Philippines become the first nation to resolved its dispute on South China Sea without the help of ASEAN and Singapore. President Rodrigo Duterte today (Nov 21) issued an executive order declaring a part of the disputed sea, the Scarborough Shoal, as a “marine sanctuary” that is off-limits to all fishermen.
Under the Philippines President’s order, fishermen of both countries can cast nets on the fringes of the lagoon, but not inside it, allowing fish stocks to be replenished.
The move is endorsed by China and both sides declared the issue has been resolved bilaterally. Since last month in October, after the Philippines offered to change their pro-US position and work with China, their fishermen have not been harassed by China patrol boats.
In resolving the South China Sea dispute with claimant nations, China is using a “divide-and-conquer” method to negotiate bilaterally by dangling billions of investment carrots.
China’s carrot-or-stick diplomatic techniques implemented recently have been highly effective in bringing the cooperation of ASEAN countries. Malaysia and Philippines have by far reaped the most economic benefits amounting to tens of billions from China, with more carrots to come so long the two countries continue to welcome economic cooperation with China. There is however no requirement to be anti-US, but the leadership of the two countries have been actively criticising US and the West for “bullying”.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has earlier criticised China for not “respecting the rule of law” in August, to which the superpower said such external interference would not be allowed.