Aquino dodges China dispute in SONA

Paterno Esmaquel II
He unleashed stinging words against Beijing in 2012. What happened?

WHAT ABOUT CHINA? President Benigno Aquino III avoids the Philippines' dispute with China in his State of the Nation Address.

MANILA, Philippines – In foreign affairs, it was the Philippines’ biggest achievement in 2012, but the President on Monday, July 22, dodged the Philippines’ case against China in his State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Reflecting views that the Philippines’ relationship with China is “multifaceted,” President Benigno Aquino III instead massaged Beijing to help his country’s tourism.

In his SONA that lasted almost two hours, Aquino cited recognitions the Philippines got from Chinese dailies. He said the Oriental Morning Post, for instance, named the Philippines the “Best Tourism Destination of 2012.” He also said it seemed the Shanghai Morning Post “fell in love with our country” when it named it the “Most Romantic Destination of 2012.”

“Hopefully, they will love us more,” Aquino said.

Aquino’s change in tone came after the Philippines, last January, filed an unprecedented case against China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Read: Aquino to nation: ‘This is your SONA’

The President delivered stinging words against China in his SONA in 2012, at the height of the issue over the disputed Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc.

‘Rightfully ours’

He said in his SONA back then: “Mayroon po tayong mga miron na nagsasabing hayaan na lang ang Bajo de Masinloc; umiwas na lang tayo. Pero kung may pumasok sa inyong bakuran at sinabing sa kanya na ang kanyang kinatatayuan ay sa kanya na, papayag ba kayo? Hindi naman po yata tamang ipamigay na lang natin sa iba ang sadyang atin talaga.

(There are those who say that we should let Bajo de Masinloc go; we should avoid the trouble. But if someone entered your yard and told you he owned it, would you agree? Would it be right to give away that which is rightfully ours?)

Recently, a new word war erupted between the Philippines and China over the West Philippine Sea. This began after China accused the Philippines of lying in Belgium over their territorial dispute.

The Palace has steered clear of this heated exchange, leaving up to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to respond to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

“Since it’s the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hua Chunying who said it, we will let our DFA Spokesperson (Raul) Hernandez also to respond to the statements issued by the Foreign Ministry, and I believe that Hernandez has already spoken about it,” said Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda last Thursday, July 18.

Lacierda also said the Philippines’ relationship with China “is multifaceted” and involves factors like culture and trade. “Our relationship with China should not be on the basis of this particular situation that we are confronted with right now,” he said. – Rappler.com

Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.