TRUE INDEPENDENT FOREIGN POLICY dictates that the Philippines- as a sovereign nation- act at all times ONLY for her best national interest. Not as a vassal of any nation.
Take the recent visit of President Xi Jimping of China to this country. Among the so-called 29 agreements- one must consider the joint oil exploration of the Philippines and China in the South China Sea as the most important.
We can set aside the fact that there are some reclaimed islands set by China; that some of our fisherfolks were harassed by Chinese militiamen. And China can set aside the fact that due to our clumsiness and indecisiveness- had caused 8 Chinese Hongkong men to perish in a bus hostage situation in Manila back in 2013. And that one Chinese-Taiwanese fisherman was reported killed by Navy men. Why?
Because the fact is- China is a businessman-nation, first and last. A joint exploration (60-40% sharing in favor of China) can lead to her co-ownership of the so-called “Second Persian Gulf” oil field where China estimates to hold US$60-trillion worth of oil or about 213 billion barrels of oil -and thus lessen her dependence on crucial energy supply from abroad.
A second United States Geographical Survey indicates the South China Sea oilfield can yield 28 billion barrels of oil. Either way, that is huge.
For the Philippines, the oil reserves can hugely augment the little we get from the Malampaya Exploration and having exported the excess oil can beef up our Foreign Reserves currently slowly eroded by current account and trade deficits. As confirmed by the weakening Philippine peso currency.
A Philippine self-produced and processed oil can lead to the lowering of our transport and energy costs here- which are strong drivers of our run-away 6.5% inflation. That is why the exploration is such a big deal.
The fact is we are really on a planet where nations are constantly being interdependent on one another and political ideologies should give way to economic realities.
Besides, China is awash with money for investment and loans which can serve in good stead our ambitious “Build Build Build” program needing P8-Trillion in funding up to the year 2022.
This strategy is meant to upgrade the infrastructure profile of the country (one of the poorest in the ASEAN) as a percentage of GDP and provide livelihood to hundreds of thousands of Filipinos and make the country more competitive.
A British think tank Capital Economics was quick to warn the Philippines of a “China Debt Trap” that purportedly plunged countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Malaysia into economic problems by engaging huge Chinese yuan debts. It reportedly led to their severe current account deficits, the collapse of their currencies and necessitated an IMF bail-out.
However, our economic fundamentals are better than those nations, generally, and besides Capital Economics is British and may have some disguised political biases.
Of course, we have to be careful. But since this exploration deal is just a “Memorandum of Understanding” and not a “Memorandum of Agreement”, any line we will later find in it that is not beneficial to the nation, the Philippines can legally walk out of the deal -clean and dandy.
Careful, too, since we had some sad experience with large Chinese deals in the past like the botched Northrail and NBN-ZTE Broadband deals worth about US$800-M.
Careful, too, a sovereign state must we be- as the Senate is wont to do in scrutinizing the 29 so-called Chinese projects done in the last Jimping’s state visit since we know economic figures released during such visits are “aspirational” rather than “actual” in reality.
For instance, Dr. Solita Monsod disclosed that after the 2016 state visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to China- by 2018 it was discovered that only US$400-M of the “Chinese package of $24-B goodies, $15-B direct foreign investments and $9-B projects became actual projects. A poor percentage.
Be that as it may, China is still the world’s second richest economy and being a neighbor and a fellow Asian, we may have no choice but to deal with her.
This is not to say we can ignore Japan’s role in our development – she is one of the largest aid, loan and investor grantors to the country during the last decades. Today, Japan is poised to start a modern subway in Metro Manila to solve its chronic, debilitating traffic jams.
Likewise, Japan is the main partner in the New Clark City development in Pampanga- the next Metro Manila of the Philippines.
But you see, even Japan and countries like Australia and South Korea, staunch political allies of America are also China’s huge trade partners.
Devoid of verbal saber- rattlings, the USA and China even then-truly- cannot really do without each other- having been important trade and financial partners up to the present dates. Even the so-called “trade war” between the two we forecast will end in an amicable settlement soon. We are truly an interdependent world.
In fact, despite the diplomatic jostling and press posturings, America and China have a common interest in safeguarding the freedom of navigation along the South China Sea. And the ASEAN nations are soon to formalize a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and is a huge trading partner of China. So, there.
As to security, the Philippines can rest assured that China cannot just bully its way and hurt the Philippines militarily if her economic demands are not met. Because on August 30, 1951, the Philippines and America signed a Mutual Defense Treaty where an attack on one will result in an automatic defensive response from the other.
This kind of interdependencies works well for the world. Take the case of North Korea. Stung by worldwide economic sanctions, she had to do a massive denuclearization in order to survive.
Global interdependency is what is saving the world from grave perdition. Let us capitalize on this interdependency to serve our best national interest. And no one else’s.
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