WASHINGTON D.C. - As Filipino Americans heed calls for Filipinos to unite against China, a ranking Philippine official cautioned against the boycott of Chinese-made goods lest it hurts Filipino business as well.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda stressed that the country’s differences with China, especially the clashing territorial claims in the South China Sea, will be resolved through diplomatic channels despite its recent aggressive slant.
“Despite the ‘air war’ there is still diplomacy especially now that Ambassador Sonia Brady, an old China hand, is there,” he told newsmen during a recent briefing in Washington, D.C.
The US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG) has intensified the boycott China campaign. New York-based USP4GG executive Loida Nicolas Lewis went to San Diego, California not only to campaign for longtime Philippine supporter, Chula Vista Rep. Bob Filner but also to urge compatriots to join cause against China.
Last year, Fil-Am leaders in Washington D.C. silently launched a campaign to stop buying Chinese products. This campaign was launched long before the Philippine standoff with China over the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and the Spratlys.
"I don't want war to break out and we can influence world opinion against China if we just stick together and send emails, Facebook, Twitter to all our friends, Filipinos or Americans, that they should boycott made in China goods because China is acting like a bully," Lewis said.
Upon learning of Lewis' call, Chinese netizens responded by calling for their own boycott against 27 TLC Beatrice retail stores in China.
"I sold it all several years ago so I don't own it anymore. So it's a good thing they know our tiny little country can affect them," she said of the TLC Beatrice stores.
Lacierda said the South China Sea spat is only one aspect of the Philippine-China relations. He revealed for instance that Filipino businesses invest twice as much as companies from China.
“We invest more in China so that the balance of investments is actually in their favor. We invested about $3 billion (P125 billion) versus less than $1.5 billion from China. Very few people know that,” he argued.
He cited the popular snack maker Oishi owned by businessman Carlos Chan which opened “several” factories in China. Oishi is a virtual snack icon in the Philippines and employs thousands there as well as in China.
Lacierda also cited Filipino multinationals like Metro Bank and SM that have substantial investments in China.
The USP4GG conceded that an anti-China boycott would be difficult. One Fil-Am store owner in San Francisco said she could not join the boycott because all her products are made in China.
Those who agree to join the boycott said they will do so because Chinese-made goods are usually inferior in quality to those made in the US.
"I fully support the Filipino government in trying to make sure that they retain the sovereignty on those islands. We've been in communication with the state department and Secretary Clinton and a number of congressmen are trying to help the Philippines in this situation," Filner said.
Fil-Am leaders want to expand the boycott beyond the Fil-Am community. "We are already in touch with the Vietnamese and Taiwanese communities," San Francisco-based USP4GG leader and lawyer Rodel Rodis said.
He downplayed China’s threat to retaliate, noting China started the boycott route when it discouraged its tourists from visiting the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the Fil-Am boycott proponents said they will continue to hold prayer vigils and pickets outside China’s diplomatic outposts around the world to pressure them to stop encroaching on their neighbors' land.