Saturday, January 25, 2020

Duterte highlights Philippines-China ties in Chinese New Year message

President Rodrigo Duterte said he hopes for stronger ties between the Philippines and China in his Chinese New Year 2020 message released on Saturday.

"The fact that we are celebrating this event and embracing it as one of our own reflects the strong and inseparable bond that has been forged through centuries of friendly and beneficial relations between the Philippines and China,” read the president’s message published on social media by PTV. The president’s pro-China statement comes barely a couple of days after his threat to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States.

The Presidential Commission on Visiting Forces has since started processing the termination of the VFA.

Duterte has been criticized by the opposition for verbally using the said agreement as leverage for Sen. Bato dela Rosa’s US visa, apparently only holding an anti-imperialist stance “when convenient” and not being as firm in foreign affairs related to rising power China. "As we open a new page in our shared history, may we foster even stronger bonds of friendship with those of Chinese descent all around the world through cooperation, investments, cultural exchanges, and people-to-people ties,” Duterte said.

The president also said he hopes that the Chinese-Filipino community will continue to hold socio-civic and charitable acts "that will uplift the lives of our people, especially the power and the marginalized." "Together, these small acts of kindness shall create a ripple effect that will benefit not only those belonging to your community but also countless others, creating a much bigger wave of compassion that will eventually redound to the greater good of our country.”

China has maritime disputes in the resource-rich South China Sea with the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. Over $5 trillion in trade passes yearly through the waterway. However, the Permanent Court of Arbitration on July 12, 2016, ruled that China’s "nine-dash line" territorial claim — literal dash marks in maps of China that allege its claim to around 80% of the South China Sea — is invalid.

The international tribunal determined that China not only violated the Philippines’ sovereignty but also left irreversible environmental consequences. Evidence includes the stealing of giant clams and sea turtles, harmful fishing practices that damaged the fragile coral reef ecosystem in the South China Sea, conducting massive land reclamation at seven reefs in the Spratly Islands and construction of artificial islands. While the Hague decision had a legal basis and was ground on valid evidence, the Philippine government under the Duterte administration refuses to assert the findings with China.