Of “unintended consequence”

September 23, 2019

ALTHOUGH it was a Sunday, Philippine ambassador to China, Chito Sto. Romana, dropped all the “crap” about “protocol”— and his much-needed “siesta” and happily met with our group of journalists from the Philippines at our embassy in Beijing.

“Amba” Chito, of course, is among the rarest of Filipinos who know China, its history, its people and its culture, having been “stranded” in the mainland as a young student activist (and a communist) when martial law was declared in 1972.

Thus, his appointment as our ambassador to China when Pres. Duterte became president in 2016, is among the “best” decisions PDU30 has made insofar as improving our ties with China is concerned.

Indeed, by his appointment alone, PDU30 has sent the clear message to his counterpart, Pres. Xi Jin Ping and the Chinese government that a new phase in our bilateral relationship has been reached.

Language, culture and the nuances of our different behaviours can be greatly misunderstood and can sometimes affect policy and decisions by countries— a case in point was the “misunderstanding” or the “misreading” of “intention” between Japan and the United States in the critical months of their negotiations before the attack in Pearl Harbor.

But with Amb. Sta. Romana at the forefront of our talks and diplomacy with China, both sides are fully confident that no such “misreading” or “misunderstanding” of each other’s intention is forthcoming. In short, the room for “ambiguities” has been removed.

Anyway, our group was also elated to note that with his “siesta” out of the way, Amba Chito happily spent not 15 minutes, not 30 minutes but nearly 2 hours of his time in sharing with us his personal views not only with regards to our relationship with China but on a host of important issues as well.

Of course, Sta. Romana’s appointment would not be the first time that a diplomatic post has been used by one government to send a clear signal that it wants to settle its differences with another hostile “neighbor.”

American journalist William Shirer, who wrote the now classic, ‘Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’ narrated that the groundwork for the 1939 “Nazi-Soviet Pact” was not actually done by the less than 2 weeks of “hasty negotiations” between Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin in the month of August 1939 but, by their decisions, more than a year before, to replace their respective ambassadors, each one more to the liking of the host government.

As for the United States, everyone now knows that another country is in deep trouble with US Imperialism (read: subject to subversion, destabilization and removal or conversely, can expect full support if under threat by domestic foes), by simply looking at the “background” of any US ambassador.

Anyway, among the vexing issues back home that we got to discuss with Amba Chito is the proliferation of the POGOs (overseas gaming operations) which, he stressed is farthest from the ridiculous scenario cooked up by the “Americanitas” that they constitute an “advanced invasion force” by China as many of them “looked like soldiers.”

As Amba Chito pointed out, the total picture is that, POGO operations also exist and have also become problematic, in other countries in Asia. “We (the Philippines) are just among the many countries where POGOs (mainly catering to Chinese players) operate,” he pointed out.

Translation? “Hindi tayo nag-iisa,” hane?

The proliferation of POGOs, he pointed out, is not a “project” or “operation” backed by the government of China as a “backdoor invasion operation” but is instead, the “unintended consequence” of China’s phenomenal economic growth and the widespread use today of the internet and other digital platforms in China.

For China today, especially the younger generation, wealth in the digital age has also brought back one “common” denominator between “old” and “new” China— gambling, with upwards to 70 percent of China’s population, especially the young ones,“hooked” on online gaming.

But since gambling is banned in China, the operation therefore would have to be done “offshore,” that is, thru “third” countries where gambling is allowed, such as the Philippines.

However, Amba Chito said the Chinese government is now decided and “serious” in stopping online gambling (read: POGOs) because it has also resulted to other, ugly, unintended, consequences— the rise of criminal syndicates and the increasing cases of human trafficking involving Chinese nationals that has reached the attention of the top leaders of the Communist Party.

Now, should this ‘anti-POGO’ campaign by China fully gets going, expect the Philippines to get hit by its own unintended consequence— crisis in the real estate/real property, retail and services sectors.

As the ones mainly benefiting from the POGOs, they are also surely the first to feel the “pinch” of the POGO slowdown.
This is one “unintended consequence” that should worry a lot of people back home.