The Philippine Association for Chinese Studies (PACS), a professional, non-profit, and non-partisan organization of renowned educators, businesspeople, ambassadors, and students, held its annual Chinese New Year celebration.
PACS has been committed to upholding the academic field of Chinese Studies in the Philippines and abroad. Present at the event was Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana, who engaged PACS members and non-members alike, in a dialogue. Sta. Romana also served as president of PACS.
The ambassador has been in the Philippines for over a month, making his first return back to his home country in almost a year due to the ongoing pandemic.
“On the state of Philippines-China relations, generally speaking, of course the relations have made a turnaround since 2016, and the relations have been improving,” said Sta. Romana. “But Philippines-China relation is really a combination of two aspects, and that’s why our policy towards China in a sense is made up of two tracks.”
According to Sta. Romana, the first track is the aspect “where there are no disputes.” These are the aspects that both the Philippines and China agree on, like the propagation of economic, cultural, business, and educational ties. Battling the pandemic has also been a priority for both countries.
A difference in definition
On the other hand, there are also issues that both countries do not agree on, such as the territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Sta. Romana mentioned that the two countries don’t agree with each other on the definition of sovereignty and sovereign rights, as well as in the defining of sovereign jurisdiction over the waters.
In other words, the issue is not simply an issue of China grabbing what the Philippines sees as its territory, but it’s also an issue of the very definition of sovereignty, how it’s applied.
“We [the Philippines] consider as part of Philippine territory not only Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, including Palawan, but also, as part of Palawan, the Kalayaan Island Group, KIG. The Chinese don’t recognize that KIG is part of the Philippines. They look at it as part of Chinese territory. We recognize Scarborough as our territory, [but] the Chinese consider it as part of their territory.”
However, there has also been some progress when it comes to these disputed issues.
“For example, [in] Scarborough, there is a understanding, part of the consensus between the leadership, that Scarborough should not be reclaimed,” Sta. Romana said. He also said that the consensus allows the inner area of Scarborough as a place for “letting the fisheries grow, and where they can breed, and then that outside should be open to fishing by both Chinese and Filipino fishermen, as well as other fishermen in the region.”
Viewing things from a Philippine perspective
Sta. Romana expressed hope that the Philippines and China will remain in dialogue, working together on what can be cooperated on and addressing what needs to be addressed.
In addition, Sta. Romana mentioned that it is imperative that Filipinos and the Philippine government see issues from a Philippine perspective, not a Chinese nor a Western perspective.
“What we want to achieve is that we become friends with both [the US and China]. In the strategic rivalry between the two, we do not wish to side with one against the other, but rather, to play a positive role and encourage the two to talk to each other and to resolve their differences peacefully as much as possible,” he said.
Catch the livestreamed event on the Facebook page of the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies: https://fb.watch/3IDah-3msF/
The author of this article:
Aaron covers topics that range from business and ethics to culture and philosophy. He is currently a CHiNOY TV producer, a Philippine Daily Inquirer correspondent, a Philippine Association for Chinese Studies lifetime member, and an Ateneo de Manila University Chinese Studies Program constituent. An occasional TikToker, he also loves Pokémon! Follow him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aaron.joseph.s.medina/