At a meeting on Monday Dec. 19 in Malacañang, between President Rodrigo Duterte, Chinese ambassador to Manila Zhao Jianhua, and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, it was reported that China offered the Philippines a $14.4 million grant and a $500-million soft loan as assistance for the government’s war on drugs and terrorism.
Secretary Lorenzana disclosed some details about the offer to the media following the meeting. The Chinese embassy declined to disclose details about the offer despite media requests for comment.
Absent an official announcement on the matter, we think the best approach for Filipinos to take at this point is just to smile at the Chinese gesture of generosity. We should not speculate on why China has made the offer.
We think Secretary Lorenzana already went too far when he told the media:
The Philippines might use the $14 million grant to acquire small arms, fast boats, or night-vision goggles, and that the deal might be finalized by year-end.
The Philippines will get next year the $500 million long- term soft loan, which it will then use in fighting illegal drugs and terrorism.
Hammering out these matters is outside Lorenzana’s authority.
It’s important to raise this issue now, because the Department of Foreign Affairs ( DFA) is seriously considering filing a diplomatic protest against Beijing for installing sophisticated weapon systems in several disputed islands in the South China Sea ( SCS).
In an interview with the Kyodo News agency, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said Manila would consider other diplomatic initiatives and legal processes allowed under international law on Beijing’s renewed provocative move.
Likewise, the DFA through its official spokesman has said that the Philippines will not set aside, but rather uphold the ruling of the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) that ruled in favor of our country in its dispute with China on the SCS. This despite China’s continued insistence that it has sovereignty over the disputed waters.
There is a world of difference in the way our two countries see this highly important international issue. But it worries us that when he was in China President Duterte said he was setting aside our victory against China in the Hague. When asked why he had done that, Mr. Duterte replied “Because I am Chinese.” He always makes these kind of statements and then calls us, media people, crazy for believing in what he says. But he forgets that China, being the more experienced by up to 3,000 years as a sovereign nation, kingdom and empire, can use—and has used — loose words like this to its advantage against kings and presidents.
Finally, we would like to point out that there could be an overtone of sarcasm and irony in China‘s providing guns to the Duterte government in fighting its war on illegal drugs. This suggests that the country needs Chinese guns to kill 4 million drug users in our country. This is surreal and grim. More so because the known source of harmful and illegal drugs is China. The Chinese must be laughing secretly at us.