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President Aquino's Big Blunder: Joining China's Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

Twenty-one nations launch the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in Beijing in October 2014

ith the 2015 deadline just a day away, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III threw in the towel and announced that the Philippines would join the Beijing-sponsored Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as its final founding member. Critics of the new international bank argue that it is China's way of grabbing some of the limelight away from the World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), both of which are already doing what the AIIB intends to do. The major difference is that the two older banks (WB and ADB) are primarily funded by the United States and Japan respectively, while China will be the AIIB biggest funder.

According to Philippine Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, the country needs close to $130 billion to finance infrastructure projects over a 10-year period. With the establishment of the AIIB the Philippines hopes to tap a new source of funding for such projects.

However, if only the country can reduce the level of corruption and more judiciously allocate the billions of dollars remitted annually by overseas Filipinos, there might be more than enough to fund the country's infrastructure development requirements.

Slick operators like Janet Napoles, who is accused of funneling billions of pesos earmarked for development projects, into her own pockets, deprive the country of those much needed funds. Napoles is said to have created hundreds of bogus Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), that received billions from the government. Instead of those funds going into countryside development projects, they were pocketed by Napoles and shared with her equally corrupt benefactors in the Philippine House and Senate.

The Philippine economy today is like a bucket of water with lots of holes in it. Plug those holes and the country might have more than enough to fund its way into first-world status. In October 2015 alone, cash remittances from Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) totaled $2.2 billion. And for the first 10-months of 2015, a total of $20.6 billion was received—up 3.7 percent from the previous year.

So Filipinos need to discard their mendicant mentality and start taking themselves seriously. Today we approach other countries, hat in hand, expecting a handout. Are we always to be the recipient of foreign aid? Will we ever be able to pay our own way, and stand on our own two feet?

The Filipino masses have once again come to the country's rescue like they did during the EDSA People's Power Revolution in 1986. This time it is the tens ofJust one more blunder before yearend millions of OFWs slaving away in faraway lands who are keeping the economy strong and robust—not the lackadaisical local businessmen who usually think in get-rich-quick terms.

With the OFWs sending back billion of dollars each and every month, the Philippines does not need to be part of China's AIIB. The AIIB will just be another way for China to dictate to the Philippines and meddle in our economic affairs. The WB and the ADB will more than suffice given our significant remittance receipts.

Aquino significantly bolstered China's standing in the region by signing on to the AIIB. At the same time he thumbed his nose at the U.S. and Japan (both of which have voiced skepticism about the AIIB). Aquino has really done a great disservice to the Filipino people by allying with China even after that country forcibly took territory in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) that is part of the Philippines. And although Aquino leaves office next year, his successor as well as Filipinos in general will be seen as a people who do not take a stand. In Pilipino: namamangka sa dalawang ilog (two-timing or fence sitting).

In addition, China can even use Aquino's action to argue before the Arbitral Tribunal in the Hague that the Philippines' desire to be part of the AIIB is proof of the country's acceptance of China's sovereignty over the reefs and shoals in the West Philippine Sea. What a way to end the year!

Manigong Bagong Taon, A Happy New Year to all! Published 12/31/2015

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