GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/06 February) — Philippine Daily Inquirer reported on February 4 (Sino envoy tells guests: Be like monkeys) that Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua exhorted his guests at a reception at the Chinese Embassy Wednesday ahead of Chinese Lunar New Year, “Be like monkeys”.
The new Chinese Lunar Year is the Year of the Monkey.
If that had been said in a jest in another occasion and we were among his guests, we would have jested back, “Kamo na lang!” (In Tagalog, “Kayo na lang”; in English, “You be the one only”).
To us, to be called “Daw amo ka” [guttural “^” accent over “o”] (Tagalog, “Katulad ka ng unggoy”; English: “You are like a monkey”) is insulting. Much more so if you are admonished, “Be like monkeys”. Attributes to monkeys are not complimentary – ugly, dirty, foolish, indecent. However, sometimes, monkeys are called clever, agile, tricky.
As an admonition, Mr. Zhao addressed it to his guests – diplomats and businessmen that included Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg. As admonition is mild reproof intended to correct a fault, Mr. Zhao, the admonisher, wanted his guests, the admonished, to correct a fault.
Did Mr. Zhao really intend to admonish? Was he not just inviting his guests to join him to correct a fault? Did he, perhaps, mean, “Let us be like monkeys”? On second thought, did he admonish or exhort? Exhortation, unlike admonition, is strong advice not reproof.
As Inquirer reported, “he was not mocking his guests. He was using the description of the monkey in the Chinese zodiac to point out how the Philippines and China should go about handling their affairs, including their territorial dispute in the South China Sea.”
The report quoted Mr. Zhao, first, apparently in the spirit of a New Year’s wish: “In the Chinese zodiac, the monkey symbolizes vitality, flexibility and intelligence. If you use your intelligence, show some flexibility, you will have a vigorous Chinese New Year. But, adding: “The same goes for the bilateral relations between China and the Philippines,” he was referring to South China Sea dispute. (Bold text ours)
Mr. Zhao was, indeed, admonishing the Philippines and the United States. China is the monkey symbolized in the Chinese zodiac; the Philippines and the US are not.
In admonishing, “Be like monkeys”, Mr. Zhao was saying in reference to the South China Sea dispute and to how each side wants it resolved, “China is right; the Philippines must do as China proposes and the US must stay out.”
Let’s see which monkey China is – as symbolized in the Chinese zodiac or as variously described in the Philippines.
First: This is China’s position: Historically, China Sea is ours. We cannot be bound by the United Nations Convention of the Seas (UNCLOS). We will not submit to arbitration by the UNCLOS Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. We have offered bi-lateral negotiation. Take it or leave it. Is that “flexibility”?
Second: While offering bi-lateral negotiation, China reclaimed the disputed islets (reefs) of the Spratlys that, according the UNCLOS, lie within the jurisdiction of the Philippines with the right and responsibility to use and develop their ocean resources. By reclamation – constructing berthing areas and airstrips and other infrastructures for commercial and military uses – China has stamped her sovereignty over the disputed areas.
The bi-lateral negotiation is purported to agree on how to share the natural resources of the disputed territories. With the reclamation, where is the room for negotiation? China will tell the Philippines, “What we have reclaimed are ours; you can keep those close to your shores”. Can the Philippines object?
Wise! Clever! Is that intelligence? No, it’s trickery; it’s bullying.
Third: China is now a superpower – military and economic. Amando Doronila, citing a new Pentagon report, wrote in his column, “Analysis”, in the Philippine Daily Inquirer of February 5 about Spratly dispute and the construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea. The following excerpts are relevant to China’s economic power.
“The report, released last August, pointed out that as of last June, China had reclaimed up to 1,170 hectares across a string of islands in the Spratlys — up by nearly 50 percent from what had previously been known in May.”
“This island construction has so far created over eight million square meters of real estate in the open sea, outstripping other countries’ reclamation activities.”
“China has reclaimed 17 times more land in 20 months than the other claimants combined over the past 40 years. It now accounts for approximately 95 percent of all reclaimed land in the Spratlys.”
“The Pentagon report said China was in the process of completing a runway on one of its seven manmade outposts. Once the airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef is operational, China could potentially use it as an alternative runway for carrier-based planes, allowing its military to conduct “sustained operations” with aircraft carriers in the area.”
As reported last month, the completed runway has been flight-tested with Jumbo jets. More runways were reported under construction.
To assert her sovereignty over the artificial islands, China has warned foreign aircraft not to make overflight and foreign ships not to pass within the 22-mile international limit without her permission. She has refused to submit to the jurisdiction of the UNCLOS Arbitral Tribunal.
That’s power! That’s strength! Is that vitality? It may or may not be.
By Mr. Zhao’s admonition, China would like to make a monkey out of the Philippines – leashed loosely to a horizontal pole, accepting bananas or whatever is tossed to it by bystanders it amuses with its antics including the indecent. Poor monkey! It can only shriek while deprived of its animal rights. The Philippines loudly complains. Of what avail?
[Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at [email protected].]