By JULLIE Y. DAZA
China is in the news every day, sometimes with headline-hogging intensity. Thousands of Chinese arrivals since 2017 are responsible for an uptick in tourist arrivals. In addition, the merchant-minded among them are looking for trade/investment opportunities, and who has not heard of the hundreds upon hundreds of POGOs (Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators) who play the gaming machines linked to the mainland?
The influx of such great numbers is both a boon and a bane. The visitors’ stay means they need shelter, office spaces, and significantly, barracks and dormitories for the POGOs. They also need to hire local labor, professional and otherwise: housekeepers, nannies, cooks, drivers, messengers, janitors; lawyers to draw up their contracts and file their papers for permits, licenses, clearances; doctors, dentists, dermatologists, nurses to help them with their health and medical concerns; bankers and accountants, translators, tour guides, etc.
Job and income opportunities for locals abound, but the locals are not all happy with the mainlanders’ lack of appreciation of the rules of socializing with one’s neighbors and business contacts, nor do they seem willing to learn how to get along on a minimum of good manners on their part. Filipino laborers, specially those in the construction sector, and fishermen fear losing their jobs, their fishing grounds.
With the wider, deeper issue of the West Philippine Sea-South China Sea looming large and loud in the forefront of relations between the two countries, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jianhua sent out invitations to a reception marking the 92nd anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army (which makes it 22 years older than the People’s Republic of China). Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, Joe de Venecia mingled with Henry Limbonliong, president of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, PAL Chairman Lucio Tan, special envoy to China Carlos Chan, UniOrient Chairman Stephen Techico, Golden Arches President George Yang, Lamoyan (Hapee) Corp. Chairman Cecilio Pedro, honorary consuls Evie Costa (Togo) and Fortune Ledesma (Monaco), retired banker and economic professor Maurice Lim.
Acknowledging that the dispute over WPS-SCS cannot be resolved overnight, Ambassador Zhao appealed for “confidence in our wisdom to settle it peacefully and bring about peace and stability in the neighborhood.” He assured his guests, “China is the last country to impede freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea because blocking the commercial vessels and oil tankers that move 80 percent of food to and from China would spell “somewhat death” to his country.
“China is a lasting and reliable friend of the Philippines,” he reiterated.
Friendship, like navigation, is a two-way street.