The looming event of significance for the Philippines is the coming state visit of President Bongbong Marcos, Jr. to China on January 3, 2023. Some people believe that PBBM will clarify his heretofore vacillating position on the firmness of the “comprehensive strategic cooperation” with China already signed between the two countries and cease the dalliance with the U.S. “strategy of tension” in the region building up more U.S. bases and terminating the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty.
Basing on the Philippines’ stated principle enshrined in its Constitution of upholding an “independent foreign policy” the Philippines in its practice of the principle in the most crucial foreign policy issue it faces today – the mounting pressure of US containment vs. China – the Philippines declares that it does not take sides between the two. But that contention of the Philippines foreign policy mouthpieces don’t hold water as the Philippines harbors military forces of the U.S. on its soil.
The U.S. using its 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty as basis for a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) claims the privilege of basing “temporary” U.S. equipment and forces in the Philippines expanded by another agreement called the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which the U.S. and Philippine defense officials have agreed to expand from 5 to 10 bases for U.S. troops to base in – a “done deal” even without the blessings of the Philippine senate and chief executive.
The “done deal” declaration was made by security expert Dr. Rommel Banlaoi who at a Webinar stated this citing the expenditure of $ 70-million by the U.S. in the construction of the new bases already on-going. This raised the hackles of many Webinar participant but Banlaoi said (which I paraphrase here), “… the Armed Forces of the Philippines is an American organization… and it will do what the U.S. wants.” Suggestions to oppose this was raised, ranging from a “referendum” to a “people initiative.”
The reality is the “independent foreign policy” is negated by U.S. capture of certain institutions and political entities in the Philippines allowing the country to be used as a preparatory platform for launching all sorts of lethal threats against China. Miliary drills, including live-fire, are already actually being staged at points in northern Luzon where Taiwan can be assaulted by the U.S. as well as points in in the southwest island of Palawan closest to the disputed SCS features.
While the Philippine government plays dumb about these realities threatening to China it continues its charade about having an “independent foreign policy” while using the cover of Philippines claims to the “West Philippine Sea” and the threat (non-existent) of China using force to take Philippine occupied islands and EEZ claims supposed granted by the Hague “arbitration award” which the U.N. to this day has never recognized its “legal and procedural merits” at all.
The Philippines asserts that in the way that it is practicing its “independent foreign policy” it is “balancing” between the U.S. and China to serve the “national interest/. Take this balancing where the U.S. is allowed military forces in Philippine territory and possibly, by default, allowing U.S. Intermediate Nuclear Forces (missiles) in the bases (U.S. neither confirms or denies their presence) hence making it a retaliatory target of Chinese second strike against U.S. forces – does this serve the national interest?
What is the National Interest according to PBBM? I have reviewed PBBM’s many speechs looking for a crisp, clear statement defining the Philippine national interest according to his view – I have not seen one but many, too many to be definitive and clear. In July after inauguration he defined it as a “safe, more prosperous” Philippines, safe from what and prosperity from where? Quite often government and media narrow it down to the conflict over SCS claims – which is inane.
There is no doubt that the national interest of the Philippines is in building up its prosperity for the middle classes and poor increasingly marginalized by an economy where only the 1% oligarchy continues to grow its wealth through exploitation of privatized utilities and infrastructure, and exploitation of financial corruption (latest is the PLDT internal plunder of P 42-billion and the alleged SSS-GSIS investment in the Villars’ AllHomes that lost about P 750-Million into the Villars’ pockets).
The source of prosperity in the past five years and for the foreseeable decades ahead for ASEAN and the Philippines is China, now ASEAN and the Philippines top trading partner with the former hitting $878.2-biliion in 2021 while Philippine exports to China and Hong Kong totaled over $ 20-billion in 2021 and imports over $ 31-billion or total of over $ 51-billion. Trade with U.S. totaled only over $ 21-billion in 2021 and parts of that are foreign military sales.
Peace is the prerequisite for prosperity, a stable, predictable and harmonious environment for trade, agricultural exchange, industrial and technological development. China advocates the “Win-Win” formula for all negotiations, including disagreements over SCS claims, while the U.S. is the greatest warmonger in the post-World War II era and to this day. Why is President BBM being “Mr. Congeniality” with the chief warmonger of the world?