Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Why is the Philippines’ Duterte so enamoured of China?

Mar 10. 2019
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By Solita Collas-Monsod
Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network 

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Pompeo reiterating Washington’s vow to come to our aid if China attacks; the issue of illegal Chinese labour in the Philippines, which Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad has seen fit to warn us about; the matter of Chinese loans (the parties to similar loans elsewhere are either taking a hard second look or no longer want to do business with China).

China-Philippine relations have been very much in the news lately, what with US Secretary of State Mike Then just last week came the report of a Filipino domestic helper in Hong Kong sacked because she had cervical cancer.

All these tend to cast China in a bad light, and deservedly so. But it has also put into focus the Philippine government’s seeming role as the primary defender of China on the domestic front. The question is: Why is President Rodrigo Duterte so enamoured of China, when the rest of the world is having second thoughts?

Take the West Philippine Sea dispute. Duterte has been tiptoeing around this issue. He doesn’t want to leverage our victory over China in the arbitral tribunal. He doesn’t want to complain to the international community about China’s unrelenting “Build, build, build” programme in the disputed sea. He allows China to harass or prevent our fishermen from pursuing their livelihood. And he is even pursuing a joint venture agreement with Beijing. Why?

Well, he says, we don’t want to upset China because we cannot win in a war against it. He just wants to protect what he can by being non-confrontational with China.

Our Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, who has written a book on the maritime dispute, assures us that China may be even more afraid to go to war with us, because (a) it would immediately become the pariah of the world, with sanctions from the United Nations very likely; and (b) our ally, the United States, would immediately come to our aid in case of an attack. And we can attack China on the economic front (eg, file suit against it abroad and freeze its assets). In other words, we have the upper hand.

Well, Carpio received support just last week – and from US Secretary of State Pompeo, no less. And from China itself, too, which stated that it was not going to attack us (they don’t attack, they just bully us). This has effectively pulled the rug from under Duterte’s feet. It means he can stop walking around eggshells as far as China is concerned, and start protecting the Filipino people like the macho he proclaims himself to be.

Then there is the issue of the illegal Chinese. Manila’s line is that we should give them a chance to legalise their stay. Huh? Why not just deport them (like the Australian nun Sister Patricia Fox, who had done nothing harmful except stand up for poor Filipinos)? Aha. Because, says Duterte’s spokesperson, China will do the same with our illegal workers in China, per the Chinese ambassador to the Philippines. No diplomatic notes. Just a friendly verbal threat.

Since when is the Chinese ambassador part of our decision-making process? Do we have laws, or not? Do they have laws, or not? Besides, if they treat a legal domestic worker in Hong Kong so inhumanely, what can illegal foreign workers on the mainland expect? Shouldn’t we just bring them home? In any case, why doesn’t our government ask the Filipinos who have experienced their obnoxious habits and behaviour what they recommend? Please, Manila, don’t just tuck your tail under your legs when it comes to China.

The Philippine government has taken huge loans from China, such as the 12-billion-peso (Bt7.3 billion) Kaliwa Dam loan agreement, a 17-billion-peso Davao bridge loan, and, the latest, a loan of about 4 billion peso for the Chico Dam irrigation project. Don’t our government officials read what is happening in the rest of the world, with Pakistan and Nepal refusing to take any more Chinese loans, and other countries telling horror stories about what happens when they default? (Sri Lanka has already given up a shipping port to China in lieu of missed payments.) Instead, Philippine officials lavish valuable time defending the indefensible

And, finally, last week we were told a domestic worker in Hong Kong was fired because she has cervical cancer. Lucky for her, she is documented and may have a chance to receive justice. Think of our illegal workers, and what they may face in the mainland. Bring them home. And kick the Chinese illegals out.  


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