On June 9, 1975, President Ferdinand Marcos signed with Chinese Premier Chou En Lai the joint communiqué wherein we embraced the One-China policy. While they were toasting each other over maotai, Ninoy Aquino was in prison. Barely a month earlier, he had just ended a 40-day hunger strike to protest his trial before a military tribunal. He had instructed his lawyers to withdraw all motions pending before the Supreme Court, and he had to be forcibly dragged by soldiers into the military courtroom for his trial.
What a difference 36 years can make. Today Ninoy’s son is President of the Republic, and is the guest of the Chinese government. Then the Chinese were die-hard communists and Marcos’ aim was to neutralize their open support for the Maoist rebels in the countryside. Today the Chinese are capitalists and only the local rebels still believe in Chairman Mao, and Mr. Aquino’s aim is to increase Chinese investments in the Philippines and lessen the tensions in the Spratlys.
Those two goals entail radically different strategies. We must distinguish when a Chinese policy statement is directed at us and when it is directed to someone else. On economic matters, say the Chinese hunger for our vast mineral deposits, China is talking to us and indeed needs to talk to the native lords, both elite and mass-based, who hold the levers of access to local mining. But on political matters, China might actually be talking to a global audience, chief among them the United States, to demonstrate how far China will go to advance its interests.
China’s interest in our mines is a mixed blessing. In one sense, we can have them eating off our hand. China’s search for mineral deposits has taken it to places as far and as alien to them as Africa. Whatever they extract they have to ship across several oceans just to bring them to China’s shores. We, on the other hand, are right across China’s eastern coast, and in a land where Chinese engineers will live in what is at least a more familiar culture. This alone should yield significant savings in transport and managerial costs.
But the fly in the ointment is the environmental risk—not because we are dealing with mining but because we are dealing with China, a country whose environmental record is, to say the least, far from exemplary.
Read more at Philippine Daily Inquirer