By JOHN TRIA
The lamentable stance of many of Manila’s intellectuals against the Chinese due to the South China Sea maritime dispute, and a proposed ban on the entry of foreign workers by a reelectionist senator only fans prejudice, and invites reprisals and counter-prejudice against our own workers and migrants on foreign shores.
Imagine the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos working in China in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. All of these territories also have positions that counter our own in the South China Sea issue. Likewise, these combined economies constitute our biggest trading partner, as almost a third of our trade is with them.
Taiwan is a curious case since, despite heavy backing from Washington, its official position disagrees with that of the Philippines in the International Arbitral Tribunal on the South China Sea, since Taiwan claims the Spratlys and even sends its own ships to patrol it.
Another false belief of some of Manila’s intellectuals is that other claimant countries in the SCS can be rallied against China to support the Philippine position. Hello? They have claims against our own. Feel free to read up on them. We wonder why their “intrusions” are not reported in media?
The deeper backdrop is that our growth over the last ten years is linked closely to our Asian neighbors with whom we have competing claims in the South China Sea, as our businesses depend heavily on inputs we import from them, while they have become a growing market for our own exports, and have sent millions of tourists over the last two years.
Our trade relations within Asian have grown faster than those with the west. Go ahead and check our tourist and trade statistics.
Realizing this forces us to pause and rethink our prejudices and see the strategic implications of our positions, that is, their long-term impact on us, our economic development, rather then short-term tit for tat.
This kind of myopic, knee-jerk policy muckracking is disastrous if you cannot contain the aftermath. Worse, it promotes a false sense of superiority and allows intrusive political and cultural agendas that may benefit from conflict.
Worse, the ethnocentric trash talk spawned by this prejudice builds bigotry against those who are different, something that should have been stamped out after 30 years of EDSA. In short, if you can’t think like me, you are wrong.
As Mindanaoans we understand how this prejudice has affected us, having endured decades of neglect by way of smaller than proper government budgets and pushing a top-down approach in dealing with its adversaries, blind to the larger realities that lie beyond surface facts with politically expedient solutions that do little to advance our collective interest for peace and development, and instead, prolonged conflict and exacerbated poverty, while Metro Manila and its neighboring regions now have the GDP of Thailand.
Thus, examining the fluid nature of geopolitics, our position on these EEZs should hew closely to the spirit of UNCLOS itself: encouraging cooperation rather than conflict.
Diplomatically, it is never wise to premise your relations on the one conflict, while negating ten other areas of cooperation.
We have had the conflicts with neighboring states over the last 50 years, yet our relations have remained mutually beneficial. Only the myopic muckrackers would like you to forget that.
On a deeper level, we all need to check ourselves for unfair prejudice. Cultivating hatred serves no purpose but hatred and strife, which are sure barriers to peace, development and growth.
Youth events inspire hope
Kudos to major events held in Davao City that will inspire young people to take action. The CFC Youth for Christ International Conference drew almost 7,000 delegates from all over the world. It began with immersions to outlying and urban communities examining the grassroorts initiatives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Davao.
Another initiative is that of ENACTUS, which inspires entrepreneurship among college students and allows them to network with their peers.
We look forward to the Palarong Pambansa to be hosted in the brand-new sports complex inside the university of the Philippines Mindanao campus.
May all of these events inspire hope and a sense of collective vision among young people.
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