MANILA, Philippines - Albay Gov. Joey Salceda on Tuesday defended his call for a boycott of "made in China" goods amid reported intrusions of Chinese ships in the disputed Spratly Islands.
Salceda said his recommendation was not radical, but a fitting defense of national sovereignty in light of China's "bullying."
"It is a calculated and calibrated response... I am not against the Chinese per se, I'm against China policy towards the Philippines," Salceda said in an interview during Umagang Kay Ganda's Punto Por Punto segment.
Salceda also hit statements by some quarters that the boycott would have severe repercussions on the Philippine economy as China is a large trading partner.
On the contrary, he said the Philippines has nothing to lose from the move.
"Mas marami ang inangkat natin sa China kaysa sa in-export natin (our imports from China are greater that what we export to them)," Salceda said.
Citing data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the Albay governor said Chinese products do not really dominate the Philippine market, and China has no investments in the country.
"Year 2000 to 2009, zero po taun-taon ang investments ng China satin... (China had zero foreign direct investments in the country)," he said while showing central bank documents.
"Consumer goods from China, based on BSP, is $7.4 billion. Total consumption of Filipinos is $142.7 billion so that's 5.2% only. Asan 'yung sinasabi nilang puro Chinese goods tayo?"
He added that Philippine-made goods have suffered from unfair competition from Chinese goods.
"Kaya 'yan mura... 'yan ay informal market, smuggled. Tingnan natin yung negosyo... trabaho na pinatay nito. Nag-hollow out ang ating industriya dahil napakamura ng Chinese goods (Chinese goods are mostly smuggled. Let's look at the local businesses and jobs that have been affected by the smuggling. Our local industries are hollowing out)."
China also had little contribution in terms of remittances and jobs, according to him.
Filipinos working in China only sent US$21.6 million remittances last year, less than a percent of the total $18.8 billion, "that's so small," Salceda said.
"In 2009, for example, 8,771 Filipino workers were deployed to China, not 200,000 as they claim," he added.
He pointed out that the boycott might have an effect, but only on tourist arrivals. He said the number of Chinese who visited the country in the first 4 months of 2011 jumped nearly 19%, much higher than the 5.4% rise in the total number of foreign tourists in the Philippines.
Teresita Ang See, chairperson of the Movement for the Restoration of Peace and Order, meanwhile, lamented Salceda's boycott call and maintained this would deprive the Philippines a sizeable market for its workers and electronic products.
"There's no debate, we have to fight for our sovereignty. But I am saddened the call to boycott Chinese products came from an economist. If we retaliate this way, what would happen to our workers who are exporting their products to China?"
"Cheap 'made in China' products are also helping grow our industries here," she added.
Ang-See urged a peaceful settlement of the Spratlys dispute, leaving trade out of the issue.
"We should have good bilateral relations. We can do joint [oil] exploration (in Spratlys) so everyone would benefit."
The government recently filed a diplomatic protest against China after the armed forces monitored increased number of intrusions into Philippine-claimed areas in the Spratly group of islands by Chinese military vessels.
The latest intrusions occurred on May 21 and 24 when Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie was in Manila for a goodwill visit.
Previously, the government said a buoy and posts were set up by a Chinese transport ship and 2 missile boats at the Amy Douglas Bank, which is near the Philippine-occupied Likas and Patag islands, and about 100 miles off Palawan.
Salceda, a political ally of President Aquino, called on Filipinos to boycott Chinese products to protest the intrusions.
Businessmen nix boycott call
Malacañang, however, distanced itself from Salceda's statements.
Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said on Monday, “It is not a Palace policy to boycott Chinese goods. We have healthy trade with China which cannot be dismissed.”
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) also rejected Salceda's boycott call, saying the Philippine economy is heavily dependent on China.
PCCI honorary chair Edgardo Lacson said that exports to China amounted to $10.51 billion in 2010, while imports were worth $14.7 billion. Aside from this, he said some 200,000 Filipinos are working there.
"We must remember that our entire economy is connected to China, which is the second largest economy in the world... It is hard to predict the fallout from that boycott movement," Lacson said.