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The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been beaten by mighty China’s strategy of divide and conquer as far as the maritime disputes in the region are concerned.

Opposition congressman, Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, had this to say as he insisted Sunday (April 30) that the only way the regional bloc can stand up to China is via united front.

“The only way ASEAN can stand up to China as regards the South China Sea issue is for them to have a common stand an as organization,” he said in a statement.

“However, that is if China has not been working on members of ASEAN and other Spratlys claimant-states early on. China deals with claimant states bilaterally so that it could effectively prevent these claimant states to come together as one. The latest victim is the Philippines. That’s divide and conquer,” added the former rebel soldier.

Under President Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines has launched a so-called pivot to China wherein it has focused on its bilateral relationship and refused to discuss its maritime claims.

Duterte currently chairs the ASEAN. Incidentally, during the 30th ASEAN Summit held in Manila, Duterte gave Alejano called “general and safe statements” on he matter.

“The statement made no mention of the PCA (Permanent Court of Arbitration) ruling (in favor of the Philippines) even if it (chairman’s statement) stated…respect for international law,” the solon said.

Last year, the Philippines won a landmark PCA decision which practically invalidated China’s absurdly expansive nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

The Duterte administration has yet to assert this ruling.