Our One China Policy

By Michael Henry Yusingco, LL.M

Our One China Policy is found in the 1975 Joint Communique between Manila and Beijing, whereby among other things, “The two Governments recognize and agree to respect each other’s territorial integrity.”

This accord was spurred by Resolution No. 2758 of the United Nations General Assembly issued on October 25, 1971 that expelled the “Republic of China” (Taiwan) and replaced it with the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) in the United Nations.

Pertinently, there is no standard “One China” policy that is institutionalized in every nation in the world. Each country would have had its own formulation of this policy when they established formal diplomatic relations with the PRC.

Specifically, the Philippines’ One China Policy as contained in the Joint communique reads as follows:

“The Philippine Government recognizes the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China, fully understands and respects the position of the Chinese Government that there is but one China and that Taiwan is an integral part of Chinese territory, and decides to remove all its official representations from Taiwan within one month from the date of signature of this communique.”

The crux of this policy is that the Philippines “fully understands and respects” China’s claim regarding Taiwan. Clearly, it offers no final and definitive view regarding the status of Taiwan itself. And neither does it convey support for any specific Chinese action regarding Taiwan.

Filipino public officials however, have consistently joined the call of other world leaders that a peaceful and democratic process must be pursued by all concerned. Indeed, underlying this policy is the Philippines’ commitment to treat the China-Taiwan affair as completely an internal matter.

Ultimately the final resolution of Taiwan’s status will be contingent on International Law and the Taiwanese people themselves. And like any other nation in the world, the Philippines can only adhere to the recognition of Taiwan’s standing by the international community itself.

The only plausible caveat with regards to our non-interference commitment is when International Humanitarian Law compels other nations to be involved in a potential armed conflict. This is the only scenario where the Philippines can be forced to intervene in an otherwise domestic affair. Even then, the Philippine government can dictate the scope and extent of this intervention.

It is worth highlighting at this point that since the signing of the Joint Communique, the Philippine government has exerted so much effort to ensure Beijing feels secure under this One China Policy. In fact, then President Corazon Aquino issued Executive Order No. 313 (December 17, 1987) prohibiting government officials to visit Taiwan and to receive calls by visiting Taiwanese officials.

But the Joint Communique never precluded the Philippines from developing relations with Taiwan. According to Executive Order No. 313, “it was the understanding that people-to-people relations between the Philippines and Taiwan may continue, such commercial, economic, cultural and other unofficial contacts;”.

While the Philippine government has no official presence in Taiwan, its interests are mediated through the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO). According to the Supreme Court in the case of Funa vs. MECO, MECO is “the corporate entity “entrusted” by the Philippine government with the responsibility of fostering “friendly” and “unofficial” relations with the people of Taiwan, particularly in the areas of trade, economic cooperation, investment, cultural, scientific and educational exchanges.”

Thus, despite having no diplomatic relations, economic and cultural ties between the Philippines and Taiwan were nurtured throughout the years. Indeed, the Philippines and Taiwan have been dealing with each other extensively economically.

But the main point to be made about our One China Policy is that the Philippines has religiously done everything legally possible to abide by its commitments under the Joint Communique. Our troubles in the West Philippine Sea clearly show that it is actually Beijing which has not lived up to their end of the agreement.

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