MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has disowned a call to boycott products from China, its biggest source of imports, in the face of a dispute between Manila and Beijing over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
"The independent drive to boycott China-made products is an initiative of certain sectors in the Philippines and other parts of the world who are exercising their right to free expression," the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement Monday, June 22.
The DFA added: "Both the Philippines and China have taken the position that the South China Sea dispute should not be the sum total of their relations. Our two countries have agreed to abstract the South China Sea dispute for a separate treatment and to allow the other areas of our bilateral relations to move forward."
The statement comes after Filipino groups urged a boycott of Chinese products to protest the Asian giant's island building and other activities in the West Philippine Sea.
Former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez told ABS-CBN News, "By doing the boycott, we are showing China that we are angry with what they are doing in the West Philippine Sea."
Three years ago, a group of US-based Filipinos also pushed for a boycott of Chinese products. "We are being oppressed by them," US Pinoys for Good Governance chairperson Loida Nicolas Lewis said.
'Destined to be friends'
While critics call for a boycott of Chinese products, however, China remains one of the Philippines' biggest trading partners.
China, as of March, is the Philippines' biggest source of imports.
In a speech in March, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua pointed out that over the past 40 years, trade between the two countries has enjoyed a "560 times growth."
Philippine statistics also show that 1.5% of the Philippine population comes from the ethnic Chinese community. Many others as well have Chinese ancestry. The richest man in the Philippines, Henry Sy, and other top Filipino businessmen also come from Chinese families.
Zhao said, "We are destined to be friends and partners."
The Philippines and China marked 40 years of diplomacy on June 9.
But Philippine President Benigno Aquino III's latest remarks, comparing China to Nazi Germany, prompted Filipino-Chinese businessmen to cancel a huge celebration of this anniversary. – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.