Why China thinks we are scared

By Herbrt Vego

A news report published on June 5, 2019 – four years and two months ago – quoted former national security adviser Norberto Gonzales: “Within hours, the Chinese can destroy most of our country’s defense facilities and probably some of our cities.”

Thank God, that war scenario has never happened.

No thanks to then President Rodrigo Duterte, who seemed to have succeeded in convincing President Xi Jinping that he would like “my country” to be a province of China.

To quote his exact words before the Chinese Business Club in Manila on February 19, 2018, “Kung gusto ‘nyo, gawin ‘nyo na lang kaming province, parang Fujian.”

Last July 17, ex-President Duterte flew to China unannounced and had a one-on-one meeting with President Xi at the latter’s guesthouse. As beamed on TV, it was “to continue promoting friendly cooperation between the two nations.”

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos’ initial reaction a day later was one of “shock” even while vaguely hoping that “they discussed the issues we are seeing, shadowing.”

It was not until 15 days later (Aug. 2) when Duterte paid Marcos a visit to explain about his engagement with Xi. The “details,” however, have never been detailed by the Presidential Communications Office (PCO).

Duterte, however, was quoted as having begged Xi to “look kindly to the Philippines.”

A day before that face-off between the incumbent and the former Presidents, the Senate had passed a resolution condemning China’s incursion at the West Philippine Sea. It was a “cooled-down” version of the original proposal of Senator Riza Hontiveros to bring up the matter to the UN General Assembly.

Alas, adding insult to injury, on August 5, a ship of the China Coast Guard blocked and water-cannoned two Philippine vessels carrying food, water, fuel and other supplies for its military personnel stationed at BRP Sierra Madre, a grounded ship anchored at Ayungin Shoal, around 90 nautical miles [167km] off Palawan. Thus, only one of the two vessels accomplished its mission.

The streamline and social media worldwide have played up video footage of that “excessive and dangerous” harassment.

Does that not disprove Duterte’s assurance that his audience with Xi would enhance the “Philippines-China friendship”?

Marcos reacted “cool” to the incident, as if truly afraid of displeasing China.  Before national and international media, he said, “The position of China, of course, is they say ‘this is ours so we are defending it’ and we, for our part, are saying ‘no, we own it so we are defending it’. So that becomes a grey area that we are discussing.”

Oh no! Marcos should have stressed that the Ayungin shoal is located within our 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) defines an EEZ as “generally extending 200 nautical miles from shore, within which the coastal state has the right to explore and exploit, and the responsibility to conserve and manage, both living and non-living resources.”

So, should we expect Xi to quake over a mere note verbale sent to Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian, protesting the Ayungin Shoal incident?

China wants to make it appear that the said incident was her response to our government’s unfulfilled promise.

An unnamed source from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quoted as having said that “the Philippine government has promised several times to tow Sierra Madre away but has yet to act.”

“I’m not aware of any such arrangement or agreement that the Philippines will remove from its own territory its ship,” Marcos said in a video statement.

The BRP Sierra Madre, stranded at the Ayungin Shoal since 1999, has become a symbol of Philippine sovereignty in the offshore territory.

The August 5 incident was not the first time that a China coast guard ship used a water cannon to drive away Philippine boats.

Still fresh in our memory are the video clips of the China Coast Guard focusing a “military grade” laser at the crew of a Philippine Coast Guard ship last February 6, temporarily blinding them, also near Ayungin Shoal.

Duterte had sent hundreds of notes verbale during his reign, but these did not stop the Chinese militia from harassing our coast guards and ordinary fishermen.

Duterte, very unfortunately, was reluctant to criticize China as he sought closer ties with Beijing for whatever personal advantage.

Why do we have to wait for other countries – namely the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the European Union — to officially condemn China’s bullying at the West Philippine Sea?

“China is not a friend,” former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio told YouTube vlogger Christian Esguerra. “How can you be a friend of a country that is invading you?”

However, he does not see China going to war with the Philippines or any other country with which it has territorial disputes. She has no history of invading other countries.

A military aggression against us would trigger the mutual defense treaty with the powerful United States, which provides that both nations would support each other if either the Philippines or the United States were to be attacked by an external party.

China wants to seize Ayungin for being a potentially rich source of oil and gas.

Her greed for natural resources could be an attempt to recover its hemorrhaging economy triggered by a rare civil unrest over COVID-19 lockdowns of vast sections of the economy, lowered industrial output and curbed consumer spending.

According to a CNN report dated July 12, 2023, Chinese billionaire Jack Ma’s fortune had fallen by $4.1 billion, which is worth less than half of what it was three years ago.



HOMEOWNERS served by the Central Negros Cooperative (CENECO) keep their fingers crossed that the financially unstable power distributor would be rescued with its expected joint venture with Primelectric, sister company of Iloilo City’s MORE Electric and Power Corporation.

A joint venture agreement (JVA) has already been inked by representatives of the co-op and MORE Power but has to await approval through a six-day referendum.

If approved by 50% plus one of Ceneco members, Primelectric will take over the management of Ceneco and implement the same program as MORE Power’s. It would boost consumption of renewable energy in Negros Occidental.

A few days ago, MORE Power inked a tripartite agreement with the Iloilo City government and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to promote renewable energy resources.

The agreement calls for establishment of a one-stop shop offering net metering and distributed energy Resources (DER). It would allow consumers to generate their own electricity from solar panels and sell the excess back to the grid.

DER, by the way, refers to small-scale power plants that can be installed on or near homes and businesses.

The tripartite agreement, to quote MORE Power President Roel Z. Castro, “will help us achieve our goal of providing affordable and reliable electricity.”