Ex-DFA chief Del Rosario shares Clinton’s concern over China’s growing influence in PH

Published April 15, 2021, 3:25 PM

by Roy Mabasa

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario on Thursday concurred with the concern of former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the Philippines could become a ‘subject’ of China if it will not stand up to Beijing’s “duplicity and being a bully”.

Former DFA Secretary Albert Del Rosario (Photo from Philippine Embassy)

Del Rosario was reacting to the statement made by Clinton on Tuesday, stating that the Philippines – if left unchecked – would increasingly find itself unable to act without Beijing’s approval.

“In our opinion, Secretary Clinton is absolutely correct in expressing her fear that the Philippines could become a subject of China. To the last Filipino, under the leadership of (Foreign Affairs) Secretary (Teodoro) Locsin and (Defense) Secretary (Delfin) Lorenzana, we must finally stand up to Beijing’s duplicity and being a bully,” the former DFA secretary said.

Clinton was apparently referring to the close relationship forged by the Duterte administration with Beijing even after the Philippines had won its arbitration case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague against China’s excessive nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea. 

Since Duterte assumed office in 2016, China has provided the Philippines with loans mostly tied up to the Build, Build, Build program of the administration. China was also the first country to donate COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) vaccines to the Philippines.

“I worry about the Philippines becoming basically a subject of China through financial investments, through the buying of influence, through the undermining of institutions. I think that there’s a real danger that, left unchecked, the Philippines – no matter who the leader is – would find itself increasingly unable to act without Chinese approval. I don’t think that’s the kind of future that the Philippines would like,” Clinton said in a conversation with Filipino journalist Maria Ressa.

Despite the huge challenges posed by China’s aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea, Del Rosario remained optimistic that the Philippines would be able to overcome the situation by employing a “well-thought strategy”.

“With will power, a well thought out strategy, and unified action we can beat this Goliath,” he said. 

Early this week, Del Rosario called on the Philippine government to send China a demarche or a diplomatic course of action that is “direct, purposeful, and pointed” following the latest incursions of a huge number of Chinese vessels in and around Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea.