Under President Rodrigo Duterte, The Philippines has entered what Chinese President Xi Jinping has called a “golden era” of friendship. Beijing has further confirmed that the last maddening gasps of Sinophobia among the disgraced old ruling elite of The Philippines will have no impact on productive win-win relations. But while Duterte continues to work with China on an equitable solution to South China Sea issues, there is a far more pressing issue facing The Philippines than the status of uninhabited Sea islands.
Recently, President Duterte has stated that in spite of the war on drugs, the narco-traffickers continue their assault on The Philippines. In an ominous wake-up call to the nation, Duterte stated:
“You can see the headlines — every day billions worth of drugs are entering the country. Look at the main screen and the crawler, the running news at the bottom. It’s always about drugs, drugs, and drugs. In the end, we will be like Mexico. We will be controlled by drug cartels. The Sinaloa has already entered the country and that is why drugs are being thrown in the Pacific. The same is happening in the West”.
Duterte further stated that while police offers are doing their best, in some parts of the country they are simply outnumbered by the narcos. Even so, Duterte said:
“If you destroy my country, I will kill you. You can be sure of that”.
The Philippines needs help in combating drugs and there is one country in the region that clearly has the resources and manpower to do so. China’s People’s Liberation Navy is capable of patrolling the seas around The Philippines in a way that no ASEAN country could do. As part of the ongoing drive for greater cooperation between China and The Philippines in the region, it would be deeply constructive for The Philippine Navy and the PLN to conduct joint patrols aimed at neutralising narcotics traffickers who for too long have been able to exploit Philippine geography in order to bring drugs onto Philippine territory.
Not only would such operations build stronger bilateral trust between The Philippines and the world’s most dynamic economy, but such patrols could send the narco-terrorists a clear message: their reign of villainy is coming to an end.
One of the reasons that south east Asia has become a hub of narco-terrorism is due to the fact that a lack of military cooperation based on past political divides has allowed the vast maritime borders of the region to be openly exploited. The Philippines is particularly vulnerable in this way because of the nature of its island geography.
By involving China in anti-narco operations, not only would the South China Sea issue be put into its proper context, but it would show all of ASEAN and indeed the United States that what matters in the region is not territorial claims over uninhabited pieces of rock in the sea, but instead, the key to securing a peaceful and prosperous future in the Asia-Pacific lies in the pooling of joint resources in a fight against the universal evil of drugs.
This would also help to end the black propaganda spread among some Sinophobes in The Philippines which rehashes a false narrative that Beijing is somehow complicit in the regional drug trade. Joint Sino-Philippine cooperation against drugs would likely see the apprehension of criminals from multiple states, some of whom would likely be tried and executed for their vicious activities in China itself.
The first duty of any government is to protect its citizens from harm and as narcotics and the violence it brings with it is the greatest threat to human safety, dignity and freedom in The Philippines. Because of this, all that is necessary must be done to combat this wicked scourge.
President Duterte has always been absolutely clear about this and as such, working with China to stop narcotics before the traffickers enter Philippine waters could represent the best way forward in the war against the evils of drugs.