WE support the efforts by the government and private groups to foster bilateral relations between the Philippines and China. China has been upset with the administration’s moves to modernize security cooperation with the United States, including the renewal and expansion of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). But as President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said recently, the Philippines was not moving away from China.
“It is my firm belief that our relationship must not be defined by our innate differences,” Mr. Marcos said in an event of the Association for Philippines-China Understanding (APCU). “We may have such differences, all friends do,” he said, adding that his government remained committed to bringing the two countries closer together.
He was alluding to the West Philippine Sea, the local name for the South China Sea. China has expansive claims that overlap with the exclusive economic zones of several Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines.
The President went on to say: “So let us be bound rather by our similarities, our common purpose, our shared goals. As a guiding principle, we will pursue constant dialogue and an amicable approach to our decision-making and the resolution of issues. Being a peace-loving nation, we will adhere, for all intents and purposes, to the fundamental adage that good communication is key to a good relationship.”
Mr. Marcos also mentioned the commitments made by Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he visited last January. During that state visit, Chinese officials pledged to the Philippines $22.8 billion in trade and investments.
Except for some progress in exporting durian to China, not much has come out of those commitments. Not surprisingly, many blame EDCA for the delays. But no foreign power should tell Filipinos how to conduct their own foreign policy or how to defend their territorial integrity.
Hopefully, maintaining good relations with China will not keep the Philippines from making friends with any other nation. China should recognize that the Philippines, like any other state, crafts its policies based on its own interests, not because it is doing another country’s bidding. In fact, Filipinos find it demeaning to be accused of acting like vassals or puppets of a foreign power.
Like President Marcos, this newspaper has argued in its editorials that bilateral relations between the Philippines and China should not be defined by the territorial disputes. In fact, maintaining healthy bilateral ties with China, the world’s biggest economy, is clearly in this country’s national interest.
In civil society, organizations like APCU are leading the way, enhancing people-to-people exchanges and promoting better friendship between Filipino and Chinese businesses and among public intellectuals. Last week, APCU awarded six laureates who have contributed to the advancement and understanding between the Philippines and China. Among them was former ambassador Rigoberto “Bobi” Tiglao, who was the latest opinion writer from this newspaper to be recognized by APCU for helping Filipino-Chinese relations.
Other Chinese-Filipino organizations are also working to bring the Philippines and China together. That is hardly surprising, given that many Filipinos, including national hero Jose Rizal, have Chinese blood.
The point here is that Filipinos will do their part to befriend China, even while they stand up to protect their interests and defend their territory.
Meanwhile, Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro, the newly appointed Defense secretary, urged China to match its deeds with its actions, particularly with regard to the West Philippine Sea. “As a stronger country, it has the bigger obligation to be magnanimous and show trust, and to earn the trust of the Filipino people, by conforming its activities to recognize norms of international law, which in our case is Unclos,” he said, referring to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
A Chinese proverb about bamboo captures the gist of that statement. It says, “The higher you grow, the deeper you bow.”
President Marcos and groups like APCU are reaching out to mend relations with China, despite unresolved issues. To be clear, Filipinos do not wish the Chinese to bow, only to reciprocate the respect it is given and to cooperate in areas where we can.
Source : TheManilaTimes