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Philippine lawmakers join global alliance for China containment

Meeting with foreign lawmakers to share strategies for handling 'Big Brother'

By RAMON ROYANDOYAN, Nikkei staff writer

September 2, 2023

Former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his final State of the Nation Address at the House of Representatives in Quezon City, Philippines, on July 26, 2021. © AP

MANILA -- Some Philippine lawmakers have joined a global alliance of politicians concerned about China's belligerence and efforts to shape the world in its own interest.

At its third annual summit in Prague, the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) opened its doors to lawmakers from the Philippines, Kenya, and Paraguay. They add to a group dominated by European parliamentarians and a large contingent from Japan.

IPAC was founded on June 4, 2020, the 31st anniversary of the violent suppression in Beijing's Tiananmen Square of prodemocracy protests. It describes itself as "the largest cross-party legislative network actively working towards coordinated democratic policies on China."

Adrian Michael Amatong, co-chair of the Filipino contingent at the summit, was optimistic about gaining access to the IPAC forum, and did not mince his words on China's role in the region.

"Big Brother who keeps beating us," he told Nikkei Asia. "They just do whatever they want without any consequences at all, so maybe by listening to other countries and how they're dealing with China, we can learn a thing or two. And maybe we can set up policies that could help protect us."

His comments come in the week China unveiled a new map confirming its disputed claim to a swath of the South China Sea in which Chinese vessels have been harassing Philippine naval ships.

Under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, Manila has moved away from Beijing to forge closer ties with Washington. It has approved four additional military bases that the U.S. can access to help safeguard the Philippines' interests.

But the Filipino lawmaker said that the country's induction into IPAC should not set off alarm bells.

"It's not gonna ruffle any feathers because IPAC is not against China, it's just a group of countries discussing issues involving China," said Amatong.

"Our joining IPAC does not necessarily mean we're going to fight China," he said. "If anything, it informs us of the issues surrounding China -- the nitty gritty of some involvement with other countries."

China is the largest import partner of the Philippines, buying goods worth $2.38 billion in June.

For Don McLain Gill, an analyst and lecturer at De La Salle University at Manila, the lawmakers joining IPAC is significant because the group has developed recommendations "to address China's expanding belligerence."

But Gill cautioned against exaggeration: "IPAC does not have the authority to forge binding agreements, rather it serves as a medium to provide policy recommendations," he said. "Therefore, the ability to operationalize such efforts will be largely dependent on democratic governments."


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