THE Philippines and China can still overcome the political challenges brought about by territorial disputes and attain unimpeded growth under an environment of peace characterized by brotherly cooperation among “captains of industries” from both countries, Dante A. Ang, Chairman Emeritus of The Manila Times, said.
Ang told the just concluded Manila Times Philippines-China Business Forum that the flow of trade between the two countries should not be affected by the bickering over a few rocks and shoals in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“Together, the Philippines and China can attain unimpeded growth and prosperity for its peoples but only if peace, cooperation and understanding reign between them. More important, the region should be free from the toxic political atmosphere that could cause grave miscalculations whose outcome could further diminish trade and commerce between our two countries,” he said in his opening speech during the forum.
Ang underscored the importance of dialogues that will eventually help in patching up disputes between the two nations.
He expressed hope that businessmen from both divides can “navigate the treacherous political waters in the pursuit of their ventures either in the Philippines or China.”
“This gathering contributes to the ebbing away of the high tide of passion and emotion that characterize the flow of political events,” Dr. Ang said.
He emphasized that businessmen from both sides of the fence can reach out to their leaders to help shape up a mutually beneficial code of conduct founded on “mutual trust and respect and genuine friendship.”
“For as long as the captains of industries from both shores continue to demonstrate their abiding faith in each other, and for as long as trade and commerce between our two countries continue to flourish, we will conquer the political challenges that confront us in a peaceful fashion,” said The Times owner.
He expressed the hope that “as in all things” the political crisis wouold sonn come to an end.
Dr. Ang acknowledged that the Philippines can ill afford to engage China in an “expensive protracted test of political will” as shown by Beijing and Manila’s opposing views on the issue of sovereignty over the contested portions of the Spratlys in the South China Sea.
“We can dream all we want but the reality is, the Philippines, with its meager military resources, can ill afford to engage China in an expensive protracted test of political will. China, on the other hand, even with its superior military might and deep pockets, courts political isolation. Both the Philippines and China do not need this political crisis. In this David and Goliath scenario, nobody wins. Everybody loses,” he pointed out.
With its 1.2 billion population, Dr. Ang said, China is a force to reckon with, being the world’s second superpower next only to the United States.
“I am not however equating strength with size and number of population. I only mention it to bow to the truism that China is both a political and economic giant and is projected to become the biggest economy in the world edging out the United States from its number one position possibly in the next decade,” he added.
Dr. Ang maintained that business should be above politics as he subscribed to the proposition that “business is too delicate a business to be left in the hands of the politicians.”
“For business to thrive and prosper, it must be free from the clutches of the vagaries of politics,” he said.
Since the Philippines is now reputed to be among the fastest growing economy in the region with an annual growth rate of 6 percent, China becomes its necessary trade partner.
Dr. Ang also noted that the country demonstrated its sound economic foundations when it and Indonesia were the only two countries in the region that maintained a positive Gross Domestic Product growth rate when the economic turmoil buffeted the world in 2008 and 2009.