This week, the Philippines celebrates the anniversary of its victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. greeted the audience with “Happy 5th-year commemoration of the great victory of the Philippines…” (https://bit.ly/PCA5thYear)
President Duterte has decided to concentrate on domestic policies.
Roque, also an international and constitutional law professor at the University of the Philippines College of Law, explained the President’s position that these disputes are ongoing and unlikely to be resolved during our lifetime, and advised that we use the victory to leverage the geopolitical balance to benefit the Filipinos. “This decision is important but not the only aspect of the relationship. More trade and investments mean more jobs and food on the table of Filipino families.”
Why do Antonio Carpio, Richard Javad Heydarian, Albert del Rosario, and Jose Cuisia Jr. keep saying that our relationship with China has had no benefits? Why do some of the “expert-critics” keep implying PCA is a court, part of the United Nations, that applies actual laws when this is not true? Yes, the decision rejected China’s claim, but China was not a party to the arbitration, and the Philippines “islands” were demoted officially to mere rocks. The United States, promoting these messages, is not even a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and routinely ignores decisions of the UN, the International Criminal Court, and the World Health Organization, among others.
Malacañang doesn’t have to answer the obvious benefits that can be easily seen everywhere. One does not ask others to prove the sky is blue!
Does the Carpio group consider health workers’ lives unimportant compared to politics? Only China gave assistance – over a billion pesos in ventilators, supplies, personal protective equipment, and masks in the darkest period of the pandemic. It also donated a million vaccine doses and delivered over 5 million more doses. The US, supposed friend, and protector was still blocking deliveries to anybody, even allies, and only played catch-up later.
For those who know how to count, earlier recovery and employment are worth hundreds of billions of pesos in the economy each month. No conditions were asked for by China, but a little acknowledgment instead of insult is basic decency.
Meanwhile, the Carpio group instead of pitching in has been intensely politicking. Carpio brings up galunggong in the West Philippine Sea but fails to mention that yields of Filipino fishermen there increased because of spawning moratoriums that China managed. Fish yields in our own managed areas had been down by over 80 percent as a result of our own dynamite-fishing and overfishing for decades.
- Duterte vs Carpio: The Real Debate (Performance vs Chatter)
Our fishermen’s children, given free education and basic health care under the Duterte administration, practically do not want to be fishermen who make less than P200 a day on average.
Terrorism almost became part of Philippine life if China and Russia had not sent us arms to fight an Islamic State-inspired rebellion in Marawi City, while the US initially blocked arms delivery to the Philippines. The Duterte government resolved the military part of the crisis in 8 months. Peace and development are worth more than countless billions.
Dr. Rommel Banlaoi, president of the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies, points out: “Gone are the days when we identified our foreign policy as identical with that of the US. Under Duterte, we saw the expansion of relations with traditional partners and the establishment of relations with non-traditional partners like Australia, Russia, Israel, etc.”
He adds that centuries of good relations with China were disrupted by colonial experiences. We need to work with China and all claimants to WPS waters to avoid miscalculations and pursue cooperation to build a community. There are many possible areas for cooperation, including fisheries, marine research, marine environment, law enforcement, and search and rescue operations.
- Duterte’s distorted sense of ‘utang na loob’
Why does the Carpio group never mention Sabah that the US gave away to Britain and Malaysia, incursions into our internal waters by US warships, or Southwest Pugad Island that was tricked-taken over by Vietnam?
Vietnam, frequent poachers in Philippine waters, is also a major claimant in the WPS. But it also knew enough to court China, getting billions of dollars from Beijing, which invested in hundreds of factories in Vietnam.
Enablers are even more important
George Siy, a business community leader, brings up that some $2 billion was spent by Chinese tourists in 2019 in the Philippines, and employment of online teachers doubled to 30,000 in the last 4 years. Property firms will attest to the billions of dollars in sales and rentals.
“The upgrade to over twice faster internet and much higher coverage from three years ago, allowing us to have more zoom meetings, e-commerce, and e-education that mostly use Chinese technology. Chinese companies are also providing skills training for thousands of Filipino civil, software, and 5G engineers and university students and empowering logistics and technology enterprises,” Siy says.
Would Carpio, Heydarian, and Hontiveros visit the China projects? The P12-billion Kaliwa Dam will supply us with badly needed water. The P3.2-billion Chico River irrigation project will improve our agriculture. Two donated bridges worth over $100 million (on top of over a hundred million dollars of debt forgiveness) will also improve mobility.
Anna Malindog, the political analyst of Phil-Brics, mentions bilateral relations at the people-to-people level, including pandemic aids and a life-changing solar-powered lights project for indigenous people in Zambales.
On Malampaya, China offered 60 percent in the profit-sharing as well as capital and technology. Western oil companies left the Philippines and even filed a case against the Philippine government to avoid paying $1.1 billion in taxes.
Yes, the decision of PCA and politics are important but not the “be all and end all” – just as any relationship, marriage, business, is multidimensional. Solutions are not arrived at by deliberately inflaming emotionality rather than calm study and practical give and take.
For now, we can expect more false information, insults, rallies instead of explorations for truth and productive solutions, to try to force President Duterte to renew the US Visiting Forces Agreement and to increase the visibility of electioneering 1Sambayan and opposition candidates.
All confusion and obstacles to peaceful solutions and the upliftment of our kababayan, who need all the focus, assistance, and disciplined teamwork to overcome the real challenges ahead.
Also published in Manila Times on July 11, 2021. We welcome logical feedback and possibly working together with compatible frameworks (email@example.com).