Irate citizens took to social media to express their frustration and anger at the road rerouting done in connection with the two-day state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
While the Metro Manila Development Authority made a prior advisory on which roads would be closed and when, it appeared there were many unannounced changes that caused traffic mayhem and which led those headed for the airport, for instance, to walk the rest of the way so they would not miss their flights.
Then again, we Filipinos are used to bending over backwards when there are visiting dignitaries. We endure the inconveniences—perhaps even cursing at the visitor like no less than President Duterte did when Pope Francis was here three years ago—and console ourselves with the thought that such hassles are temporary anyway, and we could go back to our routine the following day. Such is the Filipino’s good and hospitable nature.
Unfortunately, the road closures are just a minor test.
One of the highlights of Xi’s visit was the supposed signing of a memorandum of understanding for a joint PH-China exploration of oil, gas and minerals in the West Philippine Sea.
The problem, of course, is that this is contested territory, and China’s not-so-subtle incursions into it have angered many Filipinos.
Mr. Duterte’s apparent subservience to the Chinese anger many, even more.
Even some Cabinet officials are feeling the heat. Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin was livid when he learned that the draft agreement had not been prepared by the Philippines but by China, and that Malacanang spokesman Salvador Panelo said the author of the agreement was irrelevant because it would be scrutinized anyway.
Locsin himself took to Twitter to express his disgust. “Palace Com doesn’t care if it is a Chinese draft? I fu*k*n* care!” he said Wednesday morning. “A framework or architecture for gas and oil in our part of the sea demands that draft be MINE... MIO... FILIPINO.”
The issue was worsened by the revelation that neither the Foreign Affairs Department nor the Energy Department had with them signed copies of the agreement.
Lawmakers are correct in demanding transparency, because the issue transcends mere economics. It strikes at the heart of our assertion of sovereignty, given that there seems to be no effort on the administration’s part to even capitalize on the victory we’ve had from the Permanent Court of Arbitration two years ago.
It is good to relations with our giant neighbor, show goodwill and even enter into partnerships for a mutual good. But how is mutuality defined? Does it cover an agreement that will have benefits to both parties but is skewed toward one more than the other?
When we elected our leaders into office, we conveyed that we trusted them to champion our interests, no one else’s, at all costs. Certainly we did not give them the blanket authority to pervert the virtue of hospitality that Filipinos are known for.