Romulo: PH actions fuel Chinese nationalism

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 Amb. Roberto Romulo

Amb. Roberto Romulo

THE Philippine government’s tacks of filing an arbitration case against China and openly seeking international support for Manila’s claim to disputed shoals and islets in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) may only be fanning nationalism among the Chinese who believe that the contested parts of the sea are theirs.

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According to former Ambassador Roberto Romulo, Beijing’s assertion of the nine-dash line principle in proving its ownership of the disputed territories are among the “long-held beliefs” of the Chinese people that the area was theirs dating back to the Chin Dynasty.

Speaking during the Business Forum organized by The Manila Times, the former envoy also criticized the government for “not being good at restraint.” He said the Aquino administration’s moves to prove eignty over these islands naturally come as “provocative” to the Chinese.

“Aligning ourselves with the US and Japan and seeking world opinion should not be done in a public and provocative manner. It will fuel nationalism from the Chinese,” Romulo explained.

Earlier this year, the government through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) filed a “memorial” with the International Tribunal on the Laws of the Sea contesting China’s claims to the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea based on its nine-dash line rule.

In September, Aquino sought the backing of the European Union in Manila’s move against Beijing, invoking the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea where China is a signatory.

But these tactics, Romulo noted, do not sit well with China.

He said it is impossible for the Chinese government to strike a compromise because it will be perceived as an act of treason.

“If you look at the interior of China, aside from these substantive issues, [we have to know]China’s current political dynamics.

Realizing this help to calibrate [PH] response,” Romulo noted, adding that there’s “universal public support” in the mainland for its government toward its policies in the contested seas.

“Public support has devolved… Chinese [ownership]extends back to the Chin Dynasty. It is impossible for any Chinese government to compromise [because]compromise will be perceived as betrayal of the nation’s sovereignty,” he pointed out.

The former Foreign Affairs official maintained that it will be “difficult to imagine a major shift in China’s position until [there is a]new eldership bold enough to run counter along that long-held belief [of ownership over the territories].”

He said while there is no quick fix or “magic solution” to the problem, “subtlety” and “restraint” on the part of the Philippine government may do the trick in the long haul.

“There is no magic solution here other than the virtues of patience, perseverance and it is important to have that level of restraint, where we are not very good at, and subtlety,” Romulo added.

He said China and the Philippines should seriously consider joint use and exploration of the disputed areas and set aside the issue of sovereignty since none of the claimants are inclined to give up such.

“[Many] Chinese have all proposed shelving sovereignty and [resort to]joint use. Claimants should work together for maritime cooperation and joint development, maintain peace and stability, reduce tensions,” Romulo added.

Earlier, the former ambassador claimed that China’s rise as an economic superpower is inevitable, making it imperative for the Philippines to rekindle and even strengthen its ties with Beijing.
The chairman of AIG Philippine Insurance Inc., he said Philippine leaders must face the future and accept China’s “preeminence.”

“Why should we care to bring our relations to normalcy? Because [China’s rise] is a reality that we have to accept. [Thus it follows that] engagement and mutual accommodation [are]unavoidable,” Romulo added.

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5 Comments

  1. I disagree with Mr. Romulo. The only way to stake claim of the island is to occupy the islands and those that have been occupied by Chinese have to be contested.Filing or Seeking arbitration in the international court and seek suppport openly with the Europeans, US and other countries is the only way to go. I believe what the government did of elevating our claim of the Spratley Islands is for the best interest of our country to our people. People who think otherwise are damn wrong and are not nationalistic. You have to grab the bull by the horn and deal with the issue. Filipinos have sense of nationalism too and not pursuing our claims is considered treason!! By looking at google earth those islands are closer to PH than China. It is a mistake for Mr. Romulo to state that filing arbitration will fuel Cinese nationalism. I was in China and a number of professional Chinese thinks it is ridiculous for China to claim islands more than 1000 kms from their shore.

  2. the government should be careful in the strategy of dealing with this issue of Chinese encroachment in our EEZ. We need to closely observe what just recently Vietnam did by signing an agreement with India a traditional enemy of China and also a regional power with 3 aircraft carriers. They both signed for India to start drilling for oil and gas in Vietnam’s EEZ, which of course angered China. This is a very good strategic move by Vietnam that we should follow closely, because we could do the same or do both. Ask China to agree in joint exploration thereby opening peace with China and take advantage of their economic clout and investments. While we still keep our territory in WPS whatever is left. If China declines this offer we then can ask India with the similar deal they made with Vietnam.

    • Agree. I believe we are doing this too with Australia, Bristish and US oil companies. The name of the game is speed and being smart. We need to start drilling soon. It is not wise for China to engage in conflict given their large economy will suffer. If economy goes down there will be revolution inside China soon. the The Tainwanese who are mostly from Koumintang Party will take this opportunity to control mainland China. I moght be wrong but this scenario is highly probable.

  3. The problem with this theory is that China will not concede anything to a little poor country like the Philippines. Inaction to the Chinese means they can keep on expanding and grabbing more territories. China knows that we are no match militarily. We have to seek other alliances to survive China’s encroachments. Appeasing Chinese by not doing anything and retraining our self from seeking a solution is wrong and ill advice.

  4. Nationalism if the land is theirs. With their economic and military growth, they think they are untouchables. Therefore they can bully anyone including the U.S. Bullying a country allied to U.S. is indirectly bullying the U.S. too. Romulo’s stance is very unpatriotic. I doubt if Vietnam and other ASEAN countries will agree with Romulo.