Marimar diplomacy (aw!) versus megaphone warfare

Published May 15, 2021, 12:14 AM

by Rj Nieto

THINKING PINOY

RJ Nieto
RJ Nieto

Unlike many political personalities today, I have always taken the pro-diplomacy stance regarding the South China Sea issue. And when I say pro-diplomacy, I mean honest-to-goodness diplomacy, not the antagonistic and oxymoronic “megaphone diplomacy” that opposition senator and Liberal Party stalwart Franklin Drilon espouses.

Diplomacy is finding common ground between two competing interests to avoid violence, it is the peaceful resolution of conflict. I don’t know about you but shaming a neighbor with a megaphone hardly qualifies as peaceful.

I agree with Justice Antonio Carpio when he says that we still have a long way to go before the dispute escalates into a shooting war between China and the Philippines. But just because a shooting war is far off doesn’t mean everything’s fine.

In as far as this international dispute, Justice Carpio is committing an injustice with his dishonesty, if not his naïvete. But Carpio isn’t naive, so he’s just plain dishonest.

In the “Art of War,” Chinese general and military strategist Sun Tzu wrote that the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.

China can easily do that to the Philippines. China can crush us even before the first gun is fired, and let me give you one good example.

According to the Philippine Board of Investments (boi.gov.ph), “China is the Philippines’ top trading partner, export market destination, and import source in 2019” and bilateral trade is almost “$50 billion, growing at an average of 17% in the last five years.”

Beijing has the option to declare a trade war should the territorial dispute escalate, so Filipinos can lose not only our biggest foreign customer, but also our primary source of affordable consumer goods. With a trade war, we can expect more expensive imports due to (1) a weakened peso resulting from reduced sources of foreign currency reserves and (2) an inaccessible source of inexpensive imports, and that’s just to name two.

Moreover, government data shows that our GDP shrank for five consecutive quarters and counting, with the latest being a 4.2% contraction in Q1 2021, marking our most prolonged recession since the mid-1980s. China, meanwhile, is showing signs of a significant rebound as it registered a whopping 18.3% growth in Q1 2021. Adding the fact that the Chinese economy dwarfs that of the Philippines by leaps and bounds, China can wage a trade war with very minimal recoil.

Again, I agree with Justice Carpio that a shooting war is still far off, but China doesn’t need bullets and bombs to destroy us when a barrage of economic sanctions is enough to bring us to our knees, if not our graves. Have you already forgotten about the 2012 China-Philippines “Banana War?” That’s just bananas, and we export more than just bananas to China.

And what will Drilon’s “megaphone diplomacy” do aside from further escalating tensions? What is megaphone diplomacy but a euphemism for a cold war where saliva is our only weapon while China can choose from a wide range of options within its economic arsenal, options that will directly hit the common tao?

Drilon’s megaphone warfare will do us more harm than good.

The Philippine situation is not very different from that of Marimar in the 1990s Mexican novela of the same name.

Marimar is a poor young girl who married into the wealthy Santibáñez Family despite the disapproval of Santibáñez matriarch Señora Angelica, who abused Marimar to no end. It was only some years later, when the miserable Marimar gained wealth as Bella Aldama, that she could strike back at Señora.

Power responds only to power, and the asymmetrical power relationship between Marimar and Señora is just like that between the Philippines and China. However, instead of letting the Philippines transform into a Bella Aldama first, Drilon and Carpio want us to exact revenge on Señora right away, when all we have is our cute dog Pulgoso.

Today’s Philippines is still a Marimar who, to have a real shot at defeating Señora, needs to become a Bella Aldama first. We are not a Bella Aldama yet.

Of course, this need not mean that we’ll wage war with China someday. If bilateral relations improve while we’re in the process of transitioning into a Bella Aldama, such a violent military or economic confrontation need not occur.

Despite their advanced age that’s commonly associated with wisdom, Drilon and Carpio, fail to realize or worse, refuse to acknowledge that fact. They’re decades ahead of me, yet it appears that they lack the prudence and temperance that is expected of people their age.

Today’s Drilon and Carpio, by suggesting a premature course of action,  are leading us Filipinos off a cliff.

No, we should all learn how to bide our time.

After all, good things come to those who wait, and catastrophes to those who can’t: just look at Carpio’s and Drilon’s political careers.

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