By Getsy Tiglao
Amid the racist tirades that are being hurled by the pro-US opposition against China and the Duterte administration, it is time for the Filipino-Chinese to step up and be part of the conversation. As citizens of this country, the Filipino-Chinese have a crucial role to play in promoting harmony and understanding between differing cultures.
Most of the top Philippine tycoons, the country’s richest people, are of Chinese ethnicity, including Henry Sy, John Gokongwei, Lucio Tan, Tony Tan Caktiong, George Ty, Andrew Tan, and Ramon Ang. Many of them were born in Xiamen, Fujian province, while others were the sons of Chinese immigrant parents, but all are now Filipino citizens.
I hope these Filipino-Chinese tycoons will start speaking up, which will help counterbalance the bias and racism being promoted by the opposition against China and the Chinese people. They owe it to the Philippines, the country where they built their wealth, to help stop this bigotry and ensure that we can join the ranks of rich and developed nations in Asia.
There are millions more Filipinos from the lower to middle classes who are ethnically Chinese but now identify as Filipino, with some not even bothering to learn Mandarin or Hokkien, and speak only Pilipino and English. Some of our nationalist heroes also had Chinese ancestry, notably Jose Rizal whose great-great grandfather was from Fujian.
Together with organized groups such as the Association for Philippines-China Understanding, the Filipino-Chinese community can also help counter the racist stereotypes that are being promoted by the anti-Duterte bloc by engaging in constructive dialogue and undertaking community service projects.
The criticism against the Chinese in the Philippines stems from their perceived wealth and exclusionary activities as they network among themselves and even live in Chinese-dominated enclaves such as Binondo (some say, also Greenhills). If one knew more about the history of the Chinese in the Philippines, specifically the regular pogroms undertaken against them during the Spanish era, one will understand why the Chinese often kept to themselves.
The Spaniards, who were threatened by the huge number of Chinese in the Philippines, had initiated pogroms or organized killings in 1586, 1603, 1639, 1662, and 1686 (these are the documented ones, scholars say there could be more). One of the bloodiest was the Sangley pogrom where 20,000 Chinese were killed by Spanish soldiers, together with conscripted Japanese and Filipinos. (Sangley actually comes from the Chinese word sang-lei or seng-li meaning merchant.)
During the bloody Chinese pogroms, many left Manila to settle in new areas in Central Luzon, and even sailed as far away as Visayas and Mindanao, to carve new lives away from the cruel Spaniards and friars in cities that became Cebu and Cagayan de Oro.
Recently, we’ve witnessed the dirty tricks and black propaganda being resorted to by the opposition as it continues in its plan to destabilize the government. They hung red banners in foot bridges around the city with the message “Welcome to the Philippines, Province of China.” This was a horrible, unpatriotic act, and those who did it should be ashamed of themselves for demeaning the country.
These anti-Duterte groups are promoting their racist anti-China platform in order to destroy the government’s efforts to have friendlier ties with China, a new economic superpower that is now helping us grow to become an upper middle-income nation (we’re on track; this will happen by 2019).
Contrast their acts of betrayal with those of a concerned ordinary Filipino who removed the tarpaulin from the foot bridges because he said it was wrong and was sowing discord and confusion. This was nationalism in action: he understood in his heart and mind that the nation would suffer if the lies continue unchallenged. We salute his patriotic act.
As to the cowards who placed those banners, they are suffering from the huge political blowback following their dirty trick. Everyone hated what they did. They underestimated the revival of nationalism under the Duterte administration, which started June 30, 2016, when Filipinos saw the newly proclaimed President wearing proudly on his lapel the Philippine flag (instead of the American hand-me-down symbol, the yellow ribbon).
Don’t believe the Western media propaganda that nationalism is a bad thing. As a matter of fact, the Asian dragon and East Asian tigers developed precisely because they adopted nationalist business and economic policies. Their businessmen and citizens were also fierce nationalists who invested in strategic industries that will benefit their countries most.
Here in the Philippines we have remained undeveloped because we allowed the US to dictate much of our political and economic policies for decades. We also sold all our vital industries, even public utilities, to foreign private interests following the Western idea of “privatization is a good thing.” It’s not: that’s why we have the most expensive electricity rates in the world, the slowest Internet, because the profit-oriented private sector controls them, instead of the State.
The stupid dependence on the US ended when Duterte declared that we now have an independent foreign policy where we are friends with all countries, China, Russia, and US included, who are willing to help us. Majority of Filipinos supported Duterte’s new policies, which are now bearing fruit with the rise in economic growth and inflows of foreign direct investments (up 27 percent in first quarter 2018).
The opposition in our country is so outmoded they are still operating with a “colonial mentality.” Their illusion is that the US will again save the day by helping us go to war with China, ignoring that this is now a multipolar world where power has shifted to specific regions, alliances, and nations other than America.
Our Filipino-Chinese tycoons realized early on that China, our prosperous neighbor with the biggest market in the world, is the key to economic growth in the Asian region. For instance, Sy’s SM has already built seven malls in China, including Xiamen, Jinjiang, Chengdu, Suzhou, Chongqing, and Zibo, Tianjin.
With their resources, the Filipino-Chinese tycoons could have an important role to play in the Philippines’ economic development. They should come out of their shells and become active citizens; real patriots who will help this reform-oriented government lift millions of people out of poverty.
The Sys, Gokongweis, Angs, and others should initiate a dialogue with President Duterte on how best they can usher in sustainable industrialization and export-oriented growth. I have more faith in the Filipino-Chinese tycoons than in the Spanish-mestizo rich who are known to be partial to the haciendero clans of old, and prefer to keep the status quo where the poor remain poor.
The opposition keeps harping about that Hague arbitral ruling. That is the most expensive and useless ruling ever. It’s not enforceable; it was “arbitration” without the other party present. This wasn’t even a court ruling, and even if it was, who is going to compel the other party to heel? The US? In your dreams. The US didn’t even ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. China is one of their major trade partners, not to mention a huge creditor of theirs. By convincing the Aquino administration to file a case against China, the US played us like fools.
Dialogue, diplomacy, and negotiations are the strategies that are now being implemented by the government with regards to the South China Sea disputes. This is the smart option, not the “I want to go to war and I hate the Chinese” stance of the opposition.
China is an economic success story. Through their new capitalist system done the Chinese way, they were able to lift out of extreme poverty 800 million Chinese. That is equivalent to eight Philippines. We can do this, too, if everyone will do their part to help and not destroy.