Drilon urges Duterte to review 'appeasement policy' towards China

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon called on President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration to review the "policy of appeasement and accommodation on China,” saying it does not translate to better economic relations with the Asian giant.

Drilon pointed out that Vietnam, which has been aggressive in asserting its rights over the South China Sea, has received more Chinese investments than the Philippines.

Citing records, Drilon said the Philippines got a measly $31 million worth of foreign direct investments (FDIs) from China in 2017, in contract to $2.17 billion Chinese direct investments to Vietnam.

“There is empirical evidence that such appeasement does not necessarily result in better investment in our country. Here, it’s not getting any better; it’s getting worse,” Drilon said in a press conference on Thursday, June 14.

“That indicates the non-connection between the policy of appeasement and economic benefits, as shown in Vietnam’s policy of confrontation which yielded more positive results,” he added.

Drilon added that the Philippines’ FDIs from China is far below the FDIs it received from Japan and the United States in 2017, amounting to $600 million and $160 million, respectively.

Under Duterte, the Philippines has grown closer to China, even allowing the Asian giant to explore waters and territories under the Philippines. Recently, a Chinese military aircraft landed in the President's hometown in Davao City, amid an ongoing dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The most recently reported incident between the two countries involves the China Coast Guard taking the catch of Filipino fishermen in Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal. (READ: To prove fruits of PH-China 'friendship,' Roque brings fishermen to press briefing)

“This is more than just a bullying of our fishermen; this has implications on the recognized right of our country in that part of the South China Sea,” Drilon said, as he called on the government to lodge a protest against the harassment. (READ: Carpio to Duterte gov't: File new case vs China)

Lower bilateral trade and tourist arrivals, too?

Drilon also expressed dismay at the lower leverl of bilateral trade between the Philippines and China compared to Vietnam and China, and the number of Chinese tourist arrivals in the country.

In 2017, Drilon said bilateral trade between the Philippines and China was $21.94 billion compared to $71.85 billion in two-way trade between Vietnam and China.

In terms of tourist arrivals, Drilon said only 968,447 Chinese tourists went to the Philippines in 2017, while 4 million Chinese visited Vietnam in 2017.

“I am citing Vietnam, because the policy of Vietnam in terms of its relation with China is a complete opposite of our foreign policy thrust. And yet, they have four times more Chinese tourists; they have received more investment from China than what went to the Philippines,” he said. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com