China creates an enemy
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - August 14, 2014 - 12:00am

How China made the Philippines an enemy when the two countries could have been close collaborators in this part of Asia is the topic of one chapter in the book “The Rise of China vs. The Logic of Strategy” by Edward N. Luttwak. The book was recommended to me by Chito Sta. Romana, president of the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies.

Chito is a graduate of De La Salle University-Manila and was the Beijing Bureau head of the American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC News). He was then considered as ABC News’ China expert and is now the foremost China expert in the Philippines. By the way, he speaks, reads and writes perfect Mandarin.

Here are selected paragraphs, from the book, that I found especially interesting:

“From a Chinese and strategic point of view , the Philippines was little more than an extension of the United States until September 16, 1991, when the Philippine Senate amid great display of emotion voted 12 to 11 to reject a treaty that would have leased the Subic Bay Naval Station to the US for another ten years. Instead the last US sailor departed on November 24, 1992 and by then the United States had already evacuated Clark Air Base which had been heavily damaged by a 1991 volcanic explosion.”

After analyzing the reason why the Senate possibly rejected the treaty, Luttwak then discussed the effects on the Philippine-China relationship. He wrote:

“Although the 1991 vote did not repeal the 1852 US Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty, it did remove all American forces and then changed fundamentally the strategic disposition of the country, potentially opening it up to Chinese influence as never before. There were impediments, to be sure, including a historic Chinese ethnic presence in the Philippines that had negative as well as positive aspects and strong links with Taiwan – though the Philippines preceded the United States for four years in switching diplomatic recognition to the People’s Republic of China on June 9, 1975. Overall, however, the Chinese were very well positioned to supplant the United States as the benevolent greater state on the scene that could gradually evolve into a potentially protective power.”

There was a period, especially during the presidency of Gloria Arroyo, when it seemed that there was a real possibility of China supplanting the United States as the main source of investments for the Philippines. This was the period of major Philippine government officials, including President Arroyo and the First Gentleman were reported playing golf in China and meeting with possible investors in private conferences.

This was the time the NBN-ZTE deal was in the works. There were even serious negotiations for China to build and finance the construction of the Luzon North Rail and South Rail. It seemed that we would see a railway linking the Ilocos coast with the Bicol region.

Two events stopped these deals and eventually ended any chance even of a renegotiation. The first reason was that the NBN-ZTE and North Rail became entangled in allegations of bribery and other scandals that implicated GMA, the First Gentleman and Romulo Neri.

The second and bigger reason was the increased conflict in the West Philippine Sea between the Philippines and China. It became serious when China suddenly declared ownership of islands and reefs within the Philippine maritime boundaries.

In April 5, 2011, the Philippines sent to the United Nations Secretary what is called in diplomatic parlance as a Note Verbale. The official letter to the UN said that the Kalayaan Island Group (Spratly Islands) “claimed and occupied by the Philippines constitutes an integral part of the Philippines...” This was before the Philippines agreed to a mutual withdrawal from the disputed islands. The Philippines withdrew as per agreement, but the People’s Republic refused to withdraw.

The Chinese replied to the Philippine Note Verbale on April 14 2011 in a language that left no room for diplomatic negotiation. Here are excerpts from that Chinese Note  Verbale:

“China has undisputed sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and adjusting waters...its related rights and jurisdiction are supported by abundant historical and legal evidence...The contents of the Philippine Note  Verbale...are totally unacceptable to the Chinese government.

The so-called Kalayaan Island Group claimed by the Republic of the Philippines is in fact part of China’s Nansha Islands...Since 1970s the Republic of the Philippines started to invade and occupy some islands and reefs of the Chinese Nansha Islands...These acts constitute infringement upon China’s territorial sovereignty. Under the legal doctrine of “es injuria jus nun oritur” the Philippines can in no way invoke such illegal occupation to support its territorial claim.”?

There were many geopolitical consequences arising from the escalation of tensions between the two countries. Here are excerpts from Luttwak’s book explaining some of these consequences:

“Since then, Sino-Philippine relations have unfolded in the different ways that have become normal under deadly workings of what was earlier defined as China’s acquired strategic deficiency syndrome: China’s overbearing, even threatening conduct has driven the Philippines back into a protective relationship with the United States.

No Sino-Philippine war is imminent, but there already is warlike conduct by way of sudden occupations and overnight constructions and by maritime harassments...It can definitely be said that Sino-Philippine relations have evolved very dynamically...there is nothing like a territorial claim pressed aggressively, if the aim is to ruin amity....Once again, Chinese conduct has driven a possible partner into the arms of the United States.”

Chapter 19 of Edward Luttwak’s book is the story of how the People’s Republic of China turned the Philippines from a potential ally into an unwilling but now a clearly defiant enemy.



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