By Joshua Corcuera
Recently, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian “advised” the country to “unequivocally oppose ‘Taiwan Independence’ rather than stoking the fire by offering United States access to the military bases near the Taiwan Strait if you care genuinely about the 150,000 OFWs.”
Upon reading this statement, I asked myself what is Huang’s right to dictate our country about our national interests? What is his right to tell us not to do something ‘if we care for hundreds of thousands of our kababayans abroad’?
As Senator Risa Hontiveros said in a courageous statement, “our OFWs in Taiwan will continue to work where they work. End of story. Filipinos will thrive and make a living according to our wishes. We will never let Beijing decide on the future of Filipino families. Their destiny is not in China’s hands.”
The Chinese Ambassador should read these remarks from the good senator. He should realize that the Philippines, as a sovereign country, has the full freedom to pursue whatever action it would like to pursue as long as it does not affect other people negatively.
Is the Philippines’ recent decision to allow the US to access military bases in Philippine soil affecting other countries negatively? No, it does not, because the Americans’ access to our military bases should not be construed as an invitation for war or as an escalation of conflict in the Far East. Rather, it should be perceived as an opportunity for both Filipinos and Americans to solidify their own friendship, to strengthen their relationship, and to improve one another’s capabilities to respond to crises through the exchange of ideas.
The Philippines is certainly not doing anything wrong. The sites of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), according to the US Embassy, will “support combined training exercises and interoperability between US and Philippine forces to ensure that we’re even better prepared for future crises.”
From this statement, the Chinese should realize that not everything is related to military warfare and geopolitics. One reason why our country strengthens relationships with our allies is to mutually benefit each other by helping one another in times of need. The Philippines, a country often ravaged by powerful typhoons, is constantly improving its responses to calamities and natural disasters with the help of its allies. Hence, the new EDCA sites are probably utilized for this purpose, and not for ‘stoking the fire’ which only came to the mind of Huang.
As a Filipino, I believe that I have the right to ask Huang this question: If you care about improving Sino-Philippine relations, how about you respect our freedom, our decisions, and our actions? We are capable of thinking what is best for us, and it is probably better if you mind your own business than involving our country in the issues between China and the US.
More importantly, it is necessary to present evidence when making a claim. Huang’s claim that “the US intends to take advantage of the new EDCA sites to interfere in the situation across the Taiwan strait to serve its geopolitical goals,” must be supported by proof which the diplomat failed to do. With this, why should we believe and trust his words?
Finally, grace is crucial in diplomacy. I’d end this article by giving this quote by Otto von Bismarck, a 19th century German statesman and diplomat that masterminded the reunification of Germany in 1871: “Be polite; write diplomatically; even in a declaration of war one observes the rule of politeness.”