Beware the Chinese Trojan horse
Parliamentary visits, including media junkets, are meant to foster friendship and understanding. But visitors to China must be circumspect and wary they don’t fall under the spell of Beijing’s charm offensive. The delegation to China of 15 congresswomen led by Pangasinan Rep. Gina de Venecia is the latest of goodwill visits arranged by the Chinese embassy in Manila. The value of these visits has to be questioned in light of our territorial dispute in the South China Sea with Beijing. The problem of what caused the rift in our relations with China is glossed over with polite language in keeping with protocol on such occasions. Views and speeches are exchanged between hosts and visitors but the problem that divides us will remain long after the visitors return home.
Visitors should not be lulled into a false sense of security by China’s great wallpapering of the threat it poses in the region. There are also domestic problems visitors to China do not see such as the stifled dissent in the restive Xinjiang province. These visits to China at the host state’s expense is part of Beijing’s PR blitz to soften its bully image in the international stage. After these arranged visits, particularly media junkets, the visitors return home gushing with reports of China’s booming economy, and progressive governance but hardly any mention of how our giant neighbor across the pond has taken over nearly the entire South China Sea to the detriment of the region’s peace and stability.
After the lavish lauriats and exchange of speeches, do the visits of these Philippine delegations change Beijing’s aggression in the South China Sea.? Does it stop Chinese gunboats patrolling in Panatag and Pag-Asa from driving away Filipino fishermen of Zambales and Pangasinan (De Venecia’s province and constituency)? Does it deter Beijing from militarizing the South China Sea by reclaiming land and building garrisons with air strips and naval stations for its warships? Will it persuade China to accept a Hague arbitration tribunal jurisdiction and ruling on the Philippine case contesting the sweeping Chinese claim of the South China Sea?
Even US President Barack Obama, the leader of the world’s most powerful nation, could not sway China to back off on its bullying in the South China Sea. In his meeting with visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Washington, Obama raised the issue of freedom of navigation and the concerns of China’s smaller neighbors with overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea. All Obama got from Xi was an assertive “the South China Sea is ours since ancient times.” This, despite the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea giving countries with coastal lines a 200-mile exclusive economic zone. That’s how China, a signatory to UNCLOS, observes international laws.
So to our visitors to China, beware of the Chinese bearing gifts and empty words extolling our long, friendly ties. Times have changed. The Chinese are good, friendly people but the cabal calling the shots in Beijing covets the oil, gas and mineral under the ocean floor to fuel its war machine and the vast fishing grounds to feed its people. But what about our own fisher folk who are being driven away by Chinese gunboats in Baja Masinloc and the West Philippine Sea?
On matters of trade, China enjoys a $1.67-billion balance of trade in its favor. The Philippines exports total $8.03 billion while importing P9.7 billion worth of Chinese products—mostly manufactured goods, electronics, and heavy equipment, including the recent additional carriages for the ailing Metro Rail Transit.
Skycable billing all messed up
This isn’t the first time I have had to deal with Skycable’s mess-up billing department. Last week, I got a text message from a collection agency that I have to settle a long overdue account for a disconnection service of broadband service. Yes, Skycable charges customers for disconnection when you move to another place that Sky can’t provide broadband service such as Ayala’s condominium properties. This is because Ayala is the broadband service provider of Tattoo which is only allowed in its condo buildings.
So, okay, I paid the P1,000 plus disconnection charge which is a small price to pay otherwise Sky won’t install cable TV in my new place. I needed cable TV for the news reports to keep current my twice-a-week column in this newspaper. Although Ayala has Tattoo broadband, it does not have cable TV yet and so allows Skycable to operate in their condo sites.
Lopez-owned Skycable insisted I pay the broadband disconnection charge before it can install Skycable in my new condo unit. Payment was made to the guy who disconnected the broadband. I asked for a receipt which he issued. But somehow as what sometimes happens in the course of moving residences, the receipt got lost in transit which was in a box the movers must have thought were trash.
It is welcome news that Senator Serge Osmeña, who’s linked to the Lopezes through marriage, has proposed a bill to stop business establishments, including service providers, from harassing customers with unpaid or overdue bills. For the record, I still dutifully pay my monthly bill for Skycable TV which was why it came to my surprise that after more than six months I got this Skycable notice from its collection agency to settle my “long overdue account.”