There was this 2008 comedy movie in the US about bullying where three kids hired a low-budget
bodyguard to protect them from a bully in their school. This was before bullying was even recognized by the government in the country as a detriment to the wholesome development and education of kids in school. It took five years later when the national government realized a law must be enacted to protect kids against bullying in school hence the anti-bullying act of 2013.

In that movie the kids realized that even if they band together they have no chance whatsoever of defeating the bully in their school. So they hired a bodyguard. Drawing a parallel from that movie we might just suddenly realize that here in South East Asia we have a similar situation where the
biggest bully in town at the moment is China with its 9-dash line and expansionist ideas in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

And we have the United States which is of course another sort of bully trying its best to offer its collaboration, partnership, cooperation, and military might to whatever country is willing to enter into an agreement with it. It is already obvious that even if all the eleven members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) would band together, of course the Philippines
included, it would not stand a hance against the bully that is China.

ASEAN already recognizes this predicament that is why as recently as last year it has kept an open mind in relation to practical initiatives being initiated and offered by the US, Australia, India and Japan under the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) which is an informal strategic forum and diplomatic network of these four countries committed to supporting an open and stable as well as
prosperous Indo-Pacific region. The four leaders of the QUAD had already emphasized its interest in cooperating with regional institutions such as ASEAN.

While China is also trying to woo ASEAN due to its trade potential it also issued a stark warning thru its foreign minister Qin Gang for ASEAN to “stay clear of any power rivalry between big countries”. ( h t t p s : / / commentary/china-foreignminister-remarks-asean-usmajor-power-rivalry-trickybalancing-act-3333496). With respect to the QUAD, China had already criticized the grouping of the four nations saying that, “stateto-state interactions should pursue peace and development and contribute to mutual trust and regional stability rather
than exclusivity”.

( h t t p s : / / news/defence/china-slamsquad-meeting-held-in-newdelhi-opposes-exclusivity/ articleshow / 98390883.cms?from=mdr) What China is actually saying is that in the present geopolitical situation it is threatened by another bully (US and its allies) and would not want ASEAN joining the fray and siding with the US and its partners. Because no matter how you look at the situation China is correct when it mentioned power rivalry being played by the big boys.

The question that needs to be answered of course is which among the superpowers can the Philippines, and ASEAN for that matter, go to for help and assistance in case there is a drastic turn for the worse in terms of peace and stability in the South East Asian Region. Trying to stay neutral
at this point in time will only delay the inevitable since in case the conflict between China and the US turns violent and will involve other nations (e.g. China invades Taiwan), the Philippines will certainly be dragged into the mess either willingly (with the US as an ally) or unwillingly (China will invade the Philippines to use it as a staging area for its invasion of Taiwan).

To those seeking to understand the strategic importance of the Philippines in the South China Sea go to this link: (https:// w w w . y o u t u b e . c o m / watch?v=WRK2NuzVtH8) Finally, a bully seeks to harm and intimidate those they see as vulnerable and they will not stop until they get what
they want. So we need to ask which among the bully superpowers continue to intimidate us? If you came up with an answer then would that bully superpower stop its intimidation if the Philippines
will become neutral? Or just like in the comedy movie “DrillBit Taylor” hire or ally with another
supposed bully with enough b***s to confront and put down the other bully.

Amianan Balita Ngayon