Use taipans as 'ambassadors' to China: Shahani

by Caroline Howard, ANC

Posted at May 12 2015 01:09 PM | Updated as of May 13 2015 12:12 AM

MANILA - Former Senator and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Leticia Ramos-Shahani believes China will not likely comply with the arbitral tribunal’s decision should it rule in favor of the Philippines' position on its diplomatic protest in connection with the West Philippine Sea.

"I'm glad the [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea] is there as a safe harbor for us but in addition to that, we should not put our eggs in one basket," Shahani said on ANC’s Headstart.

To raise the chances of improving its strained relationship with China, Shahani said the Philippines should exercise creative diplomacy and engage in backchannel talks with Beijing.

"Even if we win, it will be an empty victory because China will not abide by international law. What China wants is we talk to each other, bilateral relations, eyeball to eyeball,” she said.

"Diplomacy can be creative, and you don't have to do it through formal channels all the time, not always through protocol. Break the protocol once in a while," she added.

She also broached the idea of taipans becoming the country’s ambassadors. “All our taipans are of Chinese descent. Do they love this country? Why are they not our ambassadors to China?"

Shahani, a former UN assistant secretary general who also served as Philippine ambassador to Romania, East Germany, Hungary, and Australia, said rather than leave the matter of diplomacy to the Department of Foreign Affairs alone, peace-loving Filipinos should put up a united front against China's so-called bullying.

"We have to show the political will of the Philippines... We should shift gears and let local government units (LGUs) have something to do with diplomacy and international security. We should show the Chinese people that we should have a ‘banca brigade’ even if we meet the Chinese ships, frigates or submarines that we are ready to defend our national territory."

Shahani added the Philippines should not forsake its ties with the United States, but it should also be capable of defending itself in order to gain respect and support from the international community.

"We just filed a protest. Dapat we should have answered with a water cannon... If the Chinese are not scared of targeting their water cannons on us, why should we be scared of thinking it’s war?"

She added, "we should do something now before we are reduced to wimp status."

Shahani pointed out that if a poor country like Vietnam can stand up to China, the Philippines should do the same.

"What she is doing now is destroying this beautiful organic maritime life… Maybe this is the time we think of defending the country with our lives and our blood."