“Next to the long-standing relationship with the United States, the Philippines’ most important foreign relationship will be that of China,” according to Ashley Acedillo, spokesman for presidential candidate Panfilo “Ping” Lacson.
Reiterating previous pronouncements of Sen. Lacson on the matter, Acedillo believes that to effectively deal with China on various fronts, foremost among them in the geopolitical and national security fronts, the Philippines must be “agile” and “pragmatic.”
“Agility” or to be agile means actively pursuing opportunities not only to monitor developments in areas of conflict with China, but also to improve the situation in our maritime domains to better position the country in any future discussion with the former. This also requires flexibility in our policy positions, lest we be hemmed in by ill-thought of or knee-jerk policy pronouncements – or worse still, “sound bites” – that either tend to limit our options, or confound the situation.
Related: Pagiging Maagap at Praktikal ang Susi sa Foreign Policy ng Bansa Laban sa China, Hindi Sound Bites – Lacson Spox
“Pragmatism” requires both our understanding of what China is and where it positions itself as well our understanding of what our capabilities are vis-à-vis how we can promote our national interest based on these capabilities. One pragmatic approach the Philippines can pursue are alliances – to “balance” against the economic heft and military might of China.
“Alliances do not necessarily mean entanglements, where our country’s foreign policy and national interest becomes subordinate to those of other countries. History has shown that fruitful and solid partnerships can be borne out of an alignment of the allied countries’ values and national interests. In the case of the Philippines and its current and potential alliance partners, these are the values of democratic governance, the rule of law, parity, and fairness,” noted Acedillo.
Acedillo further added that it will be naïve, and even dangerous, to think that our foreign relations with China can be compartmentalized – that our engagements with them in terms of trade and commerce, culture, and other non-political or non-security related matters can be divorced from our maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea.
“Remember that China is a country with a 3,000-year history and culture, with a very vivid memory of having a central place in the affairs of the world – hence its nickname ‘The Middle Kingdom’. The next President of the country must grapple with this reality, as well as the reality that China is waking up again to its status as a hegemonic giant.”
Acedillo believes that compounding this “China challenge” is the fact that China has a “President-for-life” in the person of Xi Jinping – one of the most powerful Chinese leaders since Mao Zedong to assume the position of head of the Chinese Communist Party and head of state. “The next President of the Philippines must be able to stand ‘toe-to-toe’ to someone like President Xi, not just in terms of experience, but also in terms of knowledge and instincts required of the job of a Chief Executive.”
“Senator Lacson, as President and Commander-in-Chief, can rely on thirty years of service as a soldier and a policeman (and eventually Police Chief), a stint in the Cabinet, and almost eighteen years as a veteran Senatorc – once called upon to craft the foreign policy of the country, and eventually to deal with China for the next six years,”Acedillo further added.
(Senator Lacson currently serves as the Chairman, Senate Committee on National Defense and Security).