Home / Editorial / Averting ‘vortex of war’ sound policy approach

Averting ‘vortex of war’ sound policy approach

This photo provided by the Philippine Coast Guard shows ships of the Chinese and Philippine Coast Guards next to each other. PHOTO FROM THE PCG

This photo provided by the Philippine Coast Guard shows ships of the Chinese and Philippine Coast Guards next to each other. PHOTO FROM THE PCG

WE welcome President Rodrigo Duterte's upcoming talks with China in order to avoid the “vortex of war” that has descended on Ukraine after it was invaded by Russia. Open dialogue not only articulates Philippine foreign policy on China, but may also recast this country as a peacemaker in the region with regard to, among other things, Taiwan.

For the Philippines, keeping the peace with China is good. Sino-Philippine relations have been friendly for centuries until later in the Cold War. Back then, the Philippines sided with the United States in its campaign to contain communism worldwide. And when the US normalized relations with China, the Philippines also recognized the government in Beijing as the legitimate ruler of what was referred to long ago as the Middle Kingdom.

Of course, the spotlight in recent years has been on the disputed territories issue in the South China Sea, referred to by Filipinos as the West Philippine Sea (WPS). China claims nearly all of that maritime area while the Philippines, along with Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, disagrees.

With public attention drawn to narrow issues, some were distracted from the other dimensions of Sino-Philippine relations that have been working well. For instance, China has become a top trade and investment partner of the Philippines as well as of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or Asean.

During the pandemic, China was the first country to supply the Philippines with Covid-19 vaccines. In fact, there are many other examples showing that good bilateral relations actually exist. In other words, the disputed territories issue alone does not define this country's relations with China.

Crossing lines

Over the years, people worried that escalating tensions in the WPS might lead to a hot war. And this election season, some political figures ramped up their rhetoric against China.

Hopefully, though, the horrors of war in Ukraine have sobered up the tough-talking hawks here and elsewhere. They should have been unsettled by the possibility that the fighting could escalate into a nuclear conflict with Russia reportedly becoming frustrated and desperate after suffering military setbacks in Ukraine.

The prospect of Armageddon had people recalling Albert Einstein, who famously said, “I know not with what weapons World War 3 will be fought, but World War 4 will be fought with sticks and stones.”

Mr. Duterte may be thinking along those lines when he said that he hoped to avoid the conflict in Eastern Europe from spilling over to this part of the world.

China, of course, is allied with Russia. And like Russia, China argues that it owns territories that it either does not occupy or are claimed by other countries. China's claims are summarized by what is referred to as the “nine-dash line,” and it considers Taiwan a renegade province that belongs to the mainland.

Undoubtedly, these are complex issues. But in a moment of clarity, Russia's attack on Ukraine may have shown some leaders the consequences of crossing lines whether they be dashed or solid. With the economic repercussions of military options felt worldwide, there may be renewed appreciation for peace and diplomatic alternatives.

Returning to Southeast Asia, some have been afraid that the Philippines would drag the US into a war with China. While still in office, Mr. Duterte could begin leveraging the country's long and historical ties with both China and the United States to maintain peace and stability in the region.

Taiwan, for its part, may have drawn less attention than the WPS locally, but we should remember that it is our closest neighbor. Luzon's northern tip is closer to Kaohsiung City in southern Taiwan than to Manila. The Philippines may follow a One China Policy, but families here depend on some 160,000 workers and other Filipinos living in Taiwan.

The Philippines has no personality in the cross-strait relations between China and Taiwan, which is backed militarily by the US. But as Mr. Duterte suggested, the Philippines will be affected if fighting erupts.

As such, peace is a strategic interest for the Philippines. And when Mr. Duterte meets Chinese President Xi Jinping, he may want to try to convince China to see things the same way.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

Check Also

ARTA’s efforts to promote ease of doing business, efficient public service spur economic progress

In 2018, Congress passed Republic Act No. 11032, An Act Promoting the Ease of Doing …