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Buti pa Vietnam! PH not benefitting from ‘policy of appeasement’ toward China – Drilon

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by Xave Gregorio

Warming up to China is not getting the Philippines anywhere, Senator Franklin Drilon said, sharing data which show that Beijing’s contributions to Manila have been “measly” despite friendlier relations.

Drilon said the Duterte administration has been pursuing a “policy of appeasement and accomodation” towards China for the Philippines to reap economic benefits, but said this has been failing.

“I think we the government should review the policy of appeasement and accommodation on China,” Drilon said Thursday (June 14) at the Kapihan sa Senado media forum.

“The record indicates it is not succeeding. The foreign direct investment (FDI), not pledges, coming from China, is very minimal. In 2017, FDIs from China was only $31 million, as contrasted to Japan with $600 million, and the US with $160 million,” he said.

However, preliminary data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) show that Japan only sent in $56.33 million in investments last year, while the US sent $464.46 million, and China sent $28.79 million.

Drilon said the Philippines received smaller FDIs from China compared to Vietnam, a country which has chosen to confront Beijing on sea disputes yet still got $2.17 billion in investments.

He also showed that trade between China and Vietnam last year amounted to $71.85 billion, while China and the Philippines’ bilateral trade was only worth $31 million.

More Chinese tourists also poured in Vietnam compared to the Philippines, with four million Chinese tourist arrivals in Vietnam last year and only around 968,000 in the Philippines.

“This indicates that the appeasement of China does not necessarily results in better economic relations with China, as shown by the data. On the other hand, the more aggressive assertion of Vietnam of its rights in the South China Sea has not resulted in a diminished economic relation with China. On the other hand, they have benefited,” Drilon said.

However, relations between Vietnam and China have also been warming up, with the two Socialist countries agreeing in April to settle sea disputes through talks and move toward joint explorations in the West Philippine Sea, known internationally as the South China Sea.

The Duterte administration has been criticized for being soft on China despite its expansionary and rapid militarization in the West Philippine Sea.

It has also been slammed for not taking enough action on the harassment of Filipino fishermen by Chinese Coast Guard personnel, who have been caught on video boarding Filipino vessels and taking fish from fishermen’s catch.

However, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has said the Philippines has filed 50 to 100 diplomatic protests against China since Duterte came into power.

“Unfortunately, I don’t believe and I don’t think anybody believes [Cayetano] when he said he has sent 100 protests against China,” Drilon countered.

Drilon said the Philippines should be more assertive in the West Philippine Sea and not “put in the backburner” the arbitral tribunal ruling in favor of the Philippines on the sea dispute.

He and fellow minority Senator Risa Hontiveros has called on Cayetano to be more transparent in the Philippines’ diplomatic affairs with China.

“What is wrong with informing our people with how our government is protecting our sovereignty? There’s nothing wrong with that. The principle of transparency is enshrined in our Constitution,” Drilon said.