Over the weekend, jubilant Filipino fishermen returned to Manila with huge catches from Scarborough Shoal, an historic fishing ground that was seized by China four years ago. The haul appears to represent a major diplomatic victory for controversial President Rodrigo Duterte. More from from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.
On his flamboyant trip to Beijing a few weeks ago, President Duterte pledged to separate from the United States, came away with billions in new Chinese investments, but said very little about the sovereignty of Scarborough Shoal.
Earlier this year, an international court put Scarborough Shoal clearly within Philippine waters. While China refuses to accept that ruling, President Duterte used it as leverage in Beijing and played China off against the US.
In their own way, both of those giants have now signaled that there may be limits. While Filipino fishing boats returned from Scarborough Shoal with full holds, they had to fish under the watch of four Chinese patrol ships, and a spokesman in Beijing made it clear that the status quo has not changed. In Washington, U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin blocked the sale of 26 thousand assault rifles to the Philippines, over concerns about Duterte's bloody drug war. The President denounced his critics as fools and monkeys.
And his tilt to Beijing also cost him the support of his envoy to China, Former President Fidel Ramos. Ramos described Duterte's first hundred days as a huge disappointment and the former chief of the Philippine Armed forces issued a scathing attack on Duterte's separation from the US. Echoing the President's vivid language, Ramos called the policy clearly wrong and full of....stuff.