Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte will deliver his annual State of the Nation address today.
The president is expected to announce Chinese rights to fish in the disputed West Philippine Sea. A diplomatic standoff between the two countries ensued in April after some 200 Chinese vessels surrounded a Filipino-occupied island. Tensions further inflamed last month when a Chinese fishing vessel sank a smaller Filipino boat.
The decision is expected to result in protests from opposition lawmakers and the Filipino fishing industry. For Mr Duterte, the move is intended to assert Manilla’s right to settle the fishing question and to quell long-festering nationalist sentiment regarding the sea. However, the announcement could be counterproductive—potentially only inflaming nationalist sentiment further by creating the appearance that the government is backing down to Chinese pressure.
It is unclear what China’s response will be—Beijing has thus far been silent on the announcement. Regardless of how China responds, it will attempt to use the announcement to its advantage and may even be emboldened to move more fishing fleets into the area than originally planned.
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John is a Senior Analyst with an interest in Indo-Pacific geopolitics. Master of International Relations (Australian National University) graduate with study focus on the Indo-Pacific. Qualified lawyer (University of Auckland, NZ) with experience in post-colonial Pacific & NZ legal systems.