TURNING POINT: Divorcing China

NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 18 May) — China is depriving us billions of pesos of potential revenue by its rapacious exploitation of the marine resources inside our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in West Philippine Sea (WPS). 

The illegal activity ought to stop. 

The National Task Force on WPS revealed that some 240,000 kg of fish is being seized each day by the Chinese militia fishers. 

The Agri-Fishery Alliance, a coalition of various agricultural groups and stakeholders in the country, estimated that the Philippines loses three million metric tons of fish annually worth P300 billion due to Chinese illegal fishing in the West Philippine Sea. The group says our food security is threatened by the illegal fishing that severely depletes our fish supply

The previous administration tolerated this illegal activity in our sovereign waters because then President Rodrigo Duterte allowed it. He publicly admitted that he has verbal agreement with China’s President Xi Jiping on such fishing inside our EEZ. Frequent diplomatic protest was made of course, but it was only clearly for show because of the under the table presidential deal. Thus, to this day, hundreds of Chinese militia-fishing vessels continue to rake in and destroy our precious resources with no let-up in sight.

At least President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. showed some balls in abandoning the Duterte cozy open-legs policy with China. Nowadays, the Philippine Coast Guards deploys more patrol vessels in the area, courageously driving Chinese fishers away and making eye contact with the Chinese Coast Guards. The EDCA Balikaton exercise appears to embolden Marcos. 

Undoubtedly, with US support, we may be able to achieve a balance of terror in WPS that may yet stop Chinese bullying. 

Indeed, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. (PBBM) ought to collect more military support arrangements in his foreign trips rather than empty and hollow financial assistance pledges.

Duterte not only tolerated the Chinese to swarm in WPS but also in the country’s metropolis.   Under the “travel-first-apply –visa-later” policy, Chinese nationals, many of dubious origin and character, flooded the country. Once they were here, there was no option but to grant the visa, except those found evidently with some criminal records. But some wily immigration officials devised the pastillas scam to squeeze huge amount from suspicious characters. The immigration bribery scheme resulted to the entry into the country of illegal drug producers, money launderers and human traffickers, not to mention cyberspace hackers and other criminals.

A number was permitted officially to run the Philippines Offshore Gambling Operator (POGO) firms, which offer online gambling services to markets outside the country. POGO operators did not hire locals but brought with them their own desk workers.  Contrary to the justification in establishing them, the POGO did not create jobs but, in fact, brought in the Chinese  to compete with the locals in the tight job market, even for menial jobs. 

Kidnapping and Mafia-like crimes against their own compatriots were occurring in the advent of the Chinese flood. Needless to say, they disturb the peace.

Now, here’s the rub. The Chinese or China was allowed to own 40 percent of the stocks of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, which is responsible in the transmission of electric energy throughout the country.

True, the Constitution allows foreigners to own 40 percent of businesses in the Philippines. But by foreigners, does it include foreign governments?  It is doubtful, because allowing them puts our country in grave danger. 

The government of China’s ownership of NGCP through its own State Grid Corporation is of great concern.

Imagine its implications to our national security. China’s 40 percent single entity ownership of NGCP is huge. It means knowledge and access to the operation of the system. 

In our current conflict in WPS and the mounting tension in Taiwan Strait, which we have been dragged into, the Chinese could easily tap the NGCP to their advantage. Given their advance technology, they could remotely cause a glitz in the transmission system that would halt and put in disarray many, if not all, areas of operations of the government of the Philippines, including that of the military.

This insanity should stop. The senators who investigated the NGCP franchise are right. Utilities that have bearings on national security, such as aviation, electricity transmission, and, to add, water distribution should be under the control of the government. Hence, the government should buy back China stocks in NGCP for the good of the country.  

It’s high time to divorce China.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines)