Thursday, June 24, 2021

Editorial: Bully-proof economy

UP IN arms with strong words, thus enter the scene the Philippine business communities. This week, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) joins the Management Association of the Philippines, the Makati Business Club (MBC), the Filipina CEO Circle, the Judicial Reform Initiative, Cebu Business Club, Iloilo Business Club Inc., and the Bishops-Businessman’s Conference for Human Development in a statement urging China to “refrain from becoming an imperial power.”

The PCCI is the largest business group in the country, mostly comprised of small and medium companies engaged in manufacturing, processing and distribution, the driving forces of the Philippine economy. The groups’ officials said the statement was borne out of talks among them following a perceived aggression by China in deploying over 200 militia ships at the Julian Felipe Reef, a subject of persistent demarches now by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs. The coalition finds it important to issue the statement now to support Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and other officials who are defending Philippine sovereignty.

In their joint statement, the business groups quoted Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s speech to the United Nations in 1974: “If one day China should change her color and turn into a superpower, if she should play the tyrant in the world and everywhere subject others to her bullying, aggression and exploitation, the people of the world should expose it, oppose it and work together with the Chinese people to overthrow it.”

The Philippine economy had a headstart and continues to survive despite regional crisis for decades now for reasons of its diversity -- remittances, tourism, exports, business process outsourcing to and from many countries. For the longest time, it has been how it has buffered itself from the volatility of world markets.

While at this, a two-headed beast seems to loom around the corner. There is an unsavory parallel between Chinese aggression over the West Philippine Sea and its contrastingly affable ways with pushing for business partnerships with the Philippines.

China Telecom invests more than P240 billion in Dito Telecommunity, and the Panghua Group puts in P168 billion to build a steel manufacturing firm.

Manila and Beijing have been persistently pushing its synergy for the “Belt and Road Initiative” and the “Build Build Build” program. Big dreams, yes, super-structures that will be built in partnership with a country that, at the drop of hat, disrespects the Philippine victory at the Hague, which supposedly fortified our Exclusive Economic Zone, by blotting it out with its Nine-Dash Line narrative. As Sun Tzu’s Art of War says, “All warfare is deception.”

If the Philippine economy heads toward heavy dependence on China, it could be feeding itself into the dragon’s mouth. Again, as Sun Tzu says, “Therefore a skillfull leader subdues the enemy’s troops without any fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field.”

This is precisely how the recent statement of our business community packs massive significance. If Chinese aggression continues, this community can decide to pivot business decisions to favor alternatives apart from China to concretize its recent word.

We hope though the statement doesn’t come off as empty threats on the ground as they go about their daily business.

Our strength in asserting sovereignty at the WPS relies on the help from many fronts, from the international community’s help to, yes, our business leaders’ initiatives. As the Chinese leader Deng advised, Chinese bullying, aggression and exploitation must be exposed.


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