Manila Bay Reclamations, Rising Sinophobia and the 2025 Mid-term elections: Implications on Marcos Junior’s Decision to Suspend Reclamation Activities


Growing concerns among business people have been sparked by the rising tide of Sinophobic rhetoric from our politicians, particularly Senate President Migz Zubiri. The Senate’s adoption of Senate Resolution No. (SRN) 718, alongside SRNs 659 and 707, which condemn the persistent harassment of Filipino fishermen and ongoing intrusions by the Chinese Coast Guard and militia vessels in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), has set the stage for a heated debate. A chorus of senators has stepped forward, armed with passionate opinions, aiming their verbal volleys at our formidable neighboring superpower, China.

Zubiri’s statements resonated discordantly, his call for a boycott of Chinese goods and companies being the most dissonant note. Meanwhile, Senator Riza Hontiveros added her voice to the composition, seeking a ban on a state-owned construction firm entangled in reclamation activities at Manila Bay. As if this symphony of voices wasn’t enough, Senator JV Ejercito joined the chorus with his Sinophobic crescendo. However, his accusations against China-registered ships involved in reclamation, suggesting potential ties to the People’s Liberation Army or PLA, lacked the harmonious resonance of well-researched claims. His tone echoed that of Congressman Erwin Tulfo, who reportedly aspires to follow his brother’s footsteps to the Senate. He orchestrated a resolution, co-signed by relatives, seeking a Congressional investigation into the reclamation projects at Manila Bay.

As expected, another senator, driven by personal interests, seized the moment. Playing a strategic note, Senator Cynthia Villar called for an end to the reclamation activities, citing both the specter of Chinese influence and the genuine environmental concerns of flooding. Yet, beneath the surface, a duet of vested interests plays out. Madame Cynthia’s moves to hinder these projects hint at a desire to maintain property values in Las Piñas, Parañaque, and Cavite, safeguarding them from the risk of becoming landlocked near beachfront properties. Among the ensemble of senators, Villar’s credibility wavers due to her deep-rooted business interests in these areas. Rumors among those in the know suggest that she wields her political clout to vanquish her business rivals, using her companies in real estate, construction, utilities, and mining as the instruments of her strategy.

Examining these intricate political maneuvers, it becomes apparent that the United States and its Filipino allies are campaigning to undermine China’s persuasive influence on the global stage. Curiously, these condemnations have erupted with impeccable timing, closely following a statement from the US embassy urging a halt to the reclamation projects due to their purported impact on Philippine “national security” and concerns over the ecological integrity of Manila Bay. Such a statement carries a whiff of hypocrisy, considering the US embassy’s own location on reclaimed land. Moreover, the question arises as to what authority the US holds to designate these projects as threats to “national security.” It is, after all, the prerogative of the Philippine government to ascertain such threats.

These Sinophobic assaults unfold precisely as the Chinese economy faces the specter of deflation—a condition that could cast lasting shadows on the superpower’s economic trajectory. Adding to this, the recent decision by the Biden administration to bar US technological firms from engaging with Chinese counterparts further compounds China’s challenges. Indeed, August seems to embody the unlucky essence that China attributes to the ghost month.

What stands as certain is that these legislators are aiming to align themselves as staunch pro-American advocates. Their barrage against China serves as a modern-day version of distancing themselves—akin to a political Caesar—from being labeled as part of what one analyst labels the “pro-China” elite. This orchestrated symphony arrives at a time when former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte publicly displayed his allegiance to China. His recent visit, meticulously arranged by China’s new foreign minister, cemented his identity as a steadfast confidante of Chinese President Xi Jinping. This stance, given the acutely tense relations between the US and China, is undeniably risky.

By aligning with the American agenda, these political declarations could mold the contours of the political landscape leading up to the mid-term elections in 2025. The deliberate proclamations from senators seeking re-election (like Hontiveros, Koko Pimentel, Cynthia Villar, Bong Revilla) and those aspiring for office (such as Erwin Tulfo) about this issue transparently unveil their intentions. They aim to dissociate themselves from, or even present themselves as aligned with, the US rather than China. For Pimentel, a staunch member of the PDP-Laban, the sole political party aligned with the Communist Party of China (CPC), his anti-China stance becomes a calculated maneuver to disentangle himself from his Chinese connections, ostensibly securing his political future for 2025. Pimentel’s gamble is far from risk-free.

Congressman Tulfo’s actions also appear to be driven by political motives, given his previous strong support for China and his role as an enabler of Duterte’s politics. Bong Revilla is engaging in political maneuvering as well. It’s widely known that Revilla has gained advantages from his association with Duterte and Arroyo—former leaders who maintain close ties with senior figures within the Communist Party of China (CPC). On the other hand, Villar has been a consistent advocate against reclamation projects, as previously mentioned.

Regrettably, for those genuinely seeking economic growth and pinning their hopes on this reclamation venture as a potential catalyst, the project has been hijacked by political agendas, tainting the purity of its intentions through these legislators’ power-driven schemes. A majority of Filipinos see the potential economic benefits these initiatives could yield. Yet, due to the self-preservation instincts of Filipino political elites, who seek to distance themselves from Duterte after his recent meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.—an encounter that included discussions about Sino-Philippine relations and even floated the concept of him becoming an “unofficial” envoy to China—these promising business prospects are being relegated to the shadows. The paranoia sown by these politicians has cast a pall over these endeavors, which hold potential for substantial progress for the Philippines.

The tragic casualty in this convoluted narrative is none other than Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. In a puzzling turn of events, Marcos Jr. seemingly acted against his better judgment, inadvertently derailing his economic agenda. The question naturally arises: Why? By disregarding logic, he has essentially undermined the potential of his aspirations. These reclamation projects, aligned with his vision and that of his cousin, Speaker Martin Romualdez, serve as prime platforms for the Philippines’ transition toward middle-income status. It would have been a harmonious convergence, with the elevation of the nation’s income status paralleling the emergence of a robust financial and business hub within Manila Bay—a resounding declaration of the Philippines’ resurgence as the region’s premier financial center. With unwavering dedication, Marcos Jr. has been diligently striving to realize his vision for the country’s economic revival throughout his two-and-a-half years in office. With his decision to suspend, the realization that this transition may not be completed becomes clear.

Another casualty in this elaborate masquerade is former Philippine President Duterte himself. However, to be candid, this predicament can be attributed to his own decisions. Duterte now finds himself painted negatively, seen as China’s official subordinate (or dog or mongrel, according to some). This is a substantial blow to Duterte’s political stature, casting a shadow over his influence leading to the mid-term elections. Anti-Duterte factions are seizing the opportunity to cast him and his political allies, particularly re-election hopefuls Bong Go and Bato de la Rosa, as proponents of the Chinese agenda. They are being portrayed as contemporary versions of the Makapilis, a historical parallel that could significantly alter public perception and potentially jeopardize their re-election campaigns.

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