Alice Guo

[OPINION] Alice Guo, POGO, and the China threat

Melba Padilla Maggay

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[OPINION] Alice Guo, POGO, and the China threat
‘We may wake up one morning with our own versions of the Manchurian candidate, financed from offshore as a favorite horse running China’s race by proxy’

The issue of Alice Guo’s citizenship may be just the tip of the iceberg. Whatever else surfaces from out of the Senate hearings, it is evident that there is a thread connecting the mayor of the little town of Bamban to the much larger threat of China increasing its stranglehold on our politics and society.

Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) time and again has been shown to be a Trojan horse, paving the way for the entry of insidious criminal activities possibly designed to corrupt our institutions and corrode the moral fiber of our society. Disguised as an economic gift, it is in fact a strategic foothold for the eventual despoliation of the country’s patrimony.

China learned a lesson from its “century of humiliation” at the hands of imperial powers: it is doing through POGO what the Western colonial powers did to its people by introducing opium. Gambling erodes a people’s sense of agency, the capacity to believe that we have in our hands the power to chart our future. It is a strategy to weaken our resolve to push back China’s aggressively imperious occupation of our West Philippine Sea. 

As gleaned from the hearings led by Senator Risa Hontiveros, Alice Guo may be your usual “see no evil, hear no evil” official who disavows complicity with the criminal activities going on inside the Baofu compound. But, as revealed by Hontiveros, two of her business partners had already figured and been convicted in a $2-billion money laundering case, the biggest in Singapore. It could be supposed that the many businesses she is connected with are being used, whether known to her or not, as fronts for money laundering and other illegal activities.

Note that there is now a new wave of Chinese diaspora in the Southeast Asian region, with mass migrations officially estimated to be at 2.3 million to 2.7 million in just two decades after 1990. This is part of China’s “going out” (zouchugua) strategy to accelerate overseas expansion and commercial acquisitions, especially among the littoral states claiming parts of the South China Sea.

There is a quiet invasion now going on, as witnessed by Chinese-funded acquisition of massive landholdings in this country. Especially targeted are lands along our coastline, particularly in El Nido, which is near Pag-asa island, and Zambales, whose fishermen have been fishing in Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc since time immemorial.

As with the Bamban POGO, electronic spying systems may have been installed in these properties, perhaps connected to the militarized artificial islands built within our exclusive economic zone (EEZ), or to the Dito cell towers allowed by the Duterte regime in all our military bases and installations. It looks like not only Alice Guo but also our own officials are subject to suspicion that they are less than Filipino, even with legitimate birth certificates.  

China’s motive for this silent subversion is clear enough. It badly needs the gas and oil reserves that are within our exclusive economic zone. By 2030, energy consumption in this region is expected to double. China’s need to fuel its mammoth industries accounts for half of this expected increase in demand.

The Recto Bank, which is within our EEZ, holds about half of the 11 billion barrels of oil and about a quarter of the 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas estimated to be in the entire South China Sea. This is why China is so focused on tightening its grip on this country in whatever way, politically and economically.

There is no doubt that the spyware that has been discovered as operating in the Bamban POGO indicates a serious breach of our national security. This is a time when the old public square – whether Hyde Park or Plaza Miranda – has now been eclipsed by cyberspace. China, for instance, has pole-vaulted from producing low-cost, low-technology goods to making sophisticated technologies that go by the name of Huawei or Ali Baba. It now has the technologies necessary to insidiously warp computer terminals, spread disinformation, and even tamper with election results.

We see this in Africa’s experience of the Chinese presence. Zambia, for instance, after years of welcoming China’s help in its economy, has come out loudly and violently in protest of China’s “hidden hand” in their politics. During their last general elections, a top Zambian leader complained that “Zambia has become a province of China.” Some have gone so far as to accuse China of being responsible for the stalled democracies in several African countries.

Similarly, we may wake up one morning with our own versions of the Manchurian candidate, financed from offshore as a favorite horse running China’s race by proxy. But perhaps this is not future. Many others who are now in office are likely to make Alice Guo’s two years as mayor appear far less treasonous once their shadowy actuations come to light. –

Melba Padilla Maggay is president of the Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Culture.

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