Philippines Inc. breaks silence

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

You know that businessmen are more worried than usual when they actually speak out and on Friday, they did just that.

Philippines Inc. has spoken, decrying the harassment of the country’s military by Chinese personnel at the West Philippine Sea.

They are worried indeed, especially over the impact of the heightened tensions on the lives of ordinary Filipinos, perhaps this time, even more worried than the impact of the tensions on their own personal businesses.

“This is to dispel any thought that business is focused on making money and would not risk upsetting (China),” an industry source told me when I asked what prompted them to come out with a statement.

It’s also a call to government to allocate more funds toward strengthening our forces with much needed resources, the source said.

Thus, in a rare and strongly worded joint statement, business organizations deplored the harassment of the country’s military after the recent clash between Philippine Navy personnel and the Chinese coast guard in Ayungin Shoal.

“We deplore the continued harassment of the AFP, the PCG and, most of all, our people who are just trying to earn their livelihood,” the business groups said, referring to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Coast Guard.

A routine resupply mission on Monday to a military outpost on the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal was disrupted by Chinese authorities.

Seventeen business organizations signed the statement. These are the Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, Alyansa Agrikultura, Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference for Human Development, Cebu Business Club, Cebu Leads Foundation, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (Phil) Inc., Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Institute for Solidarity in Asia, Institute of Corporate Directors, Investment House Association of the Philippines, Justice Reform Initiative, Nextgen Organization of Women Corporate Directors, People Management Association of the Philippines, Philippine Women’s Economic Network, Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Foundation Inc. and Women’s Business Council Philippines.


The business groups also urged the government to “pursue with utmost urgency the necessary capacity-building measures that will successfully transform the AFP and the PCG into modern, responsive and self-reliant defense forces.”

Lastly, they appealed for unity toward a non-violent resolution that respects our rights as a peace-loving nation.

This is a bold move on the part of our business groups and it speaks volumes about their growing concern about the tensions between the Philippines and China.

There was no mention of China in the statement but there was no need to. Photos and video recording of what the Chinese Coast Guard did have made the rounds on social media.

Clearly, on many fronts, the tensions have affected businesses.

As early as last year, a Filipino-Chinese tycoon already raised the alarm on the worsening conflict in the disputed seas.

Now that influential business groups, including some foreign business chambers in the Philippines, have spoken, we hope that China would realize that its actions have become a major concern for businesses.

As I earlier said, immediate and long-term solutions are needed to resolve the issue. Both countries must be sincere and willing to de-escalate the tensions and hopefully, pave the way for lasting solutions.

Unfortunately, it seems that we are getting closer to a full-blown conflict because of our what our Department of Foreign Affairs has denounced as “illegal and aggressive” actions.

As expected, China continues to blame Philippine authorities for what happened.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said “Ren’ai Jiao is part of China’s Nansha Qundao and it is Chinese territory.”

“The Philippine side illegally intruded the waters of Ren’ai Jiao without China’s permission, which violated international law and the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. This is sheer provocation and has no justification whatsoever,” he said in a statement.

In all, China claims almost all of the South China Sea even as the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 found no legal basis for China’s claims.


A senior US defense official has earlier put the spotlight on China’s use of “lawfare” to legitimize their activities in the disputed seas.

Lawfare or legal warfare, said the official, is one of three warfares that make up China’s broader political influence. The two others are political influence and psychological warfare.

“China uses lawfare to legitimize their activities. And it can use lawfare, or legal warfare, as a tool, or an instrument, of coercion in its own right, or as pretext to legitimize some of its aggressive activities in the South China Sea, and elsewhere.

“They do this in a number of different ways but what’s unique about China’s approach to illegal warfare is that it’s incorporated into their doctrine. This is part of how they execute military operations, and much of what they do in the legal space is designed to try and shape public opinions about the law,” said the senior defense official.

They try and connect their activities to some aspects of international law in order to shape opinions about the legitimacy of their behaviors.

But legals experts have said that there is nothing legitimate about China’s recent actions.

As Justice Antonio Carpio said, while it is not piracy, the actions of the Chinese violated the sovereign immunity of a warship, which includes its auxiliary vessels.

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Follow her on X, formerly Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at EyesWideOpen (Iris Gonzales) on Facebook.

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