NATIONAL Security Adviser Clarita Carlos said the Philippines should not be made to choose between treaty ally the United States and close neighbor China in the event either of the superpowers forces Manila to take a side on the Taiwan Strait issue.
“China is our partner and friend on the one hand. America is also our friend. We cannot choose either or, it doesn’t work that way. Our interest is to get whatever benefits we can from our relations with China and the US. And both countries I think did respect our decision regarding that,” Carlos said in an interview over ABS-CBN’s online talk show Teleradyo.
Carlos said she believes that both China and the US are saber-rattling with the show of force around the vicinity of Taiwan, but doesn’t mean they want that the tension created after the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the self-ruled island would result to full-blown war.
What concerns the Philippine government now is the risk that such saber-rattling would have miscalculations and lead to actual shooting.
In the event the US is attacked and invokes the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty, will the Philippines be dragged into war?
“There is no automaticity in the same case [that] when we need the US. Since the MDT is clear that each one of us will consider our constitutional processes and that is a very long-term and complicated process. I guess in the meanwhile, that should be our answer since we will be relying on the 1951 MDT,” she replied.
Carlos, a professor of international politics at the University of the Philippines before her appointment as NSA head, said Manila is taking a “fine calibration” of the relationship with Beijing and Washington DC on this recent development.
“On the one hand, China is our neighbor but at the same time we have continuing conflict regarding the contested South China Sea and on the other hand, we have the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 so we are a defense ally of the US,” she said. “We will just continue engaging with both parties/actors and the President has declared repeatedly that we will engage critically and constructively with both China and the US.”
She disclosed that while Manila continues to abide by its One-China policy, it prefers a status quo in the Taiwan Strait considering that there are 145,000-200,000 Filipinos working in the island.
“So we have a stake there, that Taiwan being a stable political and military condition and no factor should disrupt that situation,” she added.
Carlos noted that China is using its “economic card” by slapping economic sanctions to punish Taiwan’s leadership for allowing Pelosi to visit the island. One of the sanctions is to stop its export of natural sand, a main ingredient in the $147-billion semiconductor industry which accounts for 15 per cent of Taiwan’s GDP and nearly 40 per cent of its exports.
“I hope our 145,000 workers won’t be affected because they are mainly in manufacturing industries in Taiwan,” she added.