Let’s put this up front: values are everything. And thus, two dictums come to mind: “With integrity, nothing else matters; without integrity, nothing else matters.” Also, “a people that stands for nothing will fall for anything.”
So it’s a puzzle why, despite the mandate for an “independent foreign policy,” our government is utterly besotted with a country we have no commonality with whatsoever, be it history, culture, democratic republican values, human rights, and religion.
But (so they say) China, like the Philippines, is “Asian.”
Whatever that means.
India, Iraq, and Turkey are Asia too.
Yet unlike those countries, we’ve never allowed 120,000 of their workers (others estimate 200,000) to come in these past few months, plus an additional 3.3 million of their people within the past three years.
Add to that loans that a Supreme Court justice felt the need to call out.
Add the US$1.4-billion trade deficit that we endure against that country.
And let us not forget their continued intrusion and poaching of our territory in the West Philippine Sea.
So, why the subservience to this wannabe superpower?
The talking point for those supporting our “China-as-master” policy is that any alternative action might harm the 120,000 Filipinos working abroad. Which is ridiculous.
By that logic, we might as well not stop or regulate foreign workers from or do anything against the US, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, or Japan (which have greater Filipino populations than HK), as well as UK, Italy, Spain (which have greater Filipino populations than China).
And if the Filipino overseas population is so crucial as to trump national security considerations, then the one country we should not be pissing off then is the US, which has 4 million plus Filipinos, compared to the 200,000 combined for HK and China.
A variation of the scare tactic touted about is that our 10 million OFWs will be jeopardized should we do anything to hurt Chinese feelings. Not true.
Practically all of the 10 million are not in China; in fact (if one lumps China, Taiwan, Macau, and HK in the count) the top figure would only be around 300k, less than the Filipino population in Malaysia (est. 350k).
Furthermore, those countries would not want to get rid of their Filipino workers due to their English skills and competence. More importantly, those Filipinos contribute to their local economy.
Compare that with the Chinese workers here, with their tightly controlled work and pay conditions, and utterly ignorant of Filipino or English: not only are they taking jobs away from Filipino workers (BPO, construction, manufacturing), they’re not even contributing to the local economy, as well as jacking up real estate prices.
Filipinos also are not from a country that grabs the territories of other countries, or pose security threats in terms of security or industrial espionage, as well as cyber attacks, on other countries; China has a long history of doing just that to other countries.
Finally, our foreign workers also have protection, albeit modicum, by way of the WTO, ASEAN, or FTA provisions on services, with countries proven to abide by international law and the rule of law.
So it’s really pretty bizarre that our government is kowtowing to China because it’s a) allegedly an upcoming superpower, b) allegedly will be the top economic power, and c) they prop up our economy with funds.
Yet we’re the ones who have to give their workers employment?
And we’re the ones who have to keep importing their products?
Considering we have 2.2 million Filipinos unemployed, around 5 million underemployed, and precisely 10 million Filipinos forced to go overseas because of apparent lack of work (and compensation) available in the Philippines.
Which leads to the thought that perhaps China is not that rich, secure, and powerful at all?
If that’s the case, perhaps we’re better off a) pivoting our independent foreign policy to better, more reliable allies; and b) fast-tracking our military development and civilian reserve force to protect our territories.
Yet, prudence also dictates that even considering the employment and safety concerns of our overseas Filipinos in China (a serious matter needing anticipation and competent handling), compare that with the dangers the 90-100 million Filipinos living in the Philippines potentially face.
Millions of Chinese, anecdotally, are here concentrated in strategic areas such as Metro Manila, Cagayan, Clark, Subic, Cagayan De Oro, and other important cities.
More importantly, they ensconced themselves inside numerous but dispersed condominiums and worker compounds. Theoretically, they could prove a substantial distraction internally for our defensive forces should the latter need to engage a bigger external hostile force.
For context, our PNP is only 120,000 strong, our AFP only has 172,000 active personnel. And they’re scattered all across the country.
Another context: it took only 129,435 Japanese troops to invade the Philippines in 1941.
We’ve probably been invaded already and just don’t know it.
Not really. But clearly there’s a need to correct this situation.
Jemy Gatdula is a Senior Fellow of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations and a Philippine Judicial Academy law lecturer for constitutional philosophy and jurisprudence.