The Philippines should not let US use it as a lightning conductor in its storm making

China Daily
Wang Xinjuan
2024-01-25 22:02:23

Ren'ai Reef. [File photo/]

The eighth meeting of the China-Philippines Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea, held last week in Shanghai, marks the latest efforts by Beijing and Manila to better manage and control their maritime disputes. It also sends an unmistakable message to the outside world that the two are seeking to resolve their disputes through bilateral channels.

Since last year, the Philippines has repeatedly stoked tensions in the South China with its exacerbating of frictions, as a result of its provocative moves in relation to Ren'ai Reef and Huangyan Island in particular. These moves have worsened bilateral ties and offset regional efforts to build peace and stability in the waters.

Hence, agreements reached in the meeting on improving the sea-related communication mechanism and handling maritime emergencies, especially the situation on Ren'ai Reef, are helpful for ratcheting down tensions and paving the way for resolving the disputes through negotiations.

During the consultation, the two countries also reiterated that the South China Sea disputes do not define the entirety of their relationship and emphasized the importance of communication and dialogue in maintaining maritime peace and stability. This indicates the two sides are trying to stabilize bilateral ties by focusing on the larger picture.

Before the maritime disputes resurfaced again, China and the Philippines enjoyed several years of growing and robust cooperation, in which large amounts of Chinese investments poured into the Philippines, and bilateral trade prospered. Not to mention that the warmth in bilateral ties also helped stabilize the situation in the South China Sea.

Hence, it is good to see both Beijing and Manila seem to be keen on resuming bilateral consultation and keeping the channels of communication open. This positive development can help ensure responsible conflict management and control. In this regard, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr's latest remarks that his country's commitment to the one-China policy has not changed and will not change were also helpful to cultivate a good atmosphere for the continuous easing of tensions.

Such a trend of conciliation is not only crucial to prevent China-Philippines ties from plummeting further but also contributes to building peace and stability in the South China Sea. But for the trend to be maintained, the Philippines needs to guard against Washington hijacking its policy toward China.

It is known to all that the United States has been using the Philippines as a chess piece, or even a bridgehead, in its containment policy against China. In fact, the US instigation has largely contributed to last year's maritime flare-ups.

Manila should have been reminded by developments elsewhere in the world over the past 23 months that it is a habitual practice of the US to push others to the forefront of its storm making, so they can act as lightning rods. Manila should continue to work with Beijing to resolve their maritime disputes through bilateral consultations.

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