The fact remains though that it seems the current administration is focused on finding ways to excuse what the Chinese did and how they continue to encroach on an area that is supposed to be constitutionally protected for the exclusive use and enjoyment of Filipino citizens.
Presidential Photo/Ace Morandante
A one-sided friendship
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - July 2, 2019 - 12:00am

There are very few real and true friends in the world. The type you can rely on when the chips are down and who will always be there for you in good times and bad. When you find friends like that you keep them because it’s a fact of life that not everyone that you go out of your way for is going to have your back. The truth is that, more likely than not, you are going to run into “friends” who are only around because they need or want something from you.

In case you haven’t guessed by now I am saying this in reference to President Duterte’s remarks about China encroaching in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EZZ) to fish. He said that, despite the clamor made during the boat-ramming incident, he would not be able to tell the Chinese to stop fishing in our waters because “we’re friends.” And while this excuse might hold up in the playground, it certainly has no place in international affairs. In fact, this statement has left many asking – if we’re such a good friends does that mean the Chinese are going to allow Filipino fisherman to encroach in their territorial seas? I think we all know the answer to that.

Since the president made that “friends” statement prompting many to argue that it was unconstitutional, Presidential Spokesperson Panelo emerged to clarify what the president actually meant. According to him, the Chinese – knowing that we are friends – would not allow or dissuade their fishermen from fishing in our EEZ since that could lead to hostility between our nations and they wouldn’t want that – again because they consider the Philippines as a friend. Apparently this is what that statement really meant.

When asked if that is indeed what he meant, the president confirmed Panelo’s explanation although he further reiterated that it would be hard to get the Chinese to stop fishing in our waters because they claim ownership of so much of it – claims we have yet to refute. And seeing how we seem more and more indebted to China everyday, ones we probably won’t be addressing any time in the near future.

I wrote about the boat incident in my piece last week and while there has been no definitive outcome yet the implications of it are far-reaching and everyone is now wondering what exactly China has on our president that makes him so forgiving when he has always been known to be stubborn about protecting the Philippines and Filipinos in the past. After all, it’s not just about money and partnership and investment – because we could get that from many other countries (with a lot less interest too). I guess at this point your guess is as good as mine.

The fact remains though that it seems the current administration is focused on finding ways to excuse what the Chinese did and how they continue to encroach on an area that is supposed to be constitutionally protected for the exclusive use and enjoyment of Filipino citizens. The top comment, however, goes to  Senate President Vicente Sotto III who said it would be hard to implement exclusivity on fishing when we can’t be sure where the fish are actually coming from. He claims that fish could be coming from China going to the Philippines and vice versa so there is really no way to enforce exclusivity.

Needless to say, people found this statement hilarious if not completely misplaced in official government proceedings and the meme machine started rolling spitting out photos of “Filipino” and “Chinese” fish and different fish passports. This just proves, once again, that humor is really how Filipinos deal with situations that frustrate them or are out of their control. Sadly, the people look to their leaders for guidance and protection and these days it seems that the only statements we’re getting are those better suited to noontime shows.

And as far as what Panelo said about friendship? Let’s see if China will really try to actively prevent their fishermen from encroaching in our EEZ in the name of our friendship. As the old TV show name says… “Abangan ang susunod na kabanata”.

* * *

On the plus side for international relations (and a stellar example of the other end of the spectrum and how the president has fought for our country), the trash that the Canadians dumped on our shores has – at last – returned to Canada. This has been something that the president has been hounding Canada about repeatedly giving them strict deadlines to remove their garbage or face the consequences. In fact, it’s a stark contrast to how he has been reacting to the incident with China and it shows. I believe it’s this version of the president that Filipinos hoped would emerge during the boat sinking accident. Unfortunately that was not the case. 

And as for Canada, relations between the Philippines and Canada are “cordial” once again now that the latter has kept its promise and reclaimed the garbage once left on our shores. Not only is this good news in the sense that we no longer have to deal with someone else’s trash (we have enough to deal with as it is), but it serves as a good statement to other countries that would look to the Philippines as a dumping ground. The message is clear – don’t dump your waste here.

EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE RECTO BOAT SINKING PROBE
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