MANILA – Does the Philippines’ ruling party, founded as a bastion for democracy and nationalism during a dictatorship, not see anything wrong with marking its anniversary by wining and dining officials of a foreign government that has been aggressively encroaching upon Philippine territory?
This was the question raised by Liberal Party Vice President for External Affairs Erin Tañada, in a statement on the celebration of PDP-Laban’s 36th anniversary. He was reacting to reports by philstar.com that a delegation from China held a symposium and gave out “600 copies of a new book praising Chinese leader Xi Jinping”.
The symposium “aimed to introduce ‘Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era’ to the Philippines’ ruling party,” philstar.com reported, quoting China’s state-run news agency Xinhua.
“The joint celebration of PDP-Laban’s 36th founding anniversary and launch of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s book leaves a bad taste in the mouth, considering that we are now seeing the most aggressive military build-up by China in the disputed waters of West Philippine Sea with the Philippine government disturbingly quiet,” said Tañada, a former Quezon congressman, in a press release.
His grandfather and namesake Lorenzo Tañada, was a staunch nationalist and considered the “grand old man of the opposition” during the Marcos dictatorship.
His father Wigberto “Bobby” Tañada was also a nationalist and one of 12 “Magnificent 12” senators who voted to end the treaty allowing US bases in the country.
Nationalist groups have in recent months been asserting that the Philippines, if it were serious about forging an independent foreign policy, should neither be subservient to the US – its military partner under a 1951 mutual defense treaty – nor to China, which has already built fortresses, air strips and other facilities on artificial islands built on Philippine-claimed waters in the South China Sea.
In assailing the PD Laban’s apparent chumminess with Beijing, Erin Tañada pointed out that China “has turned a blind eye and deaf ears to our appeals and diplomatic initiatives, while continuing its aggression in the disputed waters.”
“Propriety dictates that we should be more judicious of the people we choose to invite to wine and dine. Is this a celebration of our subservience, docility, and surrender?” he concluded.
Photos of the event were posted on the Senate’s Facebook page, where Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez are seen hobnobbing with Chinese officials, including Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua.
TERM LIMITS LIFTING FOR XI
Meanwhile, Reuters has reported that China’s ruling Communist Party is setting the stage for Chinese President Xi “to stay in office indefinitely, with a proposal to remove a constitutional clause limiting presidential service to just two terms in office.”
China also made Philippine headlines recently after it was revealed that the Asian giant had already named five seamounts in Philippine or Benham Rise, which the United Nations had already declared part of the Philippines’ extended continental shelf.
China has also been developing military bases on three artificial islands it built on three features that roughly encircle the Kalayaan Island Group, which can enable it to control this territory.
Chinese groups have also been undertaking marine scientific research projects in Philippine waters, many of which did not get prior approval from the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs.