Opposition lawmakers are questioning the Philippines’ anemic stand against China’s military buildup in the West Philippine Sea. It appears to the concerned solons that the government’s foreign policy and national security preparedness give the impression hospitable Filipinos would be more than happy to host a Chinese invasion.
Senator Panfilo Lacson exclaimed: “God help the Philippines if we kept trusting China’s good faith.” He was supported in this view in the House by Magdalo Party List Rep. Gary Alejano who questioned Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon what they are doing about China’s intrusion in our territorial waters. Esperon is a former Armed Forces chief of staff.
Cayetano cited numerous diplomatic protests filed with the Chinese embassy in Manila, adding that “we want to do this quietly and without fanfare.” He, however, admitted that these diplomatic notes were mostly ignored by China. But what does he expect when our government seems subservient to Xi Jinping and his politburo cabal in Beijing? We are not advocating saber-rattling given that we do not have the military might China has.
But should we just roll over and play dead while the Chinese walk all over us? The people certainly can make noise contrary to Cayetano’s “quiet way” which can only encourage further encroachment by the Chinese on our 200-mile economic inclusion zone as mandated in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos). Or consistently refer to The Hague’s arbitration court which ruled in our favor that Beijing’s expansive claim in the South China Sea is illegal and without basis. Including this in our diplomatic protests is non-threatening but merely lays the basis for our protests about transgression in our waters.
Our government’s problem is that our officials are too cautious about offending China given President Rodrigo Duterte’s publicly professed “love for Xi Jinping.”
The Philippine government, following President Duterte’s repeated statement that we cannot fight China in a war and the US cannot come to our defense if the country is attacked, does not speak well of our leaders. While we do not have to engage China in a verbal exchange, I would suggest we also do not tell them our weakness in defense and national security. Diplomacy is the art of saying things differently or not saying anything at all. We should instead let the Chinese keep thinking and guessing whether the Americans will come to our aid or not. The 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty says America will—but the MDT is rather vague in some gray areas.
Washington, on the other hand, recently said the US will continue to confront China if it keeps placing bombers and cruise missiles weapons on the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea. US Defense Secretary Jim Mathis, however, did not say anything about the recent incident in which it was China’s Navy that confronted and shooed away two US warships conducting operations to ensure right of way passage in international sea lanes.
US touching off a trade war
What was President Donald Trump thinking when he announced a plan to impose heavy tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Europe?
French President Emmanuel Macron said France will take a commensurate action in response to the unilateral measure which runs counter to World Trade Organization’s fair trade rules. Other US trading partners for sure will also take appropriate action. The US tariff slapping 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum takes effect on Friday.
Under this looming trade war between the US and the rest of the world, European Union President Jean Claude Juncker warmly welcomed China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi to EU headquarters in Brussels. The Chinese official’s timely visit raises the prospects of EU countries doing more trade with the Chinese and further isolating the US because of its protectionist policy.
So, what was Trump thinking ?
Some wags in Washington quipped that Trump was more focused on his meeting not with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but with another Kim whose last name is Kardashian. You really cannot blame Trump for preferring reality TV star Kardashian who is richly endowed with twin peaks and better looking than the “little rocket man’’ with a fat belly.
We wonder what First Lady Melania Trump was thinking of her husband’s “summit” with Kim Kardashian. Will she be present at this closed-door meeting? Did they turn off the closed circuit TV cameras at the Oval Office? I’m kidding, of course.