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PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is a joke. He cannot be serious in running this country and protect the interest of the nation. Joking that it would be better for the Philippines to be a province of China only underscores his amusing reaction or non-action against the usurpation of a Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea. Like the previous controversial statements of Mr. Duterte, Malacañang downplayed his treacherous joke as a way of warming the relations between China and the Philippines. He sprang out that joke while discussing about the rich resources imbedded in the West Philippine Sea or the South China Sea. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, true to his persona as the alter-ego of the president, did not hesitate to say that “his joke is, you know, it’s just to emphasize that it’s ours but we’re one with China. Take it in that spirit.” But with the absence of action from the present administration regarding the militarization of the West Philippine Sea by China, the Philippines’ claim of ownership of the resources that lie beneath the West Philippine Sea becomes empty words. China has already invaded that part of the Philippine territory without resistance from our government. Apparently, Mr. Duterte’s joke about the Philippines as province of China stems from his defeatist attitude towards our territorial claim which the Permanent Court of Arbitration has granted in 2016. Raising the specter of war should the Philippines pursue its claim, the most peaceful way for Mr. Duterte to maintain peace and warm up the relations with China is to be subservient to them. Even though the present administration announced that it would file diplomatic protest against China, we have yet to see it actually transmitted to the Chinese Embassy. After the completion of the militarization of the West Philippine Sea, China has moved to mark its claim on the Philippine Rise (Benham Rise) of the other side of the ocean. In fact, the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) has already approved China’s naming five undersea features in the Philippine Rise which the United Nations Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf (UNCLOS) confirmed as part of the Philippines’ continental shelf in 2012. While the Duterte administration is adamant in believing “in good faith” China’s moves would result in the encroachment of the Philippine territory, in reality nothing can be done any more to drive them away from where they have established their military might and presence. To justify and defend his approval of China undertaking research at the Philippine Rise, Mr. Duterte even underrated the capacity of Philippine scientists to conduct research thereat, even though for several times they had done research there. After China finished its research, Duterte declared the Philippine Rise to be off limits to foreigners for any research undertaking. It would be credulous to believe that China is doing research for science sake. Naming five undersea features at the Philippine Rise will be the first step to claim these areas. The IHO that approved the names of the five undersea features has the mission “to create a global environment in which States provide adequate and timely hydrographic data, products and services and ensure their widest possible use.” For his part, Roque even reduced to a joke China’s serious move to name five undersea features of the Philippine Rise. He said that naming the undersea features does not mean they belong to China like the dishes “hototai, siopao, etc.” which do not connote they belong to China. With Mr. Duterte turning into joke serious issues confronting the nation like our territorial sovereignty, we will wake up one day with a puppet government under the tutelage of China. The scenario becomes more terrifying if we factor in the survey of market research firm Ipsos Mori which placed the Philippines as the third most ignorant nation when it comes to understanding key issues. To be sure, there are 11 million certified idiots who voted Duterte to become our minority president. And that’s the worse joke where all the other Duterte jokes came from.

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