Appeasement or rapprochement? How it it exactly that you deal with a regional superpower like China? Among Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries, only Vietnam has fought a land and sea conflict against China. But among ASEAN also, Vietnam has the most battle-seasoned military. The Vietnam War ended relatively recently in 1975.
In her Inquirer piece “The costs of appeasement”, columnist Winnie Monsod writes about how a “policy of appeasement” applied by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippine government’s dealings with China “costs us” an estimated “P193 billion a year” from the “coral reef destruction” and “fish poaching”.
What the Opposition is not telling us is Vietnam had actually built more structures on the features it claims than China. So if Monsod is advocating action against China, the same position should apply to Vietnam. The problem here is, Vietnam is an ASEAN member country. China is ASEAN’s largest trading partner. Should it follow now that ASEAN member countries ought to take a common stand against China?
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The problem with our public intellectuals is that that they are so beholden to Western ideology. US and Europe are good. China is bad — because it is an authoritarian dictatorship. It is not as simple as they make it out to be. If this were the case then every weaker country would be able to stand up to a stronger one. Both Spain and the US got away with their hegemonic intent with the Philippines when it was their colony. What did we get out of it?
Monsod and her ilk only see the issue through the lens of their academic disciplines. There is in our academe an ingrained bias for all things Western and this is an attitude that they propagate through their media channels. This is why we never developed a national identity. We identify more as Americans or Spanish than Asians. Look at what happened during the Scarborough standoff and the events which took place before it.
The tension generated by the death of Chinese nationals in the 2010 Luneta hostage-taking incident, for example, could’ve been defused if only then President Noynoy Aquino spoke with Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang and offered compensation. PNoy did not do either. Any businessman will tell you most Chinese are particular about face. Saving face. Appeasement. None of these were taken into account.
In the case of the botched Scarborough Shoal standoff, then Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario was in the US conducting negotiations through Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell. Del Rosario was promoting the US interest in the South China Sea because it was also in line with the business agenda of his principal, Manny Pangilinan. This is what led to China’s aggressive posture against the Philippines.
China imposed other sanctions on the Philippines and the Aquino administration wanted to “internationalize” the situation by bringing it to the attention of ASEAN member countries during the regional forum. Result? ASEAN ignored the plight of the Philippines because it was acting as the US mouthpiece. Mareng Winnie now claims the Integrated Development Studies Institute (IDSI) is acting in behalf of China. The fact is, lobbying is a common Western practice. As such, wouldn’t it be within the parameters of what is acceptable in the Western hemisphere which Monsod and her cohorts are so enamored with?
The conduct of diplomacy is to find a peaceful resolution to an issue so there would be no reason to resort to conflict. As it is, tensions are high in the South China Sea, the East China Sea and the Taiwan Strait as China, the US and Taiwan conduct patrols on a regular basis. The US Navy is deploying more carrier battle groups in the disputed waters. The Pacific Command has been renamed to the Indo-Pacific Command to broaden its area of responsibility to include the Indian Ocean.
The US hasn’t given the Philippines military aid even when it had its bases here. The same applies now. We only receive hand-me-downs which we pay for. The ill-fated C-130 which crashed in Jolo was a refurbished aircraft. It was in the desert boneyard of the US Air Force (USAF) prior to it being serviced and sold to us. The US finds it convenient to support Taiwan despite its one-China policy. This has been a constant source of tension between the two countries because the US sells Taiwan modern military hardware for its defense while its former colony has to be content with whatever it gives as military aid. Its a dog-eat-dog real world in case Mareng Winnie missed it.
The history of our country is replete with sellouts like Aguinaldo, Buencamino, and Paterno. Retired Justice Antonio Carpio and Del Rosario are the modern-day counterparts of these “patriotic” Filipinos. Pseudo-nationalists have sold us out before. The situation today is no different from the past. This why those who don’t bother to read history are condemned to repeat it. Monsod is barking up the wrong tree.
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