Bullied and helpless?
Before the month of August ends, Beijing will witness the meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and President Xi Jinping. In the light of current developments involving Chinese nationals and operations in the Philippines, it’s anybody’s guess how that encounter will play out.
Will Digong continue to be as eager as a puppy to please Xi or will he now hiss and show his fangs on the issue of China’s territorial grab in the West Philippine Sea? Can he do that without bursting into expletives? And if he does descend into the level of obscenities and profanities—as he almost always does in the land of his birth—how will his Chinese counterpart take it? Will he smile or smirk or simply keep up that inscrutable oriental face?
Not only do Digong and Xi have contrasting personalities that might hamper diplomatic communication—cultural differences can also come into play to aggravate matters. Even when trying his best to be civil or feigning modesty, Digong rattles off what’s on his mind, while Xi is typically more circumspect in his statements.
Let’s give Digong the benefit of the doubt and imagine him truly, sincerely, and politely speaking this time for all concerned Filipinos—not only for his supporters—while PROC’s master of ambiguity responds with enigmatic one-liners.
Digong: Your Excellency, my people are getting more and more worried about China’s militarization in our territory. They see the structures you have built—and they think you are preparing to go to war. I cannot convince my countrymen that we are friends if you continue putting radars, airports, fighter jets, and submarines in our waters.
Xi (after some silence, strokes his chin and says very slowly): The timber is already a boat; the rice is cooked.
Digong: Your Excellency, it has been months since Beijing promised to investigate the unfortunate incident in Recto Bank when one night your mighty ship rammed our humble fishing boat and vanished in the dark without helping our drowning fishermen. May we know what has come of this investigation and when may we be officially informed about it?
Xi (looks up at the ceiling, sighs, and says): Watch till clouds part to see moonlight.
Digong (getting impatient): Your Excellency, in the interest of peace and in the spirit of sharing the bounty in our seas, the Philippines is pleased to give you permission to fish in our territory, even though your son-of-a-horse patrol boats always terrorize away our fishermen who for centuries have depended on our waters to earn a living. Even the UNCLOS is on our side!
Xi (solemnly utters): If you are smartest person in room, then you are in wrong room.
Digong (regaining his composure): Your Excellency, a few days ago, news spread about a swarm of 140 Chinese ships surrounding Pag-asa Island from February this year until July, and Chinese warships recently passing through Sibutu Straits without seeking prior clearance from us as other countries do, even the United States. To make it worse, your warships turned off their automatic identification system, making it impossible to track them. My Defense Secretary asks, “Why the secrecy?” My Chief Legal Counsel says, “We are friends, so there should be no secrets between friends.”
Xi (nodding his head, says): When a mute eats dumplings, he knows how many he has eaten.
Digong: Your Excellency, my people are alarmed that Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators facilities are located near military bases. These gambling hubs are run by the Chinese, employ Chinese workers, and are patronized by Chinese tourists. The Filipino people are wondering why these facilities are very close to military bases. Tell me this a mere coincidence.
Xi (shaking his head): Man with one chopstick go hungry.
Digong: Not only that, Your Excellency. Last July 23, two groups of Chinese tourists were caught taking photos inside our naval facility at Parola in Palawan, Puerto Princesa, where a new naval ship was berthed. Any idiot knows that military facilities are off limits to tourists. So my people are saying that they are sure the Chinese tourists were not roaming around there hoping to take selfies with American sailors. What can you say about that?
Xi: Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like bananas.
Digong: Your Excellency, the whole world respects the Filipino worker. You and I have closed so many deals in support of our Build, Build, Build program. But now my people are sad that you are importing Chinese construction workers for these projects, taking away job opportunities from them. It is reported that we already have 400,000 Chinese nationals working in our country without Alien Employment Permits. What’s the matter with you? Don’t our Chinese partners trust the expertise of the Filipinos?
Xi (yawns and then says): Dragons soaring, tigers leaping.
Digong (grinning like an ambassador): Thank you, Your Excellency! This visit has been very fruitful! (And then mutters: Sampalin kita diyan, pisting yawa! Pa-bugtong-bugtong ka pa, barilin na lang kita, ipalaman kita sa siopao! Uwi na ko! Let’s go, Bong Go!)
We dread to see the meeting end up in a stalemate. We can no longer play blind to the writing on the wall. One need not be an economist, a political strategist, or a military expert to see how Beijing is slyly tightening the noose around our collective neck while persuading our decision makers to accept China as our economic savior. We only need common sense and a nose for danger in order to connect the dots—it’s really but child’s play for the intuitive.
It was bad enough that the Duterte government did not uphold the UNCLOS ruling that scored a victory for the Philippines and invalidated China’s sweeping claim to ownership of practically the entire South China Sea. In spite of that, Digong began playing footsies with Xi Jinping while calling Barack Obama a son-of-a-bitch; this is like having your house burgled while you’re asleep, and then inviting the burglar to stay over for breakfast, assuring him we don’t keep guard dogs.
We further invited the burglar to lunch, quite literally, when we signed the 29 deals with China during Xi’s visit to the Philippines in November 2018. Then again we laid out the red carpet and invited the burglar to dinner, when Digong signed 19 agreements with Chinese businesses during the Belt and Road forum in Beijing last April.
Malacañang said on April 26 that these 19 agreements—a chop suey package of memoranda of understanding, memoranda of agreement, purchase agreements, and one contract agreement—could bring $12,165 billion (634 trillion pesos) worth of investments to the Philippines and provide employment to 21,000 Filipinos. Isn’t that a rather reckless gamble—welcoming investments worth 634 trillion pesos when the country’s entire budget for 2019 is but 3.7 trillion? Are we already dying of hunger that we would eat anything that looks like food without first scrutinizing its contents? Or are our businessmen salivating over the projected profits to accrue over time?
Economics, development, progress—they are not just about money, but also about choices and alternatives, and remembering (in this case) that we are a sovereign nation whose God is above and beyond money. We must learn to look carefully beneath the glossy surface of these business deals, and teach our children—particularly the millennials and Gen Zers—to be as discerning, for if they do not understand things now, insurmountable problems will fall on their laps 25 years hence if our government fails to pay up the loans. Problems that compromise our sovereignty and rob our people of dignity.
China is aiming not only at regional supremacy in our part of the world, but also towards global domination. They have schemes that have trapped at least eight partner-nations in debts that were offered as honey-coated collaboration projects with their land and natural resources as de facto collaterals. These victim nations’ mistakes can help us avoid disaster. If China’s ambitions include plans to set up a permanent station in outer space by 2020, it is foolish to doubt that their net traps are already set in our very territory.
In Beijing’s eyes, the colonization of the Philippines is a piece of cake. Time and again, our president has admitted that we are no match against China’s military might, justifying his fawning way of dealing with his friend Xi. But as Senator Richard Gordon reminded, “We should not let the president’s personal friendship dictate foreign policy.” The deals and agreements with China show who is dictating the terms. Millennials, Gen Zers, wake up!
Beijing does not see Filipinos as equals; China does not help us because it admires us—China wants us because it can use us cheap. One item in the 19 agreements signed last April is a Memorandum of Agreement to “establish a strategic partnership to train and to introduce Filipino Domestic Helpers to China”. Among other agreements on huge infrastructure and telecommunications projects, why “train” our most precious resources to become servants in their land? So their citizens can be free to pursue a capitalistic lifestyle while our college graduates scrub their toilets? Why not train out talented young people in their aerospace program, for instance? Or let our linguists train their professionals to teach English to the Chinese? Don’t they see we have geniuses in our midst?
We are a country of 108,315,639 Filipinos, all talented and blessed in our own right, and all with the potential to lift this world up from festering mediocrity. Jeremiah 1:45. 17-19 ought to give us hope as a nation: “As for you, prepare yourself for action… Have no fear of them and in their presence I will make you fearless… They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you, Yahweh declares, to rescue you.”
We were not born to be bullied and helpless. Let nobody think our destiny is to be used as doormats, but after we pray we must act. We are not Juan Tamad waiting for the guava fruit to fall into his gaping mouth. We believe in God; this God is within us, and we do His will. We shall overcome. And that’s the truth.