NANCY Pelosi decided that she wanted to visit Taiwan — and the lady who tore Donald Trump's speech while the president was still at the rostrum was not going to be stopped by threats and warnings of dire consequences from the Beijing government. Pelosi showed us that Mainland Chinese will go by threats and intimidation, and will prevail when a State buckles down before its formidable military and economic power.

But when a State is willing to stand up to its bullying, it will calibrate its retaliation — if any at all — carefully.

The otherwise metaphysical distinction in international law between the constitutive theory and the declaratory theory becomes very practical and existential in regard to the case of Taiwan. If the constitutive theory were correct, then the refusal of States to recognize it would be fatal to Taiwan's claims to statehood. Fortunately, it is no longer the favored theory — for good reason. Recognition can be withheld for a number of reasons, not always because of non-fulfillment of the requirements for statehood in international law. Most states have had to contend with the economic power of China as well as the strategic advantage of recognizing it and thereby withholding recognition of Taiwan — a condition Beijing consistently lays down.

That by the terms of the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Obligations of States, Taiwan meets the requirements of statehood, I do not at all doubt. Even "capacity for foreign relations" is present. That other States do not establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan is not proof of incapacity for foreign relations for there are other informal and alternative modes of establishing foreign relations. One has only to think of the different collaborative ventures between Taiwan and the agencies of other states in research and in the conduct of joint studies. It cannot be otherwise; after all Taiwan is one of the top 15 trading economies of the world. In the World Trade Organization (WTO) it has a distinct personality as a "Separate Customs Territory."

But Beijing has now allowed what it considers a transgression of "friendly relations" to pass. It boldly conducted exercises in the Taiwan Strait that used to serve as a mutually recognized border. It was showing its capacity for resoluteness — when the "proper time" would come, meaning clearly when the world would not be watching or would no longer mind about the future of Taiwan. It has built artificial islands and occupied features that the arbitral judgment held to be within our maritime zones, and with its military hardware in place, American warships, even their formidable carriers, are vulnerable to Chinese fire.

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Perhaps it may not even have to use force because the Beijing government has ways of tapping the influence and capacities of its united front. Academics are enticed with scholarships and professorships, carrying hefty salary or compensation rates. Chinese businesses are everywhere, and in the Philippines, Huawei is a popular mobile phone as are the cars it exports. There is no high-level, even middle-level, engagement of which the Chinese Communist Party is not aware. In fact, it should be presumed that whether in academe, business, technology and other forms of joint venture, the party ultimately pulls the strings.

For some time now, it has seemed an attractive proposition to many that one amicable resolution of the turmoil in the West Philippine Sea is to enter into joint ventures with China as well as other agreements for the mutual benefit of both States. There is however the clear proscription of Article XII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution:

"The State shall protect the nation's marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens."

While the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) allows coastal states to enter into agreements with other States on the harvest of marine resources in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), how such an agreement may be reconciled with this provision of the Constitution must await the enunciation of jurisprudence.

But Beijing has another weapon up its sleeve — reminiscent of "fifth column" strategies. That Taiwan remains separate is because the Taiwanese refuse to be part of mainland China. This is also the legal as well as the moral basis for supporting Taiwan. A nation enjoys the right to self-determination, and we have seen from the experience of Tibet the vigor with which China is determined to stamp out sentiments of nationalism and independence. However, if Beijing is able to infiltrate the echelons of the Taiwanese government and the Taiwanese population sufficient to bring about a change in sentiment and to switch sides, then it may very well win the battle without firing a shot.

Two things to me are clear. First, we have to stand up to China's bullying and be steadfast in our refusal to cower before the might of the Celestial Kingdom. In this respect, symbolic acts like national security adviser Clarita Carlos' visit to the disputed area is important — even necessary. No matter that our Coast Guard and Navy vessels may be puny in comparison to Chinese men-of-war, let us send them to our troubled waters, there to make the Philippine presence felt and to assert our legally founded claims. Second, we must stand by Taiwan and the desire of her people to carve a future for themselves that is not shaped nor determined by Beijing. This is the right thing to do. It is the just thing to do.


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