The Asian Voice

Is the Philippines a Chinese province?: Inquirer columnist

In his article, the writer says shares his concerns about the direction that Philippine-China ties are taking.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (right) welcoming Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Malacanang Palace in Manila on Nov 15, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Partisanship is a state I wish to avoid and have been trying to do so for many years.

Of course, I have not been always successful, but I keep trying and I transcend it most of the time now. Because I want to keep objectivity in the center of how I form my understanding, it becomes primordial that I can hold tendencies to be partisan at an arm's length. I have never seen anyone remain objective when he or she has turned partisan, and I mean never.

To try to be objective and fair demands not only determination but constant awareness. It is so easy to slide into partisanship without realising it. It is just as easy to cover one's partisanship with logic, so to speak, logic based on one's point of view. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as only one's point of view. Everybody is coming from a particular time and place which does not make reality only one point of view.

So let me look at Scarborough Shoal and Benham Rise, including other islands being claimed by several countries in Asia and a few already hosting infrastructure built by China without anyone's permission.

The Chinese government always claims it does not need permission because these territories belong to them in the first place. In fact, it is everybody else that needs to ask permission from them even to approach these places.

Countries are bounded by water, from islets that disappear during high tide to continents that host billions of people.

The global community has evolved over time a system of recognising a country's right over the waters nearest to it.

To nations that are comprised of islands like the Philippines, the global system accepts the islands have sovereign rights over those waters.

If this system is not honoured, then the Philippines can soon be a province of China.

China can claim the seas and oceans around the Philippines, and it does. It can use superior force and resources to change boundaries and assert control.

What slows China down is that we are not fighting back and it does not have to go to war, only frighten us with the thoughts of war.

I am a Filipino native, born and bred in the Motherland - the Philippine Islands. I am quite partisan about my loyalty to my country. That partisanship does not make me very objective about loving our land and waters surrounding it. But it does not make me blind either.

I am one who sincerely believes that one's land and waters around it, unless one's country is totally land-locked, are the primary manifestations of any motherland.

It is not citizenship that is the first qualifier of being a son or daughter of a motherland, it is the fact that one is born within its territory. Citizenship is a status or title that is given by a legal process, but birth precedes it.

As a native son of the Philippines, I am deeply bothered and resentful of the China incursions into our territory and the waters around it.

After all, an island is not an island without being within waters, and there will be no Philippine Islands without Philippine waters.

Apparently, in spite of my being quite partisan about being a Filipino in a moment when the very essence of our nation - our land and waters - is being compromised and physically threatened by a superior force, I am not alone in my views about what comprises our nation.

Apparently, most of the other nations in the world see it the way I do.

Ask UNCLOS why it decided in our favour when we brought before it the contentious case of the Scarborough Shoal.

My partisanship does not change the practical in me. I know that China has a population many times ours, and a military that may be the largest in the world. Going against China in an armed conflict is tantamount to committing suicide.

I am sure that President Duterte as President Benigno 'PNoy' Aquino before him would not wish to be the one that would lead our people to their massacre. No matter how different their responses may be, I know both can see how China has all the advantages.

I cannot even bring myself to hate the Chinese people. How does one hate a race whose blood runs in his veins and in the veins of tens of millions of other Filipinos? It is entirely possible that the majority of Filipinos have some Chinese blood in them.

But the mindset and aggressiveness of the Chinese government make me realise that we must make a fundamental choice, not of holding on to the unitary presidential form of government or shifting to federalism, but of staying a Filipino nation or ultimately resign to being a province of China.

Because not protecting our territorial boundaries simply allows our independence as a nation to be slowly but surely surrendered to another power.

Our territorial boundaries do not only determine the size of our land and the waters that surround it but our very identity itself.

There are no Filipinos if there are no Philippine Islands. Before our leaders make us debate what form of government we want, they must decide whether they believe in our right to be an independent nation. That is the most fundamental question of all. When we concede our right to China, even if that concession is because of China's superior size and power, we concede our right to be Filipinos.

I am but one Filipino among a hundred million. I have always believed we are one free and distinct people who have arisen from our land of birth.

This is my sentiment, not borne from hate but from a deep love of the Motherland. My Motherland is not China, it is the Philippine Islands. I simply know my identity is derived from boundaries, the boundaries of our islands and our seas. When boundaries become blurred, so do our identity.

The writer is a regular columnist with the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The paper is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.