Unwise, counter-productive to scrap deals with PRC firms
TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - September 4, 2020 - 12:00am

One thing every Filipino must understand about the Philippines' quarrel with China over competing claims in the South China Sea is that it is not the same quarrel China has with the United States. Let us not make the mistake of copying American initiatives against China as what, of all people, our very own foreign affairs secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. seems to be suggesting.

Following the American lead of blacklisting and sanctioning Chinese firms, products, assets, and people in its trade war with China, including those companies that took part in China's illegal reclamation and island-building spree in the South China Sea, Locsin also wants the Philippines to scrap existing contracts we have with some of these same firms currently doing projects in the Philippines.

First of all, while it is true some of these firms were involved in activities in the South China Sea, they engaged in those activities at the behest of their own government. They could not have undertaken those activities on their own. What beef we have, it is against Beijing, not these companies. Besides, those activities are illegal only from our point of view. To both the Chinese government and the companies, they were perfectly legal.

One must also remember that out of many Chinese companies doing business in the Philippines, only a handful fall under the category that Locsin wants us to punish. Such an effort would hardly make any dent on China's might. On the other hand, if China engages the Philippines tit-for-tat, what a knockout punch it could inflict on the handful of Filipino companies doing well in China.

If both America and China want to go toe-to-toe with each other, let them. As the leading military and economic superpowers, they very well can afford to gouge each other's eyes out. We can't. Doing what Locsin wants not only stands to make our bilateral trade with China suffer, which both countries have managed to isolate from their territorial conflict, we would also send the wrong signal to other foreign firms we have contracts with.

And why should we follow America's lead, especially in going after Chinese companies that built those islands and structures in the South China Sea? How quick we are to forget that America itself just folded its arms as China built up those islands. All those islands and structures could not be built in a day. It took time to do all of them. But what did America do other than make noise, like a dog barking at the moon.

But we need to show our displeasure at China's bullying in the South China Sea, some would say. And of course we should. We cannot let Chinese effrontery pass without at least some semblance of opposition. Let me count the ways. We can make noise, lots of it. We are the best in the world in making noise. We can make fun of the Chinese. We make the best memes in the universe. Or we can face toward China and pull down our pants.

Other than those measures, anything we do against China has the potential to boomerang against us and make us lose more than what we already have. Let us learn to accept things as they are if we cannot actually do anything to correct or reverse the circumstances. And one other thing. Let us stop looking up at America. We ought to know by now that America only looks after its own interests.

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