In his statement before leaving for a state visit to China last Tuesday President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. described bilateral ties as entering a ‘new chapter.’
The description is appropriate in so far as China will now have to deal with the new Marcos administration.
The previous one cozied up to Beijing early on, even as the latter completely ignored the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Arbitral Tribunal in the Hague favoring the Philippines in the maritime dispute in the South China Sea and began to build artificial islands even in areas we claim as part of our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
It’s going to be a ‘new chapter’ indeed if President Marcos is able to convince China to stop its aggressive actions in the vital sealane.
These include what appears to be the ‘swarming strategy’ of the Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia in preventing our own Coast Guard and fishermen from entering those areas over which they claim ownership under their ‘nine-dash line’ demarcation.
While it is true that the territorial and maritime disputes in the SCS do not constitute the sum total of our bilateral ties, they pose a significant obstacle to further strengthening cooperation in various fields.
We do have brisk two-way trade with China at present. The previous administration obtained pledges of a reported $24 billion for various projects, but it appears that only an insignificant amount actually came in.
We expect the current state visit to yield investments pledges from both state-run and private firms in China, but how much will actually come in?
Beijing is willing to provide loans for various infrastructure projects under its Official Development Assistance program and has been extending humanitarian assistance in emergency situations.
And not to forget, China has helped us immensely in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic by giving us access to their vaccines since 2021.
The state visit may also offer an excellent opportunity for the two sides to discuss possible joint exploration of oil and gas resources in the South China Sea for mutual benefit.
We’re glad that our new Philippine Ambassador to Beijing, Jaime FlorCruz, is considered an expert on contemporary Chinese history and culture and can serve as a bridge between our two countries just like his predecessor, the late Ambassador Chito Sta. Romana, who also spent many years in China since 1971 and served as envoy from 2017 to 2022.
We’re monitoring what the state visit will yield in terms of economic cooperation, trade and investments, ODA loans and grants, as well as cultural and people-to-people exchanges.
But more than these, we want to see progress in tackling issues related to the South China Sea, and how the two sides can resolve these issues through mutual agreement.
We understand that President Marcos Jr. prioritized his state visit to China this week despite the raging COVID-19 situation in our neighboring country.
The prospect of meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping was apparently something that couldn’t wait at all, given the urgency of matters that had to be discussed, including the situation in the South China Sea.
Our hope is that the state visit, though brief, will bring about a heightened level of the strategic partnership founded on shared interests between our two countries.
DILG’s war on drugs takes new approach
We were wondering what Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. meant when he said last week that he would soon make an important announcement regarding the Marcos administration’s war on drugs.
Well, the news is out. He wants all colonels and generals of the Philippine National Police to submit their courtesy resignations amid reports that high-ranking police officials may be linked to the drug trade.
For Abalos, asking for the courtesy resignation of PNP officials may be the quickest way for the country to address the drug menace.
We really don’t know whether this approach would work.
On the one hand, this shows that government does not have enough evidence at this point to pin down the suspected coddlers of drug syndicates among the top PNP officials and would rather go through a process of elimination.
On the other hand, the government may already have the goods on specific officers but wants them to come forward on their own and admit their guilt.
This is not the first time that generals have been tagged as protectors of drug syndicates.
During the previous administration, several PNP generals were suspected of playing footsies with drug lords but were never formally charged.
Will the DILG’s tack of asking 300 or so colonels and generals to submit courtesy resignations make a dent in the anti-drug campaign?
Or is there too much money to be made in drug trafficking that even this bold move by the DILG is likely to lead to nowhere?
We’ll have to wait and see.