Why is the docking of a Chinese research vessel at the Sasa wharf in Davao such a big issue at all? Why are we raising all kinds of questions, nay suspicions, about this simple port call? As Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque noted, any ship from a friendly country can dock at any port in the country as it pleases.
Calling those who raised a ruckus about this routine port call as Sinophobes (defined as anybody in fear or dislike of China and the Chinese people and their language or culture), Roque said that Chinese survey ships, just like US warships, may dock in our ports. The spokesman is absolutely right as we are signatories to international conventions and bilateral agreements providing for such arrangements.
In addition to that, Roque should have said as well that US warships, submarines and other vessels, some of whom carry nuclear weapons, have been regular visitors in our ports even as the 1987 Constitution prohibits the entry of such nuclear weapon-carrying vessels.
In any event, no less that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Navy Spokesman Jonathan Zata already told reporters that prior coordination was made by the Chinese Embassy for the research ship’s port call. Zata also noted that this was not the first time and almost surely not the last that Chinese vessels like all other vessels from friendly countries have been given and will be provided the courtesies of the port as and when they make those calls.
So, what’s the big deal?
If we take this microscopic effort on the part of of the usual suspects to monitor and make noise about each and every move by any instrumentality of the Chinese government, as was the earlier case involving a Chinese military transport plane which also landed in Davao sometime back, then this latest ruckus makes sense.
Coupled with that gimmick definitely by the same suspects, who put up anti-China posters a week ago on some foot bridges and flyovers, we can only surmise that this is all part of the continuing, concerted effort to taint President Duterte and his decidedly pragmatic policy on our relations with China which. But the relations, as far as we can see, is working to the benefit of both countries.
So what’s the big deal?
If we also put into this mean play by the usual suspects the flurry of anti-China, anti-Duterte reports which came out in the papers and called out on radio, TV and even social media by these groups, then surely President Duterte has not only stepped on some big interests. He is actually proving that his independent foreign policy stance has got traction.
Otherwise, what’s the fuss?
Take the latest SWS survey on the so-called attitude of Filipinos on the SCS/WPS dispute which said that fully 81 percent of Filipinos repudiate the government’s policy of allowing Chinese intrusion in the West Philippine Sea. The idea that four out of five Filipinos supported this assertion was laughed at not only by our good friend and fellow columnist Bobbi Tiglao, but by Roque himself who correctly said that 100 percent of all surveyed oppose any intrusion or even any government inaction against such a move by any foreign country, no matter what the size or status of the intruder.
So, again, what’s the big deal?