The remarks of Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian during the 8th Manila Forum for China-Philippines Relations, suggesting that if the Philippine government is really after the welfare of the 150,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), it should oppose “Taiwan independence” by denying American troops access to their military bases. The ambassador’s veiled threat is not only inappropriate but also dangerous and it warrants unequivocal rejection and rebuke!
The veiled threat of Ambassador Huang is consistent with the aggressive behavior of the Chinese government, and this can be seen as a transparent attempt to coerce and intimidate the Philippine government into making decisions that align with China’s interests. Isn’t it ironic that the ambassador speaks of the Chinese government’s policy of non-interference and yet coercively interferes with the Philippines by making a univocal claim that American military expansion on Philippine soil is tantamount to endangering the safety of OFWs in Taiwan.
It has been categorically stated by the Philippine government that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States will not be used for any offensive action, and that it is purely a strategic deterrence on the part of the Philippines for the defense of its territory from external threats. Moreover, it is important and critical to recognize that the agreement between the Philippines and the United States is based on the strategic, mutual, and sovereign interests of both countries, and not based on the dictates and whims or coercion of an external party.
Perhaps, it is better that Ambassador Huang should ponder and reflect on his government’s dual-faced character in the South China Sea. If there is a threat to regional stability, it is his government’s expansive and aggressive militarization in the contested waters.
It must be noted that the expansion of military sites under EDCA is intended to promote the interoperability of the Philippine and American forces in responding to external attacks and natural disasters. Hence, to say that this deal is only a piece in the geopolitical chess game around the Taiwan Strait is not only erroneous, but also insulting of both the Philippines’ and the United States’ legitimate security concerns.
The veiled threat of Ambassador Huang has no place in diplomacy and more importantly in the diplomatic relations between Philippines and China. To weaponize the safety of OFWs in order for the Philippine government to kowtow to China’s demands is a disservice to the sacrifices of OFWs who left their families in our country to help the economies of our country and of the host nation, Taiwan. To use their safety and well-being as a negotiating chip and make them hostage of China’s demands is not only immoral, but also an indicative of a dangerous trend of using innocent individuals as leverage in geopolitical disputes.
Regardless of origin, we must at our disposal and will to denounce the coercive and manipulative threats by any foreign ambassador and that the government must remain steadfast and committed to defending our sovereignty and interests, and the wellbeing of all Filipinos both home and abroad.
Ambassador Huang’s threat has no place in our diplomatic discourse. Therefore, we fervently call Ambassador Huang to retract his comments and for the Chinese government to remain true to their words of non-interference on domestic issues and policies, most especially on the Philippine government’s decision about its own security and defense arrangements. Likewise, the international community should join the Philippine government in rejecting any form of diplomatic coercion against the welfare of innocent civilians.