Foreboding signs

A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison - The Philippine Star

The first state visit in 13 years of China’s President Xi Jinping, highlights a very significant, abrupt and critical shift in our foreign policy. Of course there is nothing wrong with developing warm, diplomatic relations and amity with other countries of the world. But there must also be some line of action, guidelines and principles we should observe and follow in forging ties with them.

First and foremost of course is the form of government and ideology of the country we are dealing with. The Philippines is a democratic and republican state where sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them (Section I, Article II Constitution of the Philippines). Therefore, in its relations with other states the paramount consideration should be the national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest and right to self determination of our country (Section 7 Idem).

We must also bear in mind that China is reputed to be the seedbed of communism where a totalitarian government through a single political party owns and controls all property including industry allegedly in the name of the people. Obviously our ideology is directly opposed and contrary to the Chinese ideology. While this difference does not mean that we should adopt a belligerent attitude toward this country, we should not, however, be subservient and must always maintain our sovereignty and independence.

But in the two-day state visit of Xi Jinping, so many signs indicate that we are more subservient rather than independent from this country. This sign is primarily manifested and even emphasized by Duterte’s pivot from our previous friendly and amicable relation with the United States of America which has been our long time ally and protector especially in the preservation of our democratic ideals.

Most noticeable in this connection are some breaches in protocol especially in the welcome ceremonies at Malacanang Palace. No Philippine flag on the left side of the aisle was borne by any flag bearer unlike in other state visits. Only the Chinese flag was carried and displayed as the two leaders marched to the Palace for the formal meeting. People are also wondering why Duterte was walking behind rather than beside Xi Jinping. Such scene has elicited so many uncomplimentary comments, like that which says that we have already become a “colony or province” of China.

Then during the first day of the meeting, a total of 29 agreements have been allegedly signed between China and the Philippines covering business and tourism. But none of the said agreements have published or publicly made known. This lack of transparency in government transactions is clearly one of the practices of a totalitarian government like China. We should not have adopted such practice but instead discussed and published them for more transparency which is one of the hallmarks of democracy.

Most significant and important among these agreements is the oil and gas exploration agreement with China in the disputed maritime areas. As it now turns out, the sharing in said deal is more favorable to China which will get 60 percent share compared to the Philippines’ share of 40 percent. This somewhat inequitable sharing has apparently forced Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to explain that the gas deal is only an “agreement to agree.” Such kind of deal is quite novel indeed. This is likewise true with regards to the alleged foreign aids promised by China. It is not quite clear whether said offer actually consists of loans rather than aids. Thus the Senate is now compelled to conduct a hearing in order to determine the real deal.

Duterte’s preference and more favorable treatment of China even caused most Filipinos to recall and believe Duterte’s previous off the cuff remark on the shift in his administration’s foreign policy as far as the US and China is concerned. The first time he announced such shift at the onset of his administration, he mentioned something about his personal grudge against the US because he was denied a US visa as the very reason for becoming friendlier with China than with the US. Obviously his basis for the foreign policy shift in this regard is more personal than national. The peoples’ interest and welfare are not foremost in his mind.

In this connection, it is more appropriate to cite again the controversy involving the West Philippine Sea, particularly the Scarborough shoal where China was already undertaking some military and economic activities. Because of such activities, the Philippines filed a case before the UN International Arbitral Tribunal claiming that said territory is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone pursuant to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). And a decision was already issued in our favor declaring that said area is indeed included within the Philippine Economic Zone. China however ignored and refused to follow said decision. Apparently, Duterte sided with China in this regard and declared that we cannot really assert our rights over the area because we don’t have the military strength to counter China’s superior forces.

The worst part here is that recently, his own spokesman, Salvador Panelo even admitted that the said decision of the International Tribunal is “useless”: “walang panalo diyan.” Even Duterte himself conceded that said area really belongs to China: “Sa China na, sa China na yan” to the extent of issuing warnings against other nations not to conduct any operations therein.

At this stage therefore we should be more vigilant in ensuring that Duterte’s shift to a more favorable foreign relation with China would not lead to graver consequences particularly the adoption of a totalitarian regime in our country and the perpetration of treasonous acts.

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