Conflicting signals from US, China on Spratlys
LAST MAY 20, Jiang Shusheng, vice chair of the 11th National People’s Congress of China, on a courtesy call on Vice President Jejomar Binay, assured this tiny country that the “territorial dispute over the Spratly Islands will not adversely affect relations between the two countries.” (“Chinese official assures Philippines on Spratly’s,” Inquirer, 5/28/11)
The meeting briefly touched on the islands. A core issue: How would China, in clear terms, support President Aquino and Filipinos’ fervent wish that the dispute be settled fairly through talks. The more than 7,000 tiny but strategically located islands from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi have only the BRP Rajah Humabon of World War II vintage to turn to in case of an armed conflict. On this note, incoming Transportation Secretary Manuel A. Roxas III should better hurry up in consolidating our passenger and cargo interisland vessels, and with relatively newer ones.
From that eventful May 2011 courtesy call, conflicting signals from both superpowers have left Filipinos wondering. Fresh from a US trip, VP Binay correctly asked for “specifics” on how our long-time ally would aid the Philippines. (“Binay wants specifics on how US will help PH,” Inquirer, 6/ 20/11).
The resolution of the Spratlys is China’s call; as such China is called upon to be specific too. And we do not even want the prospect of the United States implicitly invoking, publicly or privately, the military and defense pacts. Preventing the situation from reaching that stage should be a foremost consideration.
On the basis of not only the deep ties that bind Filipinos to both Americans and Chinese, we want an economic agenda—favorable trade agreements on textiles, garments, sugar, basic industries that generate countryside labor and employment. From China, revisit NorthRail and ZTE, catalysts for trade and communication; and consider mainland tourists coming in droves. The Philippines deserves the best not only from the Spratlys. We do not want fireworks!
—MANUEL Q. BONDAD,
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