Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Philippines Will Soon be a Province of China? By Erick San Juan

Philippines Will Soon be a Province of China? By Erick San Juan

The Duterte administration has gone a long way in its nine months in office traveling and has already visited 16 countries and garnered around $34 billion in ‘pledges’ which are combined aid and investments from China and Japan alone. These travels had cost us $5.5 million or about PhP270 million  according to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III. That is supposedly a small investment with big return value. (Source: PCIJ)

The bulk of the pledged investment loans came from China which is in line with China’s President Xi Jinping’s One Belt, One Road Initiative that will take place in May 14 and 15 in Beijing. Pres. Rody Duterte will attend the meeting after his visit in Cambodia and Hongkong. What is this initiative all about?

"Previously known as “One Belt, One Road”, the initiative is being spearheaded by the Chinese government to improve trade and economic integration across Asia, Europe, and Africa. The strategy uses free-trade agreements and infrastructure projects – including roads, ports and railways – to create a modern Silk Road spanning some 65 countries, which have a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of US$21 trillion. It includes both an economic land “belt” through Eurasia, and a maritime “road” to connect coastal Chinese cities to Africa and the Mediterranean."

Through China’s ‘initiative’ countries from different continents can be linked via massive infrastructure projects like high speed trains by land or sea. But according to former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez, it is not as simple as it may seem for those countries that will join the Belt Road Initiative.

“Methinks PRRD will make the Philippines a part of China’s ‘Belt and Road’ plan, make the Philippines its Southeast terminus. This would make the Philippines potentially a part of China's economic orbit which would generate immense economic benefits to the Philippines but would have serious geopolitical and security implications for the country. The overall effect on the country's well being must be carefully studied by the country's economic, security, defense, political, geopolitical and geostrategic braintrust and not decided by only a limited group."

"Should such membership in China's economic orbit come to pass, it would have deep geopolitical and security implications as well as impact on our Exclusive Economic Zone claims especially our one million square kilometer West Philippine Sea, 90% of which China claims, and even extend China's influence on the development and protection of our huge 13 million hectare Benham Rise."

"Such economic engagement would have serious implications on China's achieving its Strategic Triangle Goal and China's geo-strategic move to break out of the First Island Chain towards the Second Island Chain and consequently control of the Western Pacific. This would prejudice the security and geopolitical position of our treaty ally United States and its allies Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand and of course Taiwan."

"Considering the Belt and Road Plan's impact on the Indo Pacific and global balance of power, especially on the status of the US as the hegemon,  I do not expect the US to simply sit out and watch the economic and geopolitical consequences to unfold without talking counteraction.” (Golez)

Blinded by the economic gains that one country can get from joining the B&RI, that they overlooked the geopolitical implications in the long run. This is what I have been saying all along as a warning that we are the planned future province of China.

Another analysis taken from the article of Malou Mangahas of PCIJ - "Trojan-horse trap?" These days, the Duterte administration is willing to bet that China can turn around its dismal record of projects in the Philippines. But some Filipino scholars on China say the Philippines should be more cautious when dealing with its giant neighbor.

“These are people, companies that felt that just because they have political connections, they can bribe, they can bring all their hanky-panky in our country,” commented U.P. political science assistant professor Jaime Naval. “Huwag naman tayo pagisa sa sarili nating bansa (We shouldn’t let ourselves be taken advantage of in our own country).”

China is “also very astute like the West and we have to be as astute as them,” said Naval, a China and ASEAN specialist. “They’re not giving because they love us, they’re giving because they take something back.”

He recalled reading a study that asserted that “for every one renminbi that China gives as ODA, it gets back six renminbi.” Said Naval: “It’s a political tool. It’s a given. I accept that. But we should not be naive that China is benevolent, that it hasn’t wrung us dry.”

“There’s a big difference between ODA coming from China and ODA coming from Europe, and U.S., and Japan,” Naval continued. He said that while “ODA from these developed countries are normally on health and education and certain advocacies that have something to do with the politics of the land and democracy…when it’s an ODA from China, it is extractive. There will be digging for minerals, they will get lumber, they will be harvesting natural resources.”

Dr. Renato de Castro, who holds the Charles Lui Chi Keung Professorial Chair in China Studies at De la Salle University, for his part observed, “With Chinese deals,‘yung binigay ng mga Greeks, sabi nga…’beware of the Greeks giving gifts, it’s a trap.’ You become dependent on Chinese aid. You become dependent on Chinese market. That’s why we become strategically and politically vulnerable to Chinese agenda.”

In de Castro’s view, “you don’t allow someone whom you have a territorial dispute (with) to dominate… this is very dangerous kasi we still have territorial disputes with China so that will give China a leverage in resolving those disputes. That would favor China (and) solve those disputes on Chinese terms, because China has economic leverage.”  (With research and reporting by Karol Ilagan, PCIJ, May 2017)

That’s what make it too complicated in our case (and with the other claimants in the disputed area in the SCS) because we have something that might be taken away from us because we became ‘too friendly’ with China. In giving too much attention with our economic gains, we overlooked the shortfalls like giving up our territories.

Wake up guys!

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