Given the reality of power asymmetries, we ask how small powers navigate their way in the international system. We look at the case of the Philippines because of its unique positioning in a region where two great powers compete for influence. We argue that when faced with a crisis, small powers implement an interim solution by internationalizing an issue to protect itself and garner sympathy and support from partners and allies. Using securitization theory, we demonstrate that the Philippines generally pursued the following strategies: improving its bilateral relations with China and reinvigorating its alliance with the United States, urging asean to take a more active and assertive role in the South China Sea (scs) disputes, and using formal arbitration to engage the international community. We find, however, that a lasting solution remains elusive because the country lacks consistent follow-through and policy convergence. Hence, the Philippine experience in securitizing the scs and its simultaneous inability to implement a lasting solution is symptomatic of the tragedy that small powers face.