PART 1 of 2
In the aftermath of the recent award (or ruling) by the U.N. Permanent Court of Arbitration on the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea, new opportunities in our foreign relations have opened up which might lead to win-win solutions for the Philippines, China, U.S. and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
Before getting into the national events and international developments of the past week, however, particularly the National Security Council meeting convened by President Rodrigo R. Duterte last 27 July, and the visit of U.S. Secretary of State at Malacañang earlier that same day, allow us to revisit the “Joint Celebration of the 36th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations, and the 10th Friendship Day Between the Philippines and China” at the PICC last 09 June 2011. On that important occasion, China’s distinguished Ambassador Liu Jianchao and FVR were the two keynote speakers.
For his part, FVR asserted: “Against the background of the ancient relations between our two countries – china, a continental civilization of great antiquity, and the other, our strategically-positioned Philippine archipelago alongside the Asian mainland. This is an important episode in the collective life of close neighbors, who are also distant relatives.”
China’s ancient supremacy. “China’s empire reached its acme in the 15th century under the Ming Dynasty because of its supremacy in education, invention, manufacturing, diplomacy, and maritime outreach.
The question –“Did China or Spain discover the Philippines?” emanates from China’s dominance of Asia-Pacific commerce and politics at that time. To this day, the historical debate continues about which empire first discovered the scattered islands of the Philippine archipelago.
China Daily reported on 08 July 2004, “The famous Chinese Admiral Zheng circumnavigated the globe many years before the European explorers Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan did.”
During the Ramos Presidency, a historical and archeological book entitled — The Pearl Road — was published early in 1998 as part of the ‘Centennial Series’ of publications to highlight the observance of the 100th year of Philippine Independence from Spain.
The book recorded in detail an exceptional archeological discovery in June 1993 in Palawan, Philippines, thus: “The wreck of a 15th century Chinese junk yielded thousands of artifacts including jars, ceramics, and coins (bearing date 1414 that coincided with the time frame of Zheng. His expedition to our part of the globe), revealing a wealth of information about years of commercial and cultural interactions between the people of this country and their Chinese neighbors long before the Europeans came.”
Therefore, “these Findings, which are now prominently displayed in our national museum, provide concrete evidence that it was the Chinese – not the Europeans – who first discovered the Philippines…”
“The third Ming Emperor, Yong Le, needed to prove his fitness for the throne. In May 1403, he ordered 300-plus ocean going vessels to be built in the provinces of Fujian, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Hunan, and Guangdong. From 1405 to 1433, under Admiral Zheng He, seven large naval expeditions, some carrying as many as 28,000 soldiers, sailed throughout the world’s oceans.”
The Pearl Road states that robust trade had been present throughout Southeast Asia for some 2,000 years, and ancient Chinese texts already mentioned our archipelago.
The treasure ships of Zheng sailed forth as worthy ambassadors of the Dragon Throne bearing precious silk and porcelain. The ships, however, did not only establish pioneering trade routes in the Orient. They also opened the doors to new cultural influences in Southeast Asia. Thus, as early as 600 years ago, covering the entire Asian world, The Pearl Road already led to the Philippines.
In our islands, the precious gems of the sea were abundant. Indeed, accounts about pearls as trade items accumulated for as long as Chinese traders had been sailing down the Pearl Road in search of precious gems. This led them to Philippine waters, which both then and now are regarded as the world’s largest prolific harvesting ground for pearls of extraordinary size and beauty.
“Thus, various trade networks ran from China through the warm waters of this ‘Southern Ocean’ reaching principal ports as far away as the Bay of Bengal, the Gulf of Thailand, the Malacca Straits, the Java Sea, and the Sulu Sultanate. From these ports, Chinese junks sailed along the seasonal winds – outward with the northeast monsoon and homeward with the southwest. They exchanged the silks and porcelains of China for the sea-and-forest products of Southeast Asia.”
A future world without great-power wars. The long tradition of friendship between the Philippines and China, and the continuing expansion of our diplomatic and commercial exchanges will carry us safely beyond present-day tensions towards closer neighborliness, and our mutual and harmonious development as well.
Both Beijing and Manila realize fully well our mutual need to preserve the continuous condition of stability that has made East Asia the world’s fastest growing region. And so does Washington, D.C.
We believe that global interdependence, technology, and the emerging power balance offer us the possibility of a future world without great power wars.
We believe that science, globalization, and people empowerment — plus the assertion of ordinary people of their political and human rights — are making wasteful and obsolete any future wars among the great powers. Increasingly, all our nations are linking their economies and politics with that of the modern, interdependent international community.
The distribution of power in the world is changing undeniably, and in a basic way. The center of global gravity is moving away from the Atlantic – where it has been for the last 150 years – and shifting to the Pacific Ocean.
And it is doing so, not so much because the West is weakening, either economically or militarily – but because other power centers are rising in relative strength – in Asia, in Latin America, and in Africa.
“Since the most highly populated and most economically weighty of these stakeholders in the international system are Asian – particularly China, Japan, India, and Asean – the center of global gravity is moving eastward. By 2025, it is calculated that Asia is projected to be the home of three of the world’s largest economies. By then, China, India, and Japan will be sharing top honors with the U.S. and European Union.”
Respecting the diversity of civilizations. The global community of the future should be a harmonious concert of civilizations – meaning all our nations must learn to live by the rule of law and their international commitments.
Asian leaders have emphasized that we all need to respect the diversity of cultures and to translate the immense potentials of Asia into a driving force for increased mutual understanding, higher levels of cooperation, and even more dynamic progress.
We need to transform our patterns of development and strive for balanced development; share opportunities; avoid conflicts; fight terrorism jointly; and meet challenges together.
We must seek common ground based on mutual trust, mutual benefit, and unforced equality by shelving our differences and by enhancing regional security.
Then, too, we must also adhere to open regionalism, respect the interests of countries outside the region, and welcome their participation in the East Asian process of integration.
At the Boao Forum for Asia last 15 April 2011 (in which FVR participated), President Hu Jintao asserted, “Peace and development remain the overriding themes of the times. The world needs peace, countries deserve development, and people want cooperation…”
“China’s neighbors, the Philippines included, must take seriously this unequivocal commitment to peace and development by President Hu, and hope that it will be respected by future Chinese leaders and other statesmen elsewhere.”
Philippine-Chinese Relations: focus on the positives. Bilaterally, we Filipinos need to fully tap into China’s fast-moving economy. Among other opportunities, we should cooperate in dealing with the global food shortages and food price inflation that the experts anticipate in the near future. Chinese capital and expertise can certainly help us cultivate our vast agricultural and aquatic farms.
As we know, China is racing ahead of everyone else in the race to develop clean and renewable energy. Already, it is the world’s largest maker of wind turbines and a leader in solar panel technology. Chinese expertise can also help us harness more of our geothermal resources.
Given its tremendous foreign exchange reserves, Beijing should be a prime source of official development assistance for the countries of Southeast Asia as well as soft loans for public utilities and other infrastructures.
New opportunities opening before China and the Philippines through wider socio-economic, tourism, and people-to-people exchanges now beckon at the start of the Duterte Administration! Also, soon to come are U.S.-China-Asean expansions – according to the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, on 27 July 2016 in Manila.
Kaya Natin Ito!
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