China expert stresses gains, need for balance in relations
Some observers on Tuesday defended President Rodrigo Duterte’s China-friendly foreign policy and cautioned against Sinophobic “hysteria,” citing improvements after years of diplomatic tensions arising from the maritime dispute in the South China Sea.
Ateneo de Manila University Chinese Studies Program lecturer Lucio Pitlo III stressed the need to balance national security concerns with the economic benefits of more investments from China.
He said it was “important to keep our safeguards” to assuage concerns, but cautioned against being too wary in approaching China.
“Becoming too overcautious, becoming too arbitrary in our application of national security concerns … to block foreign investments from other countries would be bad for us. There has to be balance,” Pitlo said at a news forum on Tuesday.
He said the 29 agreements signed during the state visit to the Philippines of Chinese President Xi Jinping last week showed “the breadth of the relations and how other aspects of the relations can thrive if the political climate can be balanced properly.”
“The thrust of the administration is just that. This ensures the disputes will not be the sum total and will not be the front and center of relations,” Pitlo said.
Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms executive director Ramon Casiple said there had been a “tendency toward hysteria,” including scenarios about debt-trap diplomacy and implications on the country’s claims in the South China Sea.
Casiple said it would be fine to warn against possible issues, but said some critics in the opposition were on the verge of politicking.
“They’re trying to put forward something favorable to them,” he said.
Center for People Empowerment in Governance director Bobby Tuazon said criticism of Chinese loans should be “evidence-based and accurate with our data.”
He stressed that debt exposure would not be as great, as obligations were still mostly to traditional lending institutions such as the International Monetary Fund.
Pitlo also warned against racist sentiments being stoked in response to a growing number of Chinese workers in the country.
He said Chinese nationals were needed for the locally based offshore gaming industry since only a few Filipinos could speak Mandarin.
On the other hand, he said labor and immigration officials should look into Chinese workers taking construction jobs that could be performed by locals instead.
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