Why Filipinos will always choose the US over China?
By ATTY. MEL STA. MARIA
The Duterte administration has accorded China a most favorable treatment. For example, at the expense of further strengthening our West Philippine Sea (WPS) sovereign rights, the government is soft, if not dismayingly remiss, in enforcing the comprehensive WPS international decision in our favor against China. Instead, a number of onerous contracts were entered which, to a number of observers, weaken our WPS territorial gains decreed by the judgment. In 2017, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi buttered up this relationship by saying that the Philippines and China have started a "golden period of development" --- a characterization unflinchingly embraced by the Duterte administration
Even Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Bin Mohamad warned our government of the China debt-trap diplomacy which victimized many countries like Kenya, Sri Lanka, Laos, and other African and Asian countries. Strategic national facilities, like the Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka, were taken over by China to assure recovery of billions of dollars of loaned money. The Philippines may be the next one.
It has also been reported that about 3 million Chinese have entered our country since 2016. Many are illegally working. The number is still growing to the prejudice of our Filipino laborers.
From all indications, the Duterte administration desires the Filipino people to love China more than any other country , especially our long-time ally, the United States of America (USA). As if to highlight this point, President Duterte even ingratiatingly declared, "I simply love Xi Jinping" last April, 2018.
But loving China more than the US will never happen. The latest Pulse Asia survey showed that 84% of Filipinos trust the US more than any other country. And as to China, 60% of the Filipinos do not want to give much trust to it. It will take a miracle to reverse this predilection.
And why is this so? While being formerly a US commonwealth and having been great allies during the great wars are the traditional reasons for the strong bond between the US and the Philippines, today, they do not involve legal and geo-political-balance-of-power considerations. Rather, the cause is highly personal, emotional, and simply familial.
During my Boston visit, an Irish-American friend Al La Rocque and his wife Zeny Rodriguez La Roque (daughter of the late Ernesto R. Rodriguez, Jr., one of our most respected journalists, author of "The Bad Guerrillas of Northern Luzon" and co-founder of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines) welcomed me to stay in their home. In discussing Philippines and US relations, Al and I agreed that, now, the close link between US and Filipinos is largely because of millions of Filipinos having friends and relatives in the US.
And relatives are not limited to direct and collateral ones but also include extended family-members reaching the fifth, sixth, and even perhaps up to the tenth civil degrees of consanguinity and affinity.
Just think about this -- there are nearly 4,000,000 Filipino-Americans now in the US. That number is increasing unabatedly. Additionally, based on the data from the US Census Bureau 2010 and 2016 American Community Survey, from 501,000 Filipino immigrants in 1980, they grew significantly to around 1,942,000 in 2016. It has also been reported that Filipino immigrants have the greatest chance to be naturalized US citizens of all other immigrant groups in the US.
The "balikbayan" box is symbolic of this emotional connection. Every year, hundreds are sent from the US to the Philippines for gifts and assistance, all expressions of love and caring.
And when it comes to caring, it's best career-manifestation is in health-service. US hospitals employ many Filipino nurses such that, in the 2017 70th Emmy Awards, host Michael Che, commenting about ethnic diversity in US television programs, facetiously said, "can you believe that they did 15 seasons of ER without one Filipino nurse?" The other host, Collin Jost, remarked, "that's crazy." Whereupon, Che, to amplify the ER's lack of verisimilitude, again queried: "Have you been to a hospital?"
It was a sardonic jokedirected against US entertainment but conveyed a remarkable truth about US-based Filipino nurses - and ,for that matter, Filipinos of other professions. The US benefits fromskilled and intelligent Filipinos as much as we benefit from US job opportunities.
The Philippine-US relationship, though not problemless, is, in large measure, caringly symbiotic. I cannot say that about China. Its approach is bullyish and manipulative against the Philippines. Sensing this and despite the Duterte administration's discordant efforts, many Filipinos will always choose the US over China.
Atty. Mel Sta. Maria