by Rod Kapunan
There is something bewildering behind the Philippine decision to cancel the purchase of 16 Russian miliary transport helicopters at a cost of 12.7 billion pesos ($227 million). The report says the purchase was already approved by then President Rodrigo Duterte. As if to affirm the decision to scuttle the contract, Philippine ambassador to the US, Jose Manuel “Babes” Romualdez somewhat coordinated with the country’s defense secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, in speculating that the US might just impose sanction should the country proceed to purchase those helicopters.
Many are questioning the decision. It seems the Philippines is anticipating the US sanction after our former secretary of foreign affairs, Teodoro Locsin, recklessly voted to join the US-sponsored sanction on Russia after it invaded Ukraine. Secretary Locsin joined the chorus of anti-Russian hecklers in voting to impose sanction on Russian exports ignoring the basic premise made by Duterte administration that the country will pursue an independent foreign policy which reason why the Department of National Defense was given the go-signal to purchase arms from countries that can offer the cheapest and what is suited for the country.
This narrative about the changing policy of the Duterte administration but allow ourselves to be used as pawn in the Cold War against Russia and China seems more of a rhetoric than a reality. Former Secretary, Locsin, Defense Secretary Lorenzana and Philippine ambassador to the US Romualdez have in their mind that Russia remains an enemy of the US; that whatever sanction the US might impose will have to be blindly obeyed.
Thus, when the UN General Assembly through the US- sponsored resolution passed a sanction against Russia for invading Ukraine and demanded that it withdraw all its troops in that occupied territory, the Philippines like a colonial scout of the colonizers, obediently obeyed the order without understanding that the Philippines is already a mature and independent state and has entered into several diplomatic, economic, and miliary agreements with other countries.
One of this is our ties with Russia and China for which we entered an agreement to ensure that best interest of the country could be served. If acted like what the three stooges anticipating what action will be taken by the US. They know by heart and soul that their duty is to protect the interest of the nation. Rather, they remain sentimental and loyalty to their former colonial masters.
We should have been more circumspect in voting to favor the US-sponsored resolution imposing economic sanction on Russia. It is not the principle of insisting on our right as an independent state or as buyer in good faith, but the danger of losing millions of pesos should we cancel our contract in the name of maintaining our loyalty to an ally whose defense for this country is best tested by the degree of interest they could exact from us in false name of defending our alleged democracy and freedom.
The only limitation as said is the threat of UN sanction on Russia which demanded that Moscow halt its attacks on Ukraine and for it to withdraw all its troops in Ukraine. Our interest can only be measured on how we can correlate them to securing our interest and security as a nation.
The UN resolution did not mention anything against the sale of weapons and armaments because the US knows that could complicate our relations with them, the US being the biggest arms trader, and is the one orchestrating the sale of weapons through its NATO allies.
But in this case, the sale of weapons is purely directed to a country which the US sees as the aggressor in Ukraine. It does not even see that countries affected by its unilateralist policy can retaliate to impose their counter-sanction which could mean the country will end up as loser. Such a policy of unilateralism is self-defeating to the objective of trade sanction.
Whatever one may say about the purchase of those Russian helicopters, the Philippines as a buyer cannot be faulted or prohibited by trade sanction. The only legal hitch is for the US to apply its federal statute known as the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act. We have to take note that when the US imposed sanction, they, in effect, is applying their domestic laws rebranded as “rules-based” laws to make it appear as universally adhered law that was approved by a UN resolution but in truth applying US laws.
The US imposition of trade sanction is an exercise of unilateralism. It has been opposed by many, not to mention that sanctions contributed to the decline of the US as the leader in the world economy.
Besides, to impose sanction on countries that stand as buyers in good faith automatically results in losing trading partners, which the US badly needs to soak up the declining value of the dollar, and to its diminishing exports due to competition. As President Xi Jinping would put it, “US trade unilateralism is self-defeating.”
The war waged by the US in the name of NATO is another imperialistic war fought in a different dimension but in substance, carries the same objective. The war is fought essentially for profit but it is the economy and lives of people in war-torn countries that are made to suffer.
The war in Ukraine is a proxy war because those funding the war are not directly affected. There is no official declaration of war with Russia nor has NATO made official its intention to fight the Russian invasion except for the cost of arms sold by dealers. The war has become one of attrition much that the purpose is to deplete the economy of the protagonists while those engaged in the sale of arms are generating unprecedented profit in the name of freedom and democracy.
The US sanction has been blamed on the purchase of goods sold by Russia like oil and natural gas. Te US should zero in on countries directly supplying Ukraine with all sophisticated arms in their bid to defeat Russia. The US even refuses to look at herself in a mirror, and ask what happened to the 40 billion dollars appropriated by US Congress to purchase those weapons to fight Russia. Yet, nobody takes notice that it is the US military industrial complex that is goading Zelensky and his cohorts to fight Russia in support of those neo-Nazi fanatics.
Many believe the war in Ukraine is a calculated war. First, the UN general assembly resolution did not impose sanctions which reason why many considered the resolution utterly preposterous. To adopt said resolution would only add more economic difficulties than give relief to countries given the burden of finding solution to the US-sponsored sanction.
Second, the US and its NATO allies want war to rage but is calculated not to result in a catastrophic nuclear war or would require the use of aircraft armed with precision guided missiles to directly hit Russia which is the principal target of the UN sanction. Only countries which NATO intends to colonize or rob them of their oil are made to suffer and observe their self-imposed “No fly zone.” The classic example is the “no fly-zone” imposed by the US and NATO on Libya, Iraq, Serbia. Yemen and Afghanistan.
If Locsin joined ambassador Romualdez and Lorenzana in castigating Russia, they appropriately fit to be called “the three stooges” in Philippine foreign relations.
As buyers of commodity, like the purchase of Russian made helicopters, it is the Philippines that will end up losing badly. It is like buying goods but not getting the amount paid because of the sanction imposed by others. It is much doubtful whether we can get back the down payment we made nor can we escape penalties for withdrawing from the contract.
I say this because it is obvious both Ambassador Romualdez and Former Defense Secretary Lorenza purposely trumpeted to the whole world that possible sanction might be imposed by the US. It was an uncanny subservience for the two to notify our intention to withdraw from the contract for that would give the US the opportunity to say we are solely to blame for announcing our intention to withdraw. Such was a pathetic decision by those officials which in fact served as lackeys of the US.
It was the clumsiness by Lorenzana and Romualdez that will give Russia the reason not to refund whatever amount we paid. Russia will always say we made that unilateral decision to withdraw from the contract, and naturally we have to treat the transaction as a bad deal. The US knew that any unjustified cancelation of contract would result in us forfeiting what we already paid although correspondingly US arms traders would ultimately get the contract for their own gains.
In which case, our position was in anticipation the US will impose sanctions which made the contract to purchase hilarious for the fact that the contract has yet to be perfected but aborted by sanction. The US never made good their threat because they equally realize Russia will have all the legal basis to retaliate by imposing their counter-sanction, that means bye-bye to our down payment. This truly makes the two stooges in Philippine diplomacy pathetic.