The China Riddle

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By Danilo P. Padua, PhD

About 14 years ago, I had the good opportunity to visit Southern China to attend and present a paper in a China-ASEAN forum. I think there were only 5 Filipinos in attendance, and three were from the Cordillera.
I was with Dr. R. Umali, then a Vice President of U.C. and Prof D.

“Until now, China continues to wield power and influence within our own EEZ contrary to international laws like that of the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS). ”

Tolentino, then the Director of the Cordillera Studies Center of U.P.B. I was then the director of the International Relations Office of BSU.
On touchdown at the Guangzhou International airport aboard a Southern China airlines, I was already very impressed with China’s progress that I saw at that time. The airport was much bigger than NAIA. I thought it was even much more orderly. My only concern then was everything- labels, names, notices, etc- were in Chinese characters.
But no problem, the Chinese organizers were quite efficient. We did not feel lost as we were professionally welcomed and assisted by trained “guides”.
We boarded another plane going to Guiyang City. I never heard of that city until the time I was told that the city will be the venue of our forum. So, I was expecting that it could be just like Baguio City at that time. Of course, I was so naïve to think that way. From the airport, we entered the city center through a wide, well-lighted 2-km tunnel. That was also impressive. Learned later that there were two other tunnels that lead to the city from outside.
Each paper presenter was billeted in hotel suites. Mine was good for a family of four with two living rooms, a kitchen and other amenities. At this time I was already harboring the idea that the Chinese government was out to impress, and impress hugely, the foreign participants. I think this was sort of validated when we were taken to places with excellent restaurants offering mouth-watering menus.
The tourist spots that we enjoyed were also something to dream about. We went to a cultural place where tourists could have a mock “marriage” the indigenous way.
Their major streets were wide, two of them were lined with gloriously blooming magnolia trees. Guiyang’s skyline was even bigger than that of Makati then. So, here’s a largely unknown city (at least to me) outmatching our own biggest skyline. Participants were also given opportunity to visit universities nearby (with student population ranging from 40 thousand to more than 80,000) and mingle with chosen professors.
If the organizers of the forum intended, among others to impress foreign participants of their economic advancement, they did it exceedingly well.
After the forum, I was one of the few interviewed for the local media which was published before we left town. Unfortunately, it was in Chinese. I just saw myself in the paper being interviewed by two young, beautiful ladies. That was fun, but I didn’t know if my answers to their questions were correctly captured.
Three years later, China took control of the Panatag Shoal (or Bajo de Masinloc, aka Scarborough Shoal), prohibiting Filipino fisherman to fish in their traditional fishing ground. What’s more, they continue to build structures within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the country, transforming them into military outposts. In the process, they have wreaked havoc on the corals in the area, leaving us and other concerned people misty-eyed in great sorrow.
Until now, China continues to wield power and influence within our own EEZ contrary to international laws like that of the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The Chinese’ wanton disregard of our rights in the area led the then government of PNOY to lodge an arbitration case with an international tribunal which the country won in 1916. Many countries recognized the ruling but expectedly, China just disregarded it.
When FPRRD ascended to power, he also brushed aside the ruling, calling it just a piece of paper. His foreign policy heavily leaned to China, veering away from the U.S. and cursing its president then, Barack Obama. This emboldened China to do more unlawful acts within the Philippine EEZ, and making Filipino fishermen beg for permission from that country to fish within our own backyard.
The pivot to China resulted in the establishment of the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs). Now there are more than 100 hundred of them in various parts of the country. Thanks but no thanks to FPRRD for this! These POGOs have spawned so much crime where they are operating based on various raids conducted already.
Apparently, they also abated corruption in so many agencies since they can operate even if their permits are already revoked. Foreigners, especially Chinese, can have spurious local birth certificates easily; secure visas without problems even if they are criminals back home; can do whatever they want in the country even if they can not speak a word of any of our languages or dialects (or even English); can build structures, including tunnels without proper clearances, and many more. These can only be possible with the intervention of some powers that be in certain agencies.
This is why, we should be interested with bated breath on the results of some ongoing Senate investigations related to the raided POGOs, especially the one in Tarlac.
Many said that China is not tolerant to POGOs. But perceiving what it is doing now in relation to our country, its highly inconsiderate actions to our fishermen and to our soldiers stationed in the AyunginShoal, I think China is even encouraging POGOs to continue to operate so it can use them against the Philippines. It can milk the POGOs for any advantage that will favor them in our conflict with them. Apparently, China believes that it only takes a little glitter of money to win bloggers and Philippine officials (including elected congressmen and senators) to defend their cause in public, or to keep silent if they are illegally doing things. That’s how disdainful they are towards Filipinos.
All POGOs should now be closed and banned for good. MayorVico Sotto of Pasig had done it. What is hindering the national government to do it too?
We should be thankful that a POGO hub was not established in Baguio. Grateful of course to the city council, and those who actively opposed the establishment of casinos, for not approving such menace in our midst.**


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