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SCS rival claimant Vietnam draws closer to China, PH demonizes, quarrels with it

You are currently viewing SCS rival claimant Vietnam draws closer to China, PH demonizes, quarrels with it
We’re fighting China, Vietnam woos it (above Chinese President Xi Jenping with Vietnam leader Nguyen Phu Trong).

NOTHING could paint a more stark picture of our very wrong foreign relations than the photos in the front pages of Vietnamese and Philippine broadsheets in recent days.

On our newspapers’ front pages were scenes of Chinese Coast Guard vessels shooing away small Filipino vessels hired by the Philippine Coast Guard, which defied and intruded into what China considers part of its sovereign territory they call Rén’ài Jiāo (for us Ayungin Shoal).  Some Filipino theatric scenes were so absurd they verged on the hilarious, as in this publicity-hungry priest celebrating Mass on the deck of a ship, with statues of the Nativity nearby. Was he hoping Jesus Christ himself would intervene to drive away the Chinese?

In sharp contrast to such silly theatrics, Vietnamese newspapers’ front pages were filled with photos of Chinese President Xi Jinping smiling ear-to-ear, shaking hands with Vietnamese leaders Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and President Vo Van Thuong during the Chinese leader’s first state visit to Hanoi in six years. The leaders would later announce 37 agreements that would boost the two countries’ bilateral ties, including two that would assure peace in the South China Sea areas the two nations have long been claiming as theirs. 

A new level of China-Vietnam friendship and cooperation, Chinese and Vietnamese newspapers ushed. In our case, the lowest level in our relations with China, with imbecilic senators even proposing a catastrophic cutting of our ties with the superpower.

We’re fighting China, Vietnam woos it (above Chinese President Xi Jenping with Vietnam leader Nguyen Phu Trong).

What the hell is happening to our country?

And to think that Vietnam — not us — really has been China’s biggest rival in terms of claiming the Spratlys. Vietnam has occupied since the 1970s 29 features in the Spratlys, we occupy nine, while China has eight. 


Not only that, Vietnam and China have fought bloody battles in the Paracels and in the Spratlys in their attempts to assert their sovereign claims: in the Paracels in 1974 in which the (South) Vietnamese  lost 75 servicemen, and in the Johnson South Reef in 1988, in which the weaker country lost 64 sailors. And of course China invaded Vietnam in 1979 to stop the latter from occupying its ally Cambodia. Vietnam lost over 70,000 of its militia to the better-trained and better equipped People’s Liberation Army.

Every year, Vietnam even commemorates is forces’ battle with the Chinese in the Johnson South Reef Battle as a demonstration of their heroic patriotism. But are the Vietnamese emotional about this as to determine their attitudes towards China?

Certainly not.

No wonder Chinese investments have been pouring into Vietnam, totaling $2.9 billion in the first nine months of 2023, accounting for 15 percent of that country’s total foreign investment receipts (Singapore is the biggest with 20 percent) so far. In sharp contrast, Chinese foreign direct investments in the Philippines was a tiny fraction if that amounting  to a measly $12.2 million in the same period, down from the $14.8 million last year. There was even a net divestment of FDI from Hong Kong by $66 million, a very red signal that Chinese capital, because of our irrational, belligerent stance over our territorial and maritime disputes with China, may have already called for an embargo of our economy.

Capital inflows from one country into another take signals from others: If one of the biggest sources of foreign direct investment in Asia that has emerged in recent years are evading the Philippines, do you think Japanese, European and US capital would still dare go into the Philippines? No wonder Vietnamese GDP per capita has overtaken us, last year at $4,163 against our $3,498.


I am astonished at the utter irrationality of our policy towards China. Because of wars (Ukraine and now Israel), still the lack of confidence in our economy and leadership, and other international headwinds, total foreign investments into the country in the first nine months of this year dropped 16 percent, from $7 billion to $5.9 billion. Even investments from the US went down by 44 percent to just $104 million.

Yet we antagonize a nation, China, that could be the biggest source of capital in the next many years. And for what, for some godforsaken shoal Vietnam also claims, which is inaccessible to our fishermen and even Coast Guard during the typhoon season?

I am ashamed of our country: We have a developed academe and intellectual corps which however have allowed US minions, the generals and admirals  — including a Coast Guard officer ignominiously kicked out of our military academy for exam-cheating — to portray China as an enemy, a bully out to invade and grab our territory. Nothing can be so far from the truth.

Don’t we have committees in Congress on foreign policy which are supposed to provide us with an objective analysis of our territorial and maritime disputes with China in the Spratlys? Yet we just let an ignoramus like Sen. Jinggoy Estrada dominate the discourse, relying on bad-mouthing people (me for instance) rather than debating facts. Don’t we have academics who can come up with a rational objective study of our disputes with China?


How irrationality and sheer ignorance  — to the point of insanity – has dominated the minds of our leaders is a testament to the power of US propaganda. China started being depicted as an aggressor in the South China Sea only when the US, particularly during President Obama’s administration, undertook its historic “Pivot to Asia” policy starting 2012, a thinly disguised strategy to contain the rise of China as a superpower, among other things, demonizing it as threatening weaker countries in the region such as the Philippines. It was so easy for the US to brainwash us, given the fact that most of our elites have been little brown Americans, and with our military and coast guard officials wined and dined in “study trips” to the US.

The colossal lie spread by the US, repeated countless times in the internet (and even in opinion columns), is that the Philippines has absolute sovereign rights in the Spratlys because our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) encompasses these areas. This is so totally misinformed: the maritime area called EEZ was agreed upon only in 1994 by 157 countries in a treaty called the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos). But an EEZ does not mean absolute sovereignty but only certain rights as the sole authority to exploit the natural resources there.

More importantly, EEZs cannot negate other countries’ sovereignty established decades, even centuries ago, such as those claimed by China and Vietnam over the Spratlys, as their archipelagos. We did claim the Spratlys as our sovereign territory through the first President Marcos’ 1978 PD 1996; our current leaders though appear to have dropped that claim in the Unclos suit they filed against China in 2013.

In my almost life-long career as a journalist – i.e., in my job of closely observing the course of the nation – I have never seen such a mass delusion (or maybe just within the elite) as the belief that only the Philippines, and not China or Vietnam, has incontrovertible sovereignty over the Spratlys. This is just not borne out of facts: most international scholars have concluded that because of accidents of history – imperialist, legalistic France had “perfected” its claims and later turned the Spratlys over to the Vietnamese after World War 2 — Vietnam has the most legitimate claim. 

The insanity is such that even an academic at UP, Jay Batongbacal, and an American columnist, are advocating that the Philippines cut off our diplomatic and economic ties with China, the world’s  biggest economy. With over 60 of our trade being with China (which only has 2 percent with us), that would mean a total collapse of our economy, with poverty breaking  through the roof, and even food riots breaking out. That is the reality. Yet that insane columnist dismisses such a prospect as merely “some economic losses” we have to bear “to assert our sovereignty.”

And for what? For a lie we refuse to debunk because we can’t believe that the US has very effectively brainwashed us in its agenda to remain as the world’s sole hegemon? Don’t they notice that no other country in Asia and in the world, has adopted such a belligerent stance against China, and over the Spratlys that has been in dispute even before World War 1?

I do hope President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. changes his foreign policy: It will be not just the biggest mistake of his presidency, but our country’s most colossally destructive policy ever, blocking our growth and even worsening poverty. The only reason I can think of for him  not to realize how grossly, obviously wrong his present policy is, is if the US has some kind of secret, terrible hold over him.

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This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Jesus Amaya

    China disregard Unclos ruling .Xi Jinping is not good.USA is good

  2. Nonoy

    For 6 years in President Duterte administration we are inspired by cooperation not confrontation. The aggressiveness of communist China during Duterte has not been changed still they are bullying Filipinos because for them they now a super power and the Philippines is weak. Communist China did not deliver of what they promise as economic cooperation for the Philippines. 90% of China funded projects did not happen during Duterte administration and also during BBM visit to China. 6 years is enough to stop cooperation with this authoritarian country led by president Xi Jinping they are not listening to what Filipinos are saying that they should respect the international law arbitral decision by UN-Unclos. Territorial integrity is not always done for cooperation because communist China is bullying us. There is always a time for cooperation and a time for confrontation.


      Guess the geopolitical orientation of the elite who have presided over the post-war Philippines for 50 years and you’ll find out what truly made us weak.

  3. Ly

    Nah don’t mind China, in 20-30 years China will go down 👎👎👎

  4. Andrew J Prevost

    Don’t read too much into this Vietnamese – Chinese detente, and also remember that these are two communist nations with cultural similarities despite their long standing rivalries. Vietnam is hedging it’s bets, also drawing much closer to the US.

    It is also looking towards it’s ASEAN partners I developing more counterweight to China, such as Malaysia, and yes, the Philippines. China uses it’s foreign investment and so called belt and road initiative as a way to conjole and hopefully ultimate control smaller nations because it has no understanding of true cooperation between nations. Beware of too much Chinese investment if you are not a country on a more equal economic and technological footing with China. China will look to take advantage otherwise and elicit dependence.

    As for negotiation with China, the Philippines has tried, but the fact is that the Chinese have utter contempt for the Philippines and Filipinos. They view them with disdain and as inferior racially and intellectually. Their public statements and actions in the South China Sea have shown this repeatedly, but even more so their dealings economically and developmentally inside of the Philippines. Japan builds something in the Philippines and it instructs and trains Philippine engineers and workers building more than just a project, but positioning the Philippines for a better self controlled future. The US does the same, less so these days on the civil infrastructure front, but most certainly in terms of military readiness and facilities upgrades, along with scientific and medical assistance that helps develop Philippine capabilities, and in disaster relief operations. China wants to bring in its own workers for proposed projects because it doesn’t trust the skill level of Filipinos, and has done little to help with natural disasters despite it’s closer proximity to the Philippines. Even during COVID-19 they were slow to respond, secretive and while they did ultimately supply many doses of vaccine, their vaccines were substandard as compared to the US and UK vaccines. Nobody in the Philippines was rushing to Sinovac, but many were anxious to get Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZenica, and boosters were made readily available for those vaccines.

    I’m not saying that the Philippines shouldn’t be trying to negotiate and even work with China in areas where it’s mutually beneficial, but they must do that from a position of strength. China has no respect for the Philippines and Filipinos, so the Philippines needs to show China it means business otherwise any diplomatic overtures will totally one sided in favor of the Chinese or rebuffed outright. The Duterte administration tried to appease the Chinese and what did it get the Philippines? More disdain from the Chinese leadership. Duterte’s hat in hand, cowering to the bully approach had the Chinese laughing behind his back, and only reinforced their misguided perceptions of Filipinos. China offered loans with Chinese favorable terms, and infrastructure projects that never fully materialized, or failed to bring any prosperity to Philippine labor.

    I agree that cutting off relations with China is absolutely insane, but do you really believe that the Marcos administration would even consider that, much less do it? Short of Chinese military action against the Philippines that won’t ever happen. What Marcos is doing is trying to reestablish a strong base for future negotiations by building up Philippine capabilities and making connections and partnerships with multiple nations, not just the US. He intends to prove to China that they are sorely mistaken in their estimations of this country and its people, and show them.that dispute the power differential between the two nations, the Philippines will not cower before them.

    China is a participant in UNCLOS and it knows full well that it is violating Philippine rights and sovereignty under the treaty. The reason they refused to participate in the arbitration is because they knew they had no case, and despite their insistence that the the International Court of Arbitration ruling is invalid, they also know that they are bound by it as signatories to the UNCLOS. As long as the Philippines refuses to back down eventually China will see the light. It can’t escape them that the Philippines is gaining more and more supporters for its position, while China doesn’t have a single supporter that directly denies the Philippines claim to the West Philippine Sea. The WPS is only compromised of the Philippines’ EEZ of 200 nm, and the closest legitimate Chinese land form, Hainan, it more than 600 km distant at the closest point, well outside any right to claim EEZ rights under UNCLOS. China is hoping that it’s stick and carrot approach (mostly stick concerning the Philippines) will dissuade other claimants and the ASEAN and eventually they’ll gain full control of the SCS by default. That can’t and won’t happen.

    President Marcos and the Philippines aren’t missing the boat, rather they are leading the way. Other nations like Vietnam may be biding their time, but perhaps they’re just waiting to see the results of the Philippines’ approach. In any case, President Marcos is absolutely correct. You can’t negotiate effectively with a bully by backing down and giving him what he wants. That merely encourages more bullying. He also knows the the Chinese respect strength and despise weakness. Some politicians in Congress may be stupid or mere overenthusiastic cheerleaders for this approach, but that doesn’t diminish its validity. The Philippines is giving China the same stick and carrot approach that China employs in it’s dealings because China is not a consensus builder that knows how to lead, nor does it respect non-chinese culture of almost any kind. The Philippines tried the carrot and no stick approach and it failed miserably. It emboldened China as we’ve seen over the last few years. Putting the stick first is the only way to get the Chinese to taste the carrot.

    1. Cristine grace Espirituoso

      Thank you very much sir Andrew J Prevost for countering what regoberto tiglao is saying he is only talking one sided views. Not saying anything good about america and our president BBM. What i see in this person is that he thinks he can become a purok president in a district he wants if china wins.i believe thats not gonna happen..thank you sir andrew j prevost.

    2. River Dweller

      Ha ha.

      People have things to say about your “safe and effective” shots.

      1. Dian tano

        America is the world’s GREATEST LIAR AND MURDERER.


        The mere fact that western nations are here, is a testament of veiled colonial presence.

        Kishore, Mearsheimer’discourses have fell on deaf ears.

        Tell me, does America have a culture? It seems that America seems to do is SOW FALSE NARRATIVES AND SELL WEAPONS to countries who are embroiled in a geopolitical conflict.

        IF you are an American, tell us, DO YOU HAVE AN OPINION WHICH SHOULD MATTER?? OR your opinion is based on what the AMERICAN MILITARY MIGHT DO???

  5. Dorina S. Rojas

    This is embarrassing but our leaders have to do all embarrassing and stupid things or Uncle Sam will demonize all of us. Never mind if we lose China as our trade partner, US will fill our supermarket shelves with their goods while we drool on empty pockets and Vietnam stops exporting rice to us and we turn to Thailand and India and beg them to feed us. Meanwhile, our soldiers play cat and mouse in WPS while screaming at US for help.

  6. Juan-les-Pins

    Have you seen the asinine drivel Gaydarian has been posting all over Twitter? He’s butthurt that Vietnam opts for cooperation, not confrontation.

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