The costs of appeasement

By: Solita Collas-Monsod - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | July 17,2021 - 08:30 AM

I downloaded the slides featured here from a YouTube interview with presidential spokesperson Harry Roque by someone from the “Integrated Development Studies Institute” (IDSI) who had asked him to rate the Duterte administration’s foreign policy on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (best). Roque gave President Duterte a grade of 8.5, explaining why it wasn’t higher.

That’s to be expected. But what is interesting is that while he was explaining his answer, the two slides below were flashed on the screen by the IDSI, although Roque was only talking about the first point on the first slide. These slides, showed consecutively, replaced Roque’s face as he was explaining his score. Whether he knew that this was going on, only he can say.

But to me, the slides represent what the IDSI is advocating about Philippine-Chinese relationships. I googled the group’s website and clicked on “Contributors,” and I saw only one listed. She had written an article titled “A Plea Against the National Egoism of Filipinos,” and those arguments mirrored Mr. Duterte’s own: that we Filipinos had to choose between appeasement of China or war with her. Which leads me to believe that the IDSI is actually a pro-China advocacy vehicle. But I will deal with this later.

IDSI’s slides provide a list of the supposed benefits (note the “many more unreported”) we derived from Mr. Duterte’s policy of appeasement. Nowhere is there any mention of the costs that this policy entails. Whether it is because the IDSI doesn’t think the costs are significant, or because it is just a mouthpiece of Beijing, as claimed by one of the comments I read, I cannot say. But it is only fair that those costs be provided, if only to provide the reader a sound basis for making a judgment as to whether the benefits overwhelm the costs (to the Philippines), or vice versa. And I, spoilsport that I am, will provide those costs, for easy reference.

Here are the costs to us of the Duterte appeasement policy:

Coral reef destruction. Dr. Ed Gomez and associates at the UP Marine Science Institute estimated the potential economic loss from reef destruction (using the methodology of ecologist Rudolf de Groot at Wageningen University and Research Center in the Netherlands) to be $5.7 billion a year (source: National Geographic Wildlife Watch). At current market exchange rates (P48=$1), this translates to P273.6 billion a year. If we limit it to reef destruction in the West Philippine Sea, that would amount to P73.9 billion a year.

Fish poaching. China has also been poaching in our exclusive economic zone. The reported 270 Chinese fishing boats present at Subi and Mischief Reefs would have a cumulative catch of 3,240 MT per day or 1.2 MT per year. Then there is Scarborough Shoal where our catch has declined 40 percent year-on-year because the Chinese boats prevent Filipino fishermen from fishing in the lagoon. Even if we do not include the Scarborough Shoal poaching, and assuming that the average price of fish is P100 a kilo, China is essentially stealing from us a very conservative amount of P120 billion a year.

Do the arithmetic, Reader. Do those overinflated benefits listed by IDSI as arising from China come even close to the P193 billion a year that China has cost us to lose? China should be appeasing us, not the other way around.

And by the way, an Inquirer article quoting the PSA shows that our imports from China, what we buy from them, are far greater than our exports to China, what we sell to them. Using IDSI’s logic, China benefits more than we do from our trade. Also, it shows that for every test kit, or PPE, or vaccine donated by China to us, we have bought much more from China—at greatly inflated prices—suggesting that China’s donations were loss leaders to get us to buy from them.

In the same manner, our OFWs in China give value for money. And we have more OFWs in Europe and Saudi Arabia, not to mention the United States, than in China. Why are we not following a policy of appeasement toward them?

The most ridiculous benefit listed is that Philippine military used Chinese weapons in Marawi which saved us from deteriorating into an IS state. Implication: China is responsible for our victory. Wonder what the AFP think of that. Good grief.

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TAGS: Harry Roque, IDSI, Integrated Development Studies Institute, Philippine-Chinese relationships

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