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A fishy kind of friendship

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ON A moon-lit night, when the sky is cloudless and no weather system is blowing on the surface of the South China Sea, two state leaders may be thinking of two things moving in the opposite direction.

President Xi Ping of China is probably thinking of how much more fish Chinese fishermen can haul off from the highly disputed territories which are within the  nine dash line the Chinese leader has imposed on its neighbors.

So far, Sen. Riza Hontiveros believes Chinese fishermen have hauled off fish and other marine resources in the territories that legally belong to the Philippines worth billions of pesos. Those include thelowly galungong that is now imported from China, according to former Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio.

And that does not include the wholesome damage the Chinese have inflicted on the coral reefs and other marine assets that  rightfully belong to Filipinos.

A lot has changed on the fish side of our story since the time the late President Cory Aquino had elevated galungong to national prominence.  

Food security may be one reason Xi Ping is determined to have its way in the sea territorial issue. The other, of course, is world dominance, which could lead to more fish catch beyond the South China Sea. The Indian Ocean is next. That is the ultimate agenda given that the United States is having problem with democracy and world leadership.

China’s burgeoning population is the driver of such hegemonic ambition. China used to impose a one-child policy as an antidote to Chinese prolificacy.  Data shows that in the last few decades, Chinese population has slowed  down. Economists, however, point to another reason apart from the one-child dictum. In modern China, there is a growing number of preppies who prefer to marry late to boost their career. This is the effect of capitalism, not communism. In other words, there are more capitalists now in China than there used to be communists, hidden in plain sight. Billionaire many times over Jack Ma’s sin was he was trying to muscle out the Communist government. A no-no. You can’t fight city hall. The last report has it that he is ripe for downsizing, courtesy of the Chinese government.

President Duterte, on the other hand, may be worried that Filipino fishermen, especially those in the Zambales and Pangasinan areas, are catching fewer and fewer fish in the ocean with more , bigger and technologically equipped Chinese fishing vessels barricading Bajo de Masinloc and other rich fishing grounds. At the end of the day, these poor fishermen end up sharing some of their fish catch to bully Chinese patrols harassing them endlessly.

The Philippines has its own problem with its growing population. Former Sen. Rene Saguisag is wont to complain that his countrymen multiplies like rabbit whose fecundity is simply off the chart.

There is one commonality of idea between Xi and Du. No need to fight over fish.  Well, the Chinese say it is good to win without fighting.  Du says China is too big to get into a brawl with Xi and his army.  Besides, they are friends, very good friends.    

Friends, by simple definition, are supposed to be peers. China does not view friendship that way.  The word kowtow is of Chinese origin and it means what it says: genuflecting with the knee and forehead touching the ground in worship of the Chinese ruler. Americans have their white arse to kiss.

Duterte isn’t doing that, for sure. But he might as well have with the virtual sell out on Philippine sovereignty in the South China Sea. Carpio has become bolder and bolder in his criticism of Duterte’s stance vis-à-vis the issue. The Filipinos, he said, deserved a president who will not give away their sovereign rights in the area.  

More and more people across the political aisle are expressing their worries over Duterte’s continued silence on China’s continuing incursion into Philippine territories in the South China Sea. At least 11 senators have signed a strongly-worded resolution against China’s hegemonic annexation of disputed territories. Even Sen. Manny Pacquiao has weighed in on the issue:  Duterte is not saying enough to protest China’s bullying action. Too late the hero?

As Xi Ping exudes bad odor over China’s push-and-pull marine occupation, Duterte has gone into deodorizing him. China is a good friend, he says. We owe it a lot, first for the vaccine with the lowest efficacy rate in the world and which has stood in the way of the Philippines getting other, more and better vaccines faster. There is also the promised investment in billions to Philippine infrastructure that has yet to happen.

So far, if China is a friend, who needs an enemy?

It’s a good thing that China’s hegemonic path is being challenged by the West, headed by the United States and Europe.  The Sinocentric concept that China is at the top of a universal hierarchy, not an equilibrium of competing states as Henry Kissinger wrote, is simply unacceptable. Except perhaps to Duterte and his minions who speak more as vassals than anything else.

Duterte’s fear that displaying a more aggressive action against China’s incursion in the South China Sea may lead to war could result in the same thing. Historians say that the appeasement approach of former Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to Adolf Hitler partly triggered  World War II.

Truth carries with it confrontation, said Francis Schaefer, a theologian, not a military mind. Sooner or later, that will happen. Who’s on the right side of history, apart from being on the right side?

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