarborough. It was in fact the fault of the Aquino government and specifically del Rosario, who, for some mysterious reasons ordered Philippine boats to withdrew from the disputed islands and left it to China to occupy. The territorial dispute was eventually elevated to PCA at the Hague which ruled in favor of the Philippines.

But the question has always been - is the ruling enforceable? The opposition had been prodding Duterte and was saber-rattling. Instead of heeding their call, the President instead went on high-level bilateral talks with China which had defused tensions and our fishermen going back to the traditional fishing grounds in WPS. Our trade has always been vibrant despite the pandemic.

One oft-repeated cryptic repartee of President Duterte each time he is goaded to raise the arbitral ruling in his engagements with his Chinese counterpart is by invoking his favorite biblical Ecclesiastical canto: “

There is a time for everything”. On cautions of friends for him to stay safe on account of COVID 19, he merely brushes it off saying: “there is a time to live and a time to die”. On the matter of the arbitral ruling he would just quip: “there is time to be silent and a time to speak”.

And he spoke at the proper time and in an appropriate venue. But that is not to mean that he has pulled the saber from the scabbard. Duterte will pursue the dispute via bilateral talks. There are too many options and myriads of possibilities. Remember China had agreed to a joint venture with the Philippines to explore the oil deposits in the West Philippine Sea on a 60/40 agreement in favor of the Philippines? Then there is the possibility of putting up a marine research laboratory in one island with the two countries fielding their marine scientists to propagate and sustain the abundance of resources for fishermen from China, the Philippines, Vietnam among others not only for this the present but for the future generations.



About the Columnist

Image of Jun Ledesma

Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.