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The Long View

Pro-Beijing talking points

A press release written in breathless prose trumpeted the following thoughts courtesy of IDSI, a think tank that invited interested parties to a meet-and-greet with the press last June 13. I have retained its phrasing and emphasis. Among its gems:

“…We have to go back to our Asian roots. Western colonialism has damaged the Filipinos’ sense of history. In China, the source of the people’s nationalism is their history. In fact in Dezhou, China, where the royal tomb of the Sultan of Sulu of 1417 is located, you can see how China values Asian history, more importantly the centuries of friendly PH-CH relations…

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“The sea is not meant to divide but to unite. The Western legal framework and colonial mentality create borders that are detrimental to the fraternal bonds practiced by the fishermen in the middle of ocean for thousands of years. In the middle of the ocean, there is no nationality, only humanity…

“Many aspects of the Philippines’ relations with China directly benefit the average Filipino directly — both producers and consumers — thus contributing to more inclusive growth. For example, millions of Filipinos are now empowered with affordable smart phones with prices starting at P1,000 thanks to the combination of Filipino ingenuity and creativity and the opportunities China offers to a budding entrepreneur (although there is a perception that Chinese-made goods are low quality, iPhones and Samsungs are also made in China.)

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“The Philippines must make its own decision based on OUR NATIONAL INTEREST. We gain from making friends with all and enemies to none; and extract the benefits that may contribute to our country’s inclusive growth. Moreover, the most important achievement of the Independent Foreign Policy is PEACE, which is a key ingredient to economic development.”

It ends with the IDSI talking points, reproduced verbatim:

“Practical gains from the Philippines’ Independent Foreign Policy:

1.1. Fisheries and marine conservation. A tentative fishery agreement that allow our fishermen to fish in the area. Although it is not perfect, it is a far cry from the complete ban, experienced under the past administration.

1.2. SOLAS, Safety of Life at the Seas. Before, we could not even go near Scarborough… now during problems at sea we have coordination mechanisms. In contrast, US military warships cross Philippine waters without informing us, record of US warships’ fatal collisions with civilian and commercial vessels, and the US military even dared point guns at Filipinos after crashing into the Tubbataha Reef.

1.3. Oil and gas. A framework that does not violate the Constitution and does not give up our territorial or sovereign rights while gaining the benefits… China does not need the natural resources in the SCS for the next one hundred years, but Malampaya is set to run out in the next few years. Why would China risk a shooting war for natural resources it has been buying at prices higher than other countries and still produces competitive prices outputs. (It’s the Western countries that have invaded countries for resources or independent foreign policies.)

1.4. Economic dynamism. Massive investments that cluster-effect and ecosystem create—even Japan substantially increased its pledges following China’s historic economic package within Mr. Duterte’s first two years in office. Real estate boom, which translates to construction and service boom nationwide, among others. Record levels of orders for agricultural products, limited only by the capacity of our agricultural sector to produce.

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1.5. Tourism. During the last administration, Thailand got 8 to 10 million Chinese tourists spending an average of a $1,000 on shopping. PH got 500,000. Under Mr. Duterte’s first year, we already have a million tourist arrivals, with targets of 1.5 to 2 million. Tourism directly benefits the local Filipinos and their communities (conservative estimate: $1 billion additional revenue per 1 million arrivals), rather than a few corporations.

1.6. Independent domestic policy despite Western threats to sanction aid and block arms sales, we needed to fight against the rebels. Good relations led to much-needed assistance from China and Russia that led to our ending an IS-led siege in record time instead of descending into hell as experienced by others.

1.7. Region-wide, multilateral agreements have been accelerated. China-Asean Framework for SCS COC, Marine Protection, Maritime Transport, etc.”

(To be concluded)

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