Duterte’s Canada “War” Remarks Are a Clever Signal That China-Philippine Relations Remain Positive

As part of his pro-environmental strategy for The Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte plans to send back piles of literal rubbish that Canadian sanitation companies have shipped to The Philippines for recycling. In spite of the fact that the rubbish was supposedly recyclable, investigators in The Philippines have found that much of the rubbish is unsalvageable filth. As such, President Duterte issued the following warning to Canada,

“I’ll give a warning to Canada maybe next week that they better pull that (rubbish) out. We’ll declare war against them, we can handle them anyway”.

This seemingly provocative statement can be decoded when one realises that Duterte is reference two important events in recent Philippine relations with foreign powers. Last year, Duterte abruptly cancelled a deal to purchase military helicopters from Canada after the Liberal government in Ottawa delayed the sale due to absurd “concerns” that the helicopters would be used in The Philippines to attack civilians rather than known terror groups (such as the Daesh aligned Abu Sayyaf and the NPA). At the time, Duterte stated:

“So this is my reaction. I want to tell the armed forces to cut the deal … and somehow we will look for another supplier. We respect the stand of Canada.

So from here on now, I am directing the armed forces of the Philippines, since most of the guns, bullets and whatever, weapons of war … invariably to be used against the rebels and the terrorists, do not buy any more from Canada. Or from the United States, because there is always a condition attached”.

The other reference made in Duterte’s statement about Canada’s rubbish relates to a statement he recently made about China. Duterte is well known for vastly improving his country’s relationship with China. Chinese President Xi Jinping has said that Duterte’s efforts for peace and cooperation have led to a “golden era” of positive relations. Although The Philippines still has some disputes with China over maritime rights surrounding uninhabited islands, Duterte has pledged to engage in a cooperative approach that will see both countries jointly exploiting South China Sea resources on a win-win model.

In spite of this historic agreement, Duterte’s opponents like to pretend that whilst their utterly failed policies have impoverished millions of Filipinos living on the inhabited islands of The Philippines – somehow a comparatively weak Philippine Navy can militarily engage China’s vast PLA Navy in the South China Sea. Such thinking is clearly absurd, not least because the goal of any Philippine government should be waging a war against domestic poverty, not a hot war against an important economic partner that happens also to be a nuclear armed superpower.

Duterte has long said that any unnecessary confrontation with China would be a “suicide mission”. Earlier this month, as a means of calling the bluff of his hysterical and flippant domestic opponents, Duterte said that he would be prepared for a “suicide mission” against China should the situation in the South China Sea deteriorate. Whilst Duterte’s remarks that began with a call for friendship and cooperation with China were taken woefully out of context by the sub-standard Philippine mainstream media, Duterte’s China remarks were more of a “trolling” endeavour against his domestic rivals than an actual threat to a Chinese state that Duterte considers a key partner.

Thus, when one puts two-and-two together, it is obvious that Duterte does not intend to make war on nearby China anymore than he intends to declare one against distant Canada. In both cases, his remarks are intentionally hyperbolic in order to draw the country’s attention to important situations. In respect of South China Sea issues, Duterte highlighted the incompetence of his opponents who speak casually of actual war when in reality, any war by any ASEAN member against China would be a lose-lose suicide mission.

Likewise, while The Philippines isn’t going to war with Canada, his remarks will certainly make Canadian authorities take notice, not least because of their hypocrisy when it comes to green issues. Here, it appears that Canada’s environmental progress is based on misery inflicted upon The Philippines. Duterte has therefore called the bluff of both his domestic Yellow rivals and of the hypocritical Canadian government.

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