POSTSCRIPT / November 1, 2012 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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China seeks harmony, not hegemony - envoy

BE POSITIVE: Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing stressed in a conversation at the Edsa Shangri-La hotel last Tuesday that at this stage of Philippines-China relations, it is mutually beneficial to focus on areas of agreement rather than on disagreement.

She explained that pending bilateral issues, some threatening to disturb improving relations, are already being addressed at the proper level. The recent visit of Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying, she added, has contributed to easing tension and facilitating constructive dialogue.

The ambassador was responding to my query if it was true that there was an agreement last summer for both countries to pull out their vessels from the Panatag (Scarborough) shoal off Zambales as part of a de-escalation in the conflict zone.

Her response was more elaborate than that, but, sorry folks, I had agreed that the rest of it was off the record.

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WE’RE ALL ASIANS: Actually her appearance before the Tuesday Club was, as explained by TC chair Tony Katigbak, more social than official and shorn of protocol.

Ma, a petite lady of 57 years, did not deliver a speech, but said in brief remarks that there are so many things she has to learn about the Philippines. This is her first ambassadorial assignment in Asia.

She was previously posted in Finland where she started as Third Secretary in 1977 and went up the rungs till she became ambassador in 2006. She logged a total of 17 intermittent years in Helsinki, long enough to learn the Finnish language and get accustomed to Finnish-made cellphones.

Still she experienced no culture shock with her posting in Manila. “We’re all Asians,” she said, “There’s a big Filipino-Chinese community here.”

Marveling at the cultural mix she found, Ma paraphrased the description of a Filipino as “an English-speaking Malay with a Spanish name eating Chinese food.”

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SEEKING HARMONY: We recall the words of her predecessor, then Ambassador Liu Jianchao who told a joint meeting of the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines on Oct. 11, 2010:

“As the biggest developing country, China will continue to play a responsible and constructive role in the world affairs as well as Asian affairs. Harmony, never hegemony, is what we are seeking. China’s development harms no one and threatens no one, and is never a cost to other countries, but rather an opportunity to them. China will remain a huge market, a source of investment, a helping hand and a peace maker.

“True cooperation requires sustained efforts, and more importantly, requires friends who will listen to each other, understand each other and, most of all, trust each other. The Philippine government and the people are now committed to fostering sustainable development, eradicating poverty and improving the livelihood of the people. China wants to be part of the process.”

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NATIONAL MAP: Vice Minister Fu who visited Oct. 18-20 was China’s ambassador to Manila during the time of President Erap Estrada. The charming envoy, an ethnic Mongol with strong views, stayed only 13 months before being recalled home.

I remember raising the hackles of ambassador Fu at a forum at Sulo Hotel in Quezon City on the arrest of Chinese fishermen poaching in Philippine waters and whose release she was working out.

There would not have been this problem, I pointed out to her, if only her government reminded Chinese fishermen not to poach in Philippine waters.

She whipped out a map, spread it out for the press, and pointed out that the area where the fishermen were accosted by the Coast Guard was outside Philippine territory.

While her reaction was understandable, it was somewhat funny — especially because I saw that her map still had its National Book Store bar code and price.

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BURGER CREW: On a local issue, it is high time the proper agencies looked into the plight of female workers in fast food and burger chains. We share the observations of reader Arsenio T. Joven of San Dionisio, Parañaque, who said in an email:

“Many young girls working part-time at fast food chains and burger stores go to college and have to stay until closing time which is up to past 10 p.m. At the end of the day, the work crew in their teens and early twenties do the menial tasks of floor mopping, pushing pressurized tanks for dispensers, etc. It is also at this time when some of the girls are exposed to their male co-workers who take advantage of them with casual body contacts.

“These young girls reach home near midnight especially when felt obliged to comply with their boss’ invitation for a night out. They have to take several rides (jeep, tricycle) to reach the safety of home. They are prone to muggings, such as cellphone snatchings and holdups. Worst, the attractive ones are prey to molestations or even kidnappings for sex slavery, rape and even murder. Indeed, they are easy prey to crimes that, on many occasions, are not reported for fear of shame and scandal.

“Parents and guardians of these young workers suffer anxiety whenever their wards are still out at work late at night.

“Does the Department of Labor consider the risks these hapless young girls are exposed to? Why can’t fast-food chains come up with policies limiting the work hours of their female staff up to, say, 7 or 8 p.m. to allow the girls to reach home earlier?

“Furthermore, horsing around leading to indecent body contacts by male co-workers should strictly be prohibited by their establishments.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 1, 2012)

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