• Engaging China


    AS he ascends the staircase of the palace a couple of months from now and enters his study, the new chief of state will immediately be greeted by important staff memos, the most important of which is the file marked foreign affairs that will be a brief on the powder keg in the West Philippine Sea and the simmering problem of peace and order in Mindanao which, unfortunately, has been internationalized. In treating these issues, it is hoped that the chief off state will be guided by the spirit of independence and nationalism while discarding the culture servility and mendicancy that has characterized our bilateral relations with our former colonizer. This is only in compliance with the constitutional mandate for the country, to pursue an independent foreign policy, the Constitution specifically states that in its relations with other nations that the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest and the right to self-determination.

    It is to be noted that in the preservation of the integrity of the archipelago, the Constitution ordered that the government must preserve its domain as defined by the Treaty of Paris and historic treaties.

    At a time when a neighboring country is nibbling at our national boundaries and a minority group is fighting for the creation of a sub-state, this mandate of the Constitution must be taken very seriously by the next tenant of Malacañang.

    China has gained significant tactical advantage in the West Philippine Sea with its occupation of reefs and islets claimed by the Philippines in the face of the Obama pivot to Asia that involved the deployment of some 60 percent of US naval assets in the China Sea.

    With the construction of structures on these islets, China is able to project its defense perimeter deep into the economic zones of the Philippines. Control of the Paracels, a base at Scarborough Shoal and the erection of facilities on Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross which can accommodate a complex of missile sites, fighter jets and surveillance stations will give China de facto control of larger swaths of airspace and water in the South China Sea. This development has caused much alarm in this country and those of its allies forcing this country to seek international arbitration and strengthen its alliance with the US through the EDCA.

    How will standoff in the China Sea play out?

    My best judgment is that China, having achieved a strategic advantage in the China Sea vis-à-vis the US and its allies, will now be wary about pushing the envelope farther since this would bring the standoff to the brink of war which in turn will work against China’s strategy to extend its soft power all over the world.

    This soft power is designed to expand Chinese influence in Asia. Its reply to the US pivot to Asia through its “One Belt, One Road,” better known as modern-day Silk Road network which is intended for “five connections” with the world through trade, infrastructure, investment, capital and people, which in turn will create a community with shared interests, destiny and responsibilities. This is reminiscent of the Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere the Japanese invaders tried to market in the last war but a lot more ambitious. With this concept, China hopes to diversify exports, contribute to the development of Eurasia, increase access to food and energy, lessen dependence on the US currency and improve relations with developing countries in world affairs. To back up its commitment to the above project, China has poured some $100 billion in the Asian Infrastructure and Development Bank, which has now a membership of 57 countries including the Philippines.

    The Chinese initiative described above can be viewed as an attempt to create trade and economic relations with the Asean community through trade, port and continental land bridges. In brief, China has a much bigger agenda than just playing bully in the South China Sea, thereby risking going to war with its smaller neighbors and courting a war with the United States and its allies.

    Negotiations with China can cover a range of multifaceted relations we enjoy with our neighbor, with the end-view of forcing the latter to adhere to the rule of law governing the China Sea, specifically to accept a code of conduct that ensures the freedom of navigation in the disputed area.

    Our relations with America in political and economic realms are ironclad while our relations with China are genetic with a quarter of our population tracing its ancestry to that mainland. If we went through a bloody Fil-American war during the annexation and put that behind us, if we have treated our Chinese brothers like second-class citizens in this country and they still maintain the friendship and confidence of our people, I am sure that we can manage the current crisis. If the new government can surmount present disagreement in the looming Asia Pacific century, which will surely be dominated by China, at least economically, this country will and can play a very important supporting role within the Asean+China partnership. This win-win scenario will be the fruit of accommodation rather than appeasement.


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    1. This article is no brainer, at the end of the day diplomatic or whatever negotiation must happen between nations such as Philippine and China.

      A great thinker should be asking what and when is the right time and how? All these writings by this author are none-sense, tsismis, haka-haka and writer himself doesnt know to operationalize his thoughts.

      Lots of people, great and small already know about this. Again, the question of when,where and how need to be answered.

      1. While i agree that advance planning has to be made. The reference point of such planning should be after the Unclos decision (aka do scenario planning).
      2.Consultation with allied nation such as US, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam (forget about Malaysai, Laos, Myanmar as these countries are Free Riders in this dispute-They should be expelled from Asean).
      3. Consult the Ph-Chief Legal Counsel in the Hague -Paul Reichner on the legal aspect after the Unclos decision
      4. There must a be strong basis for negotation and the starting point.The only strong reference point to begin in the negotation is the Decision by Unclos because it is a legal decision with finality.This must be the anchor of any discussion with China.
      5. Negotiation strategy must be created by great minds from local and international exeperts.Paul reichner is one of them. Dont involve political appointees who claimed to be an expert of international law, tanggalin yung tanga at bobong lawyer,bababuyin lang nila yung discussion.
      6.How to set a postion in the preparation ofr negotiation depends on outcome of Unclos.However, the common rule is negotiate from the position of strength, means that there is something that other party wanted from you.
      7.Based on the current analysis, once Unclos invalidate the 9-dash line of China, rigthfully US and Japan can be invited by Philippines to help patrol our EEZ and enforce our claims.This also give US and PH the legal position to claim the US protection under Mutual Defense Treaty agreement in the event of PLA navy attack PH vesse during the reinforcement of EEZ. In addition, once Unclos trash the 9-dahs line, Chinese Coast Guard vessel has not right to be within the PH EEZ and they can be arrested. If the PLA Navy intervene, then we can claim invasion and conftron that Chinese with PH-Navy and US navy.

      Furthermore, once this 9-dash-line is legally trash, you can invite other claimants to file similar case in their favor. This will eaken China’s position and totally bury the 9-dash line claim in the south china sea.

      Maraming pwedeng scenario after the UNCLOS, but use your article for sensible discussion not just to get political attention. Pasensya ka na, pero bobo ka talaga. Be a man and a patriot, hindi lang puro hangin. Mag-isip ka naman ,matatlino ang Pilipino. Huwag mong iparis sa kagaya mo.

      Sensible and intellectual is more meaningufl to advance our knowledge. Huwag ka nang pumaris sa mga pressyo na bobo.

      • I am curious! why you excluded Malaysia and included Indonesia? as I understand Indonesia is not official claimant of SCS dispute while Malaysia is.

        Indonesia repeatedly says it is neutral in the SCS dispute and its relations with China has been reasonably good, I do not know if you know more than I do in Indonesia-China relations. at least I have not seen Jakarta challenging Beijing actively on the SCS dispute, do you really think that Malaysia which is claimant of SCS is closer to China than Indonesia specially under Jokowi?

    2. Silverio Cabellon Jr on

      China claims its nine dash line on historic title. China has not been forthcoming with its evidence for historic title to the West Philippine Sea. China’s nine dash line encroaches on the 200 Nautical Mile Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines as defined by UNCLOS. The Philippines should honor the upcoming ruling of the Arbitration Court and so should China so as to respect the rule of international law.

    3. There can never be a win win situation with China. China and the Philippines are both in the opposite end of the stick. The analogy is the big fish is going to eat the small fish and we are the small fish. How far will China push the envelope is hard to guess. Per their map, even the Philippines is part of China. I will suggest that our country follow the tactic of Taiwan which was a part of China before the war. How, let us populate the remaining island with our people. China will have to drive them off and war will start which I do not think China wants. From my oriental history class , china is not aggressive militarily not like Japan. They are testing the waters how strong are we to defend our land.

    4. This article is the most level-headed and rational analysis of China and the Philippines. Ambassador Romero should submit a position paper to our in-coming President. We should have more people with his caliber to man our Foreign Affairs. Thank you.