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The Philippines undeniably share a wealth of history with China, one that is abundant in friendship and cultural affinity. Thus, diplomacy has always aimed for the pacifist, subtle, and benign achievement of outputs.
In recent history, it was the late Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos who made a diplomatic breakthrough and chose to normalize relations with Red China along with the Soviet Union in 1975. Thanks to him, the Philippines-China relations from then on grew through the years, achieving big strides from economic to cultural to political and even defense cooperation.
Although at times, there were some differences such as in the South China Sea, but it is natural for friends, lovers or even family members to have some differences. However, disagreements should serve to solidify the friendship.
More recently is the simmering tensions in the area. I myself was reserved of the fact that a Philippine naval ship was sent to confront the unarmed Chinese fishermen. It was out of context and inappropriate under the circumstances for it only made the issue militarized and a bigger deal than it was just supposed to be.
The issue is delicate, but it of course, most certainly will be resolved peacefully. An American scholar, Robert Ross, once said that "no nation begs off on issues of sovereignty." True as it may seem; however, we can say that everyone strongly adapts to and firmly adheres to "the universal value of diplomacy". An idea therefore, essentially, is to engage in the pragmatics of mutualism, bilateralism and synergism.
I, personally, do not mind that the issues be settled bilaterally through "friendly consultations" as proposed by the Chinese -- I see no problem in this -- so long as it would redound to the benefit of the parties, and also the region.
Dragging in the US only sensationalizes the issue, hypes the tensions, and legitimizes US hegemonic impulses in the region.
Cooler heads should prevail and not let emotions make rash decisions. Sitting in discussions with China would certainly tranquilize the situation, and thus astute diplomacy is what is needed.
In fact, being too American-centric deprives the Philippines of its Asiatic affinity or "Asianness". Filipinos and Chinese are both situated in Asia and are both Asians; and as such, there is much more cultural affinity that ought to be shared, appreciated and understood.
After all, even the ASEAN as a unique body adheres to this informal "consensus building" method of decision-making which is called the "ASEAN Way" and this has a lot to do about the region's cultural affinity and respect for each others" sovereign statuses. Asia is different from the West--culturally, geographically, and historically. Thus, the "ASEAN Way" might really be the "Asian Way" of doing things.
I have full confidence that the able diplomats of both countries can make this materialize. It is well-known that China is succeeding in its "charm offensive" of engagements throughout the world especially in Asia. This is the fruit of a well-crafted and dynamic foreign policy.
These are based on "New Security Concept", "Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence" and even adapting to ASEAN's principles of the ASEAN Way and Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. China has actively advocated for "Peaceful Rise", "Harmonious Development"and "Good Neighbor Policy" among others. All these connote to the basic idea that peace, mutuality, stability, and harmony are the paramount interests.
What both sides want are in effect the same: first, it is crystal clear that both sides want to resolve the disputes; second, both sides agree that the means be peaceful; third, both countries have always agreed not let the issue affect the greater whole of the relations.
Truly, it is important for both sides to be firm -- firm in strengthening the diplomacy of friendship, fellowship and exchanges. And so, it is just right to turn the so-called "potential flashpoint" into an "actual friendship point".
The author is a Philippine postgraduate with Shandong University.