FAST FACTS: Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry
MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has started his October 18 to 21 visit to China as the Philippines continues its pivot to the Asian giant.
Duterte's trip is significant as it comes almost 3 months after an arbitral tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The ruling ended a 3-year process that was mostly snubbed by China. It turned ties between the two countries sour.
Duterte previously said there is a “proper time” to bring up the historic Hague ruling. On October 10, he emphasized he would not dwell on Scarborough Shoal during the visit, adding that anger will amount to nothing.
However, before departing for Brunei on Sunday, October 16, Duterte said the arbitration award will be taken up with Chinese officials but was not clear whether it would happen during the trip.
After all, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had said that Duterte’s visit to China will focus on trade and investments. In fact, a huge delegation made up of business people accompanied Duterte as the “signing of business contracts” is also expected to happen during the trip.
Over a hundred out of the at least 400 business leaders who will join Duterte, according to an Inquirer report, are from the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc (FFCCCII).
‘Inspired’ by President Ramon Magsaysay
FFCCCII’s birth in 1954 was “inspired” by then president Ramon Magsaysay, according to its website.
In 1953, after winning the presidential elections, Magsaysay met with leaders of Chinese communities in the Philippines after winning presidential elections and appealed that they form a “more compact association” to enhance the power of their support for the government.
The unprecedented appeal of the “idol of the masses” pushed leaders of existing Chinese commerce and trade associations to convene the Chinese Chambers of Commerce in the Philippines in March 1954 with Yu Khe Tai as founding president.
The organization was renamed twice: first to Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce as it was “more reflective of the citizenship of its actual members” and then to what it is now, FFCCCII, as it broadened range of participation in the national economy.
Its notable chairpersons include “sugar king” Antonio Roxas Chua, Philippine Bank of Communications’ Ralph Nubla, Asia Brewery and Philippine Airlines’ Lucio Tan, among others.
FFCCII is composed of at least 207 member-firms and is currently headed by Angel Ngu of Roosevelt Aluminum Products Co Inc.
Aquino’s economic achievements, Duterte’s peace and order
The group of Filipino-Chinese businessmen had consistently lauded the efforts of the former president Benigno Aquino III to boost confidence in the economy through good governance and transparency initiatives.
The previous administration also did not hold back in praising the contributions of the Filipino-Chinese community in the Philippines.
The economic and civic contributions of FFCCCII, according to Aquino, are “vast” and show that “a kind of solidarity that must go beyond our national borders.”
But Aquino was also unafraid of pointing out the flaws of some of its members.
During a convention of FFCCCII in 2013, he warned alleged tax evaders who are part of FFCCII to pay or face persecution.
The comments came after a government investigation found that only 8% paid taxes. (READ: Aquino warns tax-evading Chinese businessmen)
Duterte’s peace and order agenda, meanwhile, resonated the most with the FFCCI, Ngu said during the election season. He added that if there’s peace and order, “there is business.”
Supporting the President’s crusade against crime, however, roots from personal experiences of the businessmen. Filipino-Chinese and Chinese nationals are often the targets of kidnapping operations in the Philippines.
The business group also supports granting emergency powers to Duterte to address pressing issues.
Loyalty with China and the Philippines
FFCCCII treads carefully when it comes to the conflict over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Perhaps a sign of the organization’s loyalty to both China and the Philippines, FFCCCII has constantly pushed for both countries to settle the maritime dispute peacefully.
In 2015, the organization urged the Philippine government led by Benigno Aquino III to “set aside its differences” with China.
Further widening the gap, then FFCCCII president Alfonso Siy said, will lead to missed opportunities as “the Chinese are getting rich and starting to travel and Chinese tourists are very rich and love to spend money so it’s a good opportunity to get more businesses, income, and create jobs.”
Under Aquino’s administration, the FFCCCII mostly counseled against “further antagonizing" China through the media.
The organization is very keen on forging a better relationship with China and the Philippines that it even cancelled a huge event celebrating the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries in June 2015 after Aquino compared China to Nazi Germany. Both Aquino and Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua were supposed to be present at the event. (READ: Aquino's 'Nazi' jab spoils PH-China ties' 40th anniv)
In an interview over the issue, FFCCCII's Ngu said that “if the President is there, maybe he will mention the West Philippine Sea, and the China ambassador will mention the South China Sea. It will be a very awkward situation.”
Now that the Duterte administration is taking a different approach to China and the maritime dispute, another awkward situation and cancelled events in the near future appear to be unlikely. – Rappler.com