MANILA TIMES FORUM: Despite the disputes over some parcel of islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), the Philippines and China should continue to treat one another as “one family” in order to promote peace and stability not only between the two countries but in the entire Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region, according to former President Fidel V. Ramos.
In his keynote address at Wednesday’s Manila Times Business Forum at the Dusit Hotel in Makati City, Ramos underscored the importance of dialogue, not conflict, in settling “misunderstanding and alarming speculations.”
“We should agree that our two countries should return to business as usual,” Ramos told the audience, noting that while China has outpaced the growth of other countries to become the second most powerful country in the world, he does not see the possibility of Beijing resorting to war.
Ramos said the Philippines and China should avoid conflict and violence such as what happened in the Middle East where countries are up to now being ravaged by war.
“If one strikes, there will be counter strikes until we obliterate the planet and humanity,” he said.
“In recent months, relations between our two nations and even with other countries in our Asia Pacific region have been disturbed by misunderstanding and alarmist speculation injurious to the stability not only of China and the Philippines but also the Asia Pacific region,” he noted.
The former president, who also served as chief of the Armed Forces of
the Philippines and the Defense department before becoming president in 1992, said if either of the two countries would resort to conflict, both will lose.
“We know all too well that without stability, business cannot run; people cannot create wealth; and nations cannot progress,” Ramos stressed.
He noted that the misunderstanding among countries in the disputed sea is “unusual” primarily because the global system itself is at a “turning point.”
“The distribution of power in the world is changing in a very basic way. The very center of global gravity is moving away from the Atlantic—where it had been during the past 150 years—and tilting toward the Asia Pacific region,” Ramos explained.
“For good or ill, China has become a global power and a pillar of international system,” he added.
According to Ramos, nobody thought that China would grow faster than any country in the world except the United States which, he said, Beijing may surpass in the future in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) growth.
“Only the United States is ahead [of China]in GDP terms—and even that may change before 2030,” he pointed out.
Ramos, whose presidency was marked by privatization and liberalization of private enterprise, lamented that the Philippines “missed” becoming the “East Asian miracle” as the World Bank had predicted “because we kept our economy turned inward.”
Over the years, he said Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and most recently, Vietnam, have transformed their economies dramatically.
“How did our East Asia neighbors do it? Through intelligent industrialization managed by partnerships between strong states and entrepreneurial family conglomerates. In one generation, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore have all risen from Third World to First World rank,” Ramos emphasized.
He said the Philippines remained in the doldrums, falling steeply by 37 slots to 117th out of 187 countries in terms of human development.
“Is this what we want? I think we are better than that,” the former president said.
Ramos also cited the pronouncements by former Chinese president Hu Jintao in 2008 where he underscored the importance for all the peoples of the world to have “one dream, one world and one family.”