On China as ‘our strongest partner’

By Herbert Vego

REMEMBER when Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. called China “our strongest partner” during a gathering of the Association for Philippines-China Understanding (APCU)?

We don’t know why he said that.

But what we know from the National Economic Development Authority’s (NEDA) is that China has extended to the Philippines a total of US $620.7 million in loans and development assistance, which is actually a drop in the bucket of China’s alleged $9 billion commitment to former President Rodrigo Duterte.

Let us not expect China to fulfill that commitment in the face of its own financial malaise which came to public view last July 10 when over 3,000 Chinese demonstrators showed up outside the People’s Bank of China in Zhengzhou, Henan province to protest the “freezing” of their bank deposits.

Anyway, it seems that Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian had his country’s “generosity” to our country in mind when he complained anew about the United States’ “intensified meddling, deliberately provoking tension” in the South China Sea dispute. He was reacting to the presence of a US Navy destroyer, USS Benfold, near the disputed Spratly Islands on Saturday, July 16.

So, what’s new? The United States regularly exercises freedom of navigation near the Spratly Islands.

“It is consistent with international law,” the US Navy said in a statement.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on the other hand, affirmed that “an attack on the Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke US mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.”

Our new Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Enrique Manalo – previously the Philippine ambassador to the United Nations – fortunately shares Blinken’s view.  He wants China to recognize the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague dated July 12, 2016.

The ruling denied China’s claim of historic rights over the areas within its 1940 nine-dash line map because it has no legal basis and legal effect. It therefore upheld the Philippines’ sovereign rights and jurisdiction in its exclusive economic zone.

China’s large-scale reclamation and construction of artificial islands, as well as fishing and harvesting of endangered marine species, had aggravated the disputes in the West Philippine Sea.

It was then Pres. Noynoy Aquino who filed a case against China in 2012 for seizing control of the Scarborough Shoal, located 120 nautical miles west of Zambales. But China simply ignored the ruling.

“The Award is final.” said Manalo on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of the landmark ruling. “We firmly reject attempts to undermine it.”

On the other hand, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin countered in a press briefing, “China will never accept any claim or action based on the award.”

To this day, China continues to build and maintain military structures on Philippine islets, sandbars, reefs, and shoals; and also intimidates Filipino fishermen with its own fleet of militia fishing vessels and coast guard.

Without taking back his “strongest partner” praise of China, Marcos sided with Manalo: “We have a very important ruling in our favor and we will use it to continue to assert our territorial rights. It is not a claim. It is already our territorial right.”

A news item, however, reported that retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio doubts Marcos’s pronouncements on upholding the arbitral ruling.

As we wait with bated breath for the President’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25, we wish he would prove Carpio wrong.



YESTERDAY, MORE Power conducted an eight-hour rehab work at the Iloilo City Proper with the replacement of 15 dilapidated electric poles with concrete ones.

While It entailed unavoidable power interruption, it was another step in the direction of full modernization of the power lines within five years, counting from February 2020 when MORE Power replaced Panay Electric Co. as distribution utility.  This means that the new franchisee has already overshot more than one million man-hours of rehab work.

Modernization, according to MORE Power President Roel Z. Castro, means replacement of old electric poles, distribution lines, meters, and transformers.

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has approved MORE Power’s modernization program that will entail an additional P1.1 billion in additional investment on top of the original P1.9 billion. Wow! Suno kay Maritess, may Razon sa likod sina.