'We do not want to further annoy China'

And with that unofficial, but candid remark, the government of the Philippines inadvertently let slip the basis for its decision to follow China in declining to send an official representative to the Nobel Prize awards ceremony in which one of the People’s Republic’s more prominent dissidents Lu Xiaobo is being recognized in absentia. He is currently imprisoned for publishing a manifesto calling for an end to one-party rule by the Communist Party of China.

As the geopolitical center of gravity in this century starts drifting eastwards, the Philippines like all developing nations in the Asia Pacific finds itself having to reconfigure its strategic relationship with its former colonial master, the United States. As the “sleeping giant” that is China awakes, it is beginning to assert its influence mainly through economic means, particularly with nations who have been alienated or sanctioned by the US and the West (i.e. the Cubas and Irans of the world).

Relations with Beijing had been strained previously with the cancellation of the National Broadband Network project that was awarded to the ZTE Corporation, a Chinese state-owned enterprise, and the Luneta hostage taking incidents in which Hong Kong nationals became casualties as a result of a botched rescue operation.

Already, tourism in the country has suffered through a large number of cancellations from the mainland. Unfortunately in siding with China, the Philippines has grouped itself with a number of “flawed democracies” whose path to development does not proceed along the classic Western narrative.

It also puts into doubt the strategy of engagement the West has employed in which trade liberalization with China encourages political liberalization. It now appears that the reverse is happening. By becoming increasingly dependent on China for trade and commerce, countries like the Philippines which once walked in lock step with the US in promoting human rights within ASEAN, are now gravitating towards the Beijing consensus of economic progress without political development.

The dropping of our international human rights credentials diplomatically may have led to the Philippine government taking a more positive step in the domestic scene with the recently released statement by PNoy instructing the Department of Justice to drop formal complaints against the group of health workers known as the Morong 43 who were suspected of aiding communist guerrillas.

In both instances, PNoy was criticized for not treating the issues with the sensitivity of a son whose father suffered under similar circumstances of repression under the Martial Law regime. It now appears that charity begins at home.

But what the events of the past week reveal is that policy is being developed on the fly. Does the Philippines still have a comprehensive policy on human rights that is consistent both at international domestic settings? In the past our stance on the issue put us in league with the US. The only time we compromised was to support the US during the Cold War or with its war on terror. This time around, it is China that is pulling the strings.

For as long as the nation remains dependent on one superpower or another for its economic welfare, it is perhaps too unrealistic for us to expect its foreign policy to be truly considered and independent of external domination or influence.

Doy Santos aka The Cusp

Doy Santos is an international development consultant who shuttles between Australia and the Philippines. He maintains a blog called The Cusp: A discussion of new thinking, new schools of thought and fresh ideas on public policy (www.thecusponline.org) and tweets as @thecusponline. He holds a Master in Development Economics from the University of the Philippines and an MS in Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.

  • Manuelbuencamino

    Doy,

    I wouldn’t take any statement from an unnamed official supposedly from the DFA as official policy.

    But for the sake of discussion, no country in the world has or can have a foreign policy that can be truly considered independent of external domination or influence. And for a very simple reason: foreign policy is driven by local politics. And local politicians are very malleable. There is no country in the world where the central authority can ignore the demands of local powers. That’s why if you can’t talk to the leaders then you talk to their constituents. They will do the talking for you. And the leaders will follow. Just ask the Israelis.

    • Anonymous

      GMA withdrew troops from Iraq because Pinoys-in-Pinas were agitating and demonstrating for GMA to do so in order to spare a Pinoy from beheading. Is there a clamor by the CBCP or have folks marched in the provinces or along Claro Recto asking PresNoy to boycott Oslo as a peace-offering to China (for the 5 Filipinos in China death row convicted of drug-trafficking)?

      I think the only calls to Malacanang saying please-don’t-get-China-angry would be for Ronald Singson. Cong R Singson, of course, has not been convicted yet of drug trafficking in Hongkong. Some political groups in Agusan or Leyte may have called Lacierda or even PresNoy directly so that Beijing doesn’t get so mad they order Hongkong to cancel R Singson bail and order him back to jail.

      • GabbyD

        this is a weird observation… the only time a presdent acts should be when there is a public outcry? hopefully not…

        • Manuelbuencamino

          GBD,

          the essence of democracy is for leaders to respond to their constituents. As to UPnn’s point, one can argue that because we have abolished the death penalty in this country then we do our best to save our citizens from the death penalty in other countries.

  • Manuelbuencamino

    Doy,

    I wouldn’t take any statement from an unnamed official supposedly from the DFA as official policy.

    But for the sake of discussion, no country in the world has or can have a foreign policy that can be truly considered independent of external domination or influence. And for a very simple reason: foreign policy is driven by local politics. And local politicians are very malleable. There is no country in the world where the central authority can ignore the demands of local powers. That’s why if you can’t talk to the leaders then you talk to their constituents. They will do the talking for you. And the leaders will follow. Just ask the Israelis.

  • Manuelbuencamino

    Doy,

    I wouldn’t take any statement from an unnamed official supposedly from the DFA as official policy.

    But for the sake of discussion, no country in the world has or can have a foreign policy that can be truly considered independent of external domination or influence. And for a very simple reason: foreign policy is driven by local politics. And local politicians are very malleable. There is no country in the world where the central authority can ignore the demands of local powers. That’s why if you can’t talk to the leaders then you talk to their constituents. They will do the talking for you. And the leaders will follow. Just ask the Israelis.

    • Anonymous

      GMA withdrew troops from Iraq because Pinoys-in-Pinas were agitating and demonstrating for GMA to do so in order to spare a Pinoy from beheading. Is there a clamor by the CBCP or have folks marched in the provinces or along Claro Recto asking PresNoy to boycott Oslo as a peace-offering to China so they spare the 5 Filipinos in China death row after being convicted of drug-trafficking. I think the pressure was only for Ronald Singson, and Ronald Singson is not even convicted yet, in fact, he is not in jail while he awaits drug trafficking court case against him in Hongkong.

      • GabbyD

        this is a weird observation… the only time a presdent acts should be when there is a public outcry? hopefully not…

        • Manuelbuencamino

          GBD,

          the essence of democracy is for leaders to respond to their constituents. As to UPnn’s point, one can argue that because we have abolished the death penalty in this country then we do our best to save our citizens from the death penalty in other countries.

  • GabbyD

    if pnoy is trying 2 save the pinoys in jail in china on drug charges, i’d like to know why we are doing so?

    does the evidence point 2 their being innocent? or do we want them in jail in the philippines?

    • GabbyD

      so like ellen t asked, why is it in our national interest to save drug mules?

      this might make sense if they are innocent. are they? no explanation.

      • Manuelbuencamino

        tell ellen that one reason for that is because we abolished the death penalty. There are countries in this world, Canada for example, that will not extradite persons who could be sentenced to death if they were returned to their home countries. And I’m not referring to political crimes either.

  • GabbyD

    if pnoy is trying 2 save the pinoys in jail in china on drug charges, i’d like to know why we are doing so?

    does the evidence point 2 their being innocent? or do we want them in jail in the philippines?

    • GabbyD

      so like ellen t asked, why is it in our national interest to save drug mules?

      this might make sense if they are innocent. are they? no explanation.

      • Manuelbuencamino

        tell ellen that one reason for that is because we abolished the death penalty. There are countries in this world, Canada for example, that will not extradite persons who could be sentenced to death if they were returned to their home countries. And I’m not referring to political crimes either.

  • GabbyD

    re the nonattendance, an article from PDI…
    i cant post the link (can this be fixed?)

    • Anonymous

      Oh, wow, GabbyD… has Beijing threatened any Filipino being held or being investigated for crimes in HongKong or China, is this the article you refer to?
      My hypothesis (I have no basis for saying this, just a guess from out of thin air) is that some Bicol or Ilocos or Mindanao political heavyweights had telephoned PresNoynoy to remind him that Congressman Ronald Singson is not allowed to leave Hongkong for Pilipinas because of drug trafficking charges.

      • Manuelbuencamino

        If that story is true then it’s no different from that Angelo de la Cruz case when GMA withdrew our soldiers from Iraq.

        By the way, America’s revenge for abandoning the coalition was done quite brilliantly. Instead of taking direct action against GMA it threatened Japan.

        The US told Japan that they would go up in rank on the sex trafficking scale. Japan understood the economic implications of a higher rank so it stopped giving work permits to GROs. That screwed not only Russians, South Americans but also the 75,000 Filipinas and hundreds of employment and training agencies who were living on the GRO trade.

  • GabbyD

    re the nonattendance, an article from PDI…
    i cant post the link (can this be fixed?)

    • Anonymous

      Oh, wow, GabbyD… has Beijing threatened any Filipino being held or being investigated for crimes in HongKong or China, is this the article you refer to?

      • Manuelbuencamino

        If that story is true then it’s no different from that Angelo de la Cruz case when GMA withdrew our soldiers from Iraq.

        By the way, America’s revenge for abandoning the coalition was done quite brilliantly. Instead of taking direct action against GMA it threatened Japan.

        The US told Japan that they would go up in rank on the sex trafficking scale. Japan understood the economic implications of a higher rank so it stopped giving work permits to GROs. That screwed not only Russians, South Americans but also the 75,000 Filipinas and hundreds of employment and training agencies who were living on the GRO trade.

    • Anonymous

      Oh, wow, GabbyD… has Beijing threatened any Filipino being held or being investigated for crimes in HongKong or China, is this the article you refer to?

  • Anonymous

    I just got an e-mail which is kind of funny, but is this true? Is it true that Malacanang has ordered streamers and banners along Roxas blvd and in Makati saying

    shèngdàn kuàilè — Mandarin for Merry Christmas!!!

    Shèngdàn kuàilè !!!

    Beijing has really gotten Malacanang to dance, hasn’t it???

  • Anonymous

    I just got an e-mail which is kind of funny, but is this true? Is it true that Malacanang has ordered streamers and banners along Roxas blvd and in Makati saying

    shèngdàn kuàilè — Mandarin for Merry Christmas!!!

    Shèngdàn kuàilè !!!

    Beijing has really gotten Malacanang to dance, hasn’t it???

  • Anonymous

    Maybe there is a consistency, after all.

    The common thread — tourism. For Oslo Ceremonies, Malacanang downplays “human rights” because Malacanang wants to highlight China tourists and trade.

    Prior, there was Yokohama for APEC, PresNoynoy’s huge speech was his lament over the TRAVEL ADVISORIES by USA, Australia, and UK (he did say anything about Japan’s travel advisory). He did say “tourism” at Yokohama, didn’t he?

    Maybe next year 2011, Pnoy advisers will provide him with other “key issues” to act upon, like Spratlys, rice self-succiency or energy supply.

    • What this tells me is that the Philippines is prioritizing its economic interests vis-a-vis China above its strategic alliance with the United States over human rights.

    • What this tells me is that the Philippines has now signaled that it is willing to prioritize its economic interests vis-a-vis China over its strategic alliance with the United States over human rights.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe there is a consistency, after all.

    At Yokohama for APEC, PresNoynoy’s huge speech was his lament over the TRAVEL ADVISORIES by USA, Australia, and UK (he did say anything about Japan’s travel advisory).

    Now, this about Oslo Ceremonies. The common thread — tourism.

    • What this tells me is that the Philippines has now signaled that it is willing to prioritize its economic interests vis-a-vis China over its strategic alliance with the United States over human rights.