Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why is China not a fan of the Philippines?

by Antonio C. Antonio
April 30, 2014

“Why is China not a fan of the Philippines?” is really a very intriguing question.  A quick review of Philippine exports will indicate that most of our natural resources (especially mineral products) are being exported to China.  But in spite of this, China is not too fond of us.  Really…  Why should a super power like China be a “fan” of a country like the Philippines?

There is a broad spectrum of reasons why China is not a fan of the Philippines.  Please allow me to narrow down these reasons to only three which I understand are the main concerns…

First:  The territorial claims.  The Philippines and China are locked in a territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea (Filipino map) and the South China Sea (Chinese map).  The West Philippine Sea has closer proximity to the Philippines than South China Sea to mainland China.  Following the Chinese argument that this body of water (and everything in it) belongs to them simply because it was traditionally named “South China Sea”, then Australia (especially Perth) have a lot to worry about with “India” since their western coast faces up to what is traditionally called the South “Indian” Ocean.  If this is the case, Australia should be well-advised to re-name this body of water “West Australia Ocean” before India serves them a claimant’s notice.  This sort of argument makes China seem unreasonable in the eyes of the world.

Being right or wrong in territorial disputes oftentimes is not that important than who actually controls the disputed area.  Right now, the Philippine Navy has nine mighty Marines on board the junked and grounded BRP Sierra Madre on the Ayungin Shoal to show that we own the place.  On the other hand, China has nine maritime vessels, nine planes and nine armed divisions on Mischief Reef.  Isn’t this a mismatch?  Military superiority, however, doesn’t make China right.  There are international maritime laws that have to be respected such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Second:  MDT (Mutual Defense Treaty) of 1951 and EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) of 2014.  The visit of US President Barak H. Obama to Manila last April 28 and 29, 2014 resulted to the signing of the EDCA which solidified the military alliance between the US and the Philippines… although the visit seem to have done little to improve the relationship between the Philippines and China.  With an “ironclad” commitment to defend the Philippines from the invasive aggression from any foreign country, the US gave notice to China to lean back on their bullying tactics in the West Philippine Sea.  Now, I really want to see if Yao Ming will still dare to bully tiny LA Tenorio now that big brother Lebron James wears a Ginebra San Miguel uniform. 

Stephen Collison of Agence France-Presse reported today that a Chinese government-run news agency called the Philippines a “troublemaking ally” of the United States.  The Filipino’s “amboy” image is a result of five decades of cooperative partnership and friendship between the Americans and Filipinos as evidenced by the MDT and the EDCA.  (“Amboy” is a 1970s slang that means “American boy.”)  Even if the EDCA did not strengthen the Philippine Armed Forces in terms of state-of-the-art military hardware, it is hopefully a step forward in improving our independent capability to defend ourselves sooner or later.  Let us hope, further, that we are not satisfied and end up complaisant by the “bragging rights” that EDCA provides.  But come to think of it, Robin Padilla was right to say:  “Bragging is not a crime.”  (Hindi krimen ang kayabangan.)  But braggadocio does not win disputes either.

Third:  The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).  The TPP is a free trade agreement being negotiated by nine APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) – member countries:  The United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.  Curiously, the Philippines was not even part of the TPP in its inception.  Pres. Obama, however, in his visit to Manila, was trying to sell this particular agreement to the Filipinos.  With this in the background, why should China worry about TPP?  China is undeniably a risen super power in Asia and they know their economic position of influence in the region.  But the TPP, however, is largely seen as a grand design to organize the Asia-Pacific region into an economic zone with the United States in the middle of this free trade economic alignment.  By all means, China does not like this.  An economic superstar like China will always want to see its name at the top of the marquee. 

Given the perception that the Philippines is an “Amboy”, China believes that the Philippines will blindly sign the TPP.  The display of warmth from the Filipino people and the friendly promises of protection from Mr. Obama earlier this week was enough to make the Chinese believe that the TPP is a done deal. 

These three reasons plus a lot more that you can think of makes it easy to understand why is China not a fan of the Philippines.

Just my little thoughts…

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