I highly commend the Inquirer for having Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio as guest in its Meet Inquirer Multimedia forum last June 5, to talk about South China Sea-related issues. In that talk, Carpio stressed that the Philippines’ claim to the West Philippine Sea (WPS) would be more difficult to assert if China would become our main source of foreign loans. He pointed out, “This is not a gift from China. It’s a loan. We [have to] repay. Why will we give up the West Philippine Sea and all the resources there when we’re only getting a loan?”
By geographical location, the West Philippine Sea is part of the South China Sea, but is within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone which has vast resources ranging from living and nonliving things to renewable energy. The question is, do we want to protect the West Philippine Sea and get the gas, oil and fish for the next generations of Filipinos, or are we willing to give all these resources away in exchange for loans that we have to repay?
I agree with Justice Carpio: It would be difficult to defend the West Philippine Sea against China if China becomes our biggest creditor.
President Duterte’s friendly approach to solving the territorial dispute may seem to be bearing fruit: He returned from a trip to Beijing in October 2016 with $24 billion in investment and credit pledges; and he again flew to Beijing last month to witness the signing of several business deals between the two governments.
Trade is what China offers, but I hope we don’t allow another country to occupy our territory, even though the would-be occupier claims to be its owner since time immemorial, a claim, of course, that is neither true nor recognized by almost all countries of the world.
After telling crowds of voters during the presidential campaign that he would ride a jet ski to the disputed Ayungin Shoal in the Spratly islands to plant a Philippine flag there, President Duterte worked for the thawing of the once icy relations between Manila and Beijing by not invoking last year’s decision of the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration. That decision invalidated China’s claim to almost all of the South China Sea in a challenge brought by the Philippines.
Clearly, the Philippines is adopting a foreign policy friendly to China. All the while, we have seen the Philippines loosening up its ties with the United States, its oldest military ally.
I support the President, but I also like the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ and the Department of National Defense’s efforts to assert our sovereignty within our territory.
It would be more prudent for the Philippines to exercise its ownership claims over the West Philippine Sea than to rely on loans from China alone. Our nation is rich; we have resources in the West Philippine Sea, resources seven times more valuable than the Philippines’ land-based resources.
JUMEL GABILAN ESTRAÑERO, firstname.lastname@example.org
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.