Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 9 March 2019


China-Philippine relationships have been very much in the news lately, what with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterating Washington’s determination to come to our aid if China attacks; the issue of illegal Chinese labor 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 are either taking a hard second look or no longer want to do business with China); and, just yesterday, the issue of a Filipino domestic helper in Hong Kong who was terminated 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 in the domestic front. The question is: Why is President Duterte so enamored of China, when the rest of the world is having second thoughts?

Take the West Philippine Sea (WPS) issue. Mr. 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 international fora about China’s unrelenting “Build, build, build” program in the area. 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.

Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who has written a book on the WPS issue, has practically assured 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—if we are attacked. And we can attack China on the economic front (e.g., file suit against it abroad and freeze its assets). In other words, we have the upper hand.

Well, Carpio has gotten support, just this week. 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 effectively pulls out the rug from under Mr. Duterte’s feet (or his arguments). So 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. The government line is that we should give them a chance to legalize their stay. Huh? Why not just deport them (like Sister Patricia Fox, who had done nothing harmful)? Aha. Because, says Mr. Duterte’s spokesperson, China will do the same with our illegal workers in China, per the Chinese ambassador to the Philippines. No written notes verbale (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 (see below) so inhumanly, how much more illegal workers in the mainland? 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 behavior what they recommend? Please, government, don’t just tuck your tail under your legs when it comes to China.

On our loans from China (like the P12-billion Kaliwa Dam loan agreement, a P17-billion Davao bridge loan, and, the latest, a loan of about P4 billion on 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 out any more loans, and other countries telling horror stories about what happens when they default? Instead, they spend so much time defending the indefensible (read this paper’s editorial, “Which ‘patrimonial assets’?” 3/6/19, on its onerousness).

And, finally, yesterday’s headline: a domestic worker in Hong Kong terminated because she has cervical cancer. Lucky for her, she is documented and may have a chance at justice. Think of our illegal workers, and what they may face in the mainland. Bring them home. And kick the Chinese illegals out.