There has been a lot of coverage in the U.S. media lately about America’s Asia ‘pivot.’ In particular, U.S. seems to be taking sides with Vietnam and Philippines in their disputes with China.
The U.S. relationships with these two countries are nothing but complex. When the Philippines was colonized by the Spanish, the U.S. took sides with the Philippines to oust Spain. Little did the Filipinos knew they would have to fight the Americans in yet another attempt to gain freedom. Filipinos estimated 1+ million were killed as a result of that war. The story in Vietnam was not that dissimilar. The Vietnamese were fighting to end French aggression. After the French withdrew, the United States went in on the grounds of stopping Communism from spreading. From the North Vietnamese perspective, it was a new imperialist, and they were fighting yet again for their freedom. Again, with millions dead.
Geopolitics is a funny game, and us mere mortals simply have no idea what the true reality is. In this article, I would like to share two views from inside Philippines; one welcoming U.S. participation and the other oppose. Perhaps the easier way to make sense of the South China Sea dispute is simply this: one set of Filipinos wanting the disputed islands really bad and the other less bad – all the while with two giants tugging the camps apart. Imagine two elephants in a room with a little mouse. Sadly, the reality is it’s much more likely that the little mouse gets stepped on. (Wait, are elephants really afraid of mouse?)
|“A costly provocation”Rod P. Kapunan
(Published in the Manila Standard Today newspaper on Saturday, January 28, 2012.)
Puppet states having a sense of decency always try to keep under wraps their uncomplimentary status because they still want to be accorded a degree of respectability by the international community. They strive to keep that even if their sovereignty is visibly absent to qualify them as independent states. In our case, we do the exact opposite of blindly obeying whatever that criminal state would want us to do, like antagonizing China without our national leadership weighing whether our holding of a joint military exercise in the disputed Spratly islands would do us good, or would in fact push us closer to confronting our giant neighbor.
There had been antecedent events in our relations with the US as when we expected them to be on our side, but turning out siding with the British created federation over our claim on Sabah. Many could read Washington’s motivation in wanting to create a deep wedge between this country and China. So, as we foolishly isolate ourselves from that most economically progressive country in the world today, our economy that is hanging by the thread suffers because of our self-inflicted denial to avail of the benefits of the “economic spin off” from what the Chinese call “chi”,or the energy generated by progress.
As our relations with China deteriorate under the auspices of this empty-headed government of President Aquino for, in the words of the late Senator Claro Recto, our canine devotion to allow ourselves to be pitted against a country against which we could never hope to win, the US takes advantage in our stead. Aside from the hard reality that we could not expect help from the Americans for the objective reason that their economy is in shambles, the US badly needs China to resuscitate its own economy. In the end, we forfeit by technicality whatever economic gain we could obtain from the booming Chinese economy because of our blind allegiance to a country that in all these years obstructed all our attempts to industrialize.
Political analysts could clearly see that our current policy towards China is a US formulated policy. Instead of questioning that, the Aquino government rather sounded the bugle for our soldiers to get ready for war. The unpleasant thing about our hallow belligerency is we are the ones spending for our own defense preparations, a dubious policy not seen by the government as our contribution to keep afloat the bankrupt US economy. A second look at that approach of sowing threat to the region’s security and political stability is it could trigger an arms build up, a situation that could be exploited by the US to sell more of their costly weapons to countries in the South China Sea that have been agitated by Western media propaganda of China’s alleged hegemonistic ambition.
Right now, China stands as our number two trading partner next to Japan. In the first half of 2010, we accounted $13.1 billion in our trade with that country or an increase by 52.6 percent from the 2009 posted at $8.6 billion. Most importantly, we continue to enjoy a favorable trade balance, that for the same period we accounted a total of $7.5 billion in imports, while the Philippines exported to China a total of $5.6 billion. The indubitable fact is without China, our economy would have dived deep into the sinkhole a long time ago.
For all that we have been saying about those cheap goods from China, it was those cheap goods we look down with disdain that allowed our people to wade through the economic difficulties to stretch their purchasing power to buy goods they could not otherwise afford for the same goods made in the US and Europe. Cheap imports somehow slowed down the drain to our much needed foreign exchange earnings by way of inter country import substitution for cheaper products.
On the contrary, the upgrading of our defense capabilities would not help our economy. Under the present situation when the world is reeling from the brunt of the economic downturn, our massive purchase of arms is both criminal and treasonous. Undeniably, it is this poor-as-a-rat country that is subsidizing the US economy that has been sacked empty by the combined action of those bank looters in Wall Street and war maniacs in Pentagon.
Even the purchase by President Aquino of that mothballed Hamilton Class US cutter renamed Gen. Gregorio del Pilar for a cost of P450 million with an added P120 million operational cost for the next two years has raised much skepticism as to what kind of defense shield President Aquino wants to build. The government ignored the fact that cutters of that class are mainly used for customs services; to intercept smugglers, sea poachers, for patrol, but not to engage enemy ships in possible sea battle. Not satisfied, the government is also planning to acquire another for the same cost.
Nonetheless, the amount we spent to purchase a costly second-hand cutter does not seem to match with the depressing truth that many of our people skip their meals for want of nothing to eat. If we are to consider the Social Weather Stations report as of September 2011, it reported that one in five households, or 21.5 percent, or an estimated 4.3 million families nationwide experience having nothing to eat in the last three months. That means our expenditures for armaments simply do not tally to our priority of whether to feed our people or to fight China.
Even the proposed acquisition of F-16 is quite staggering with each costing about (F-16 A/B) P627.8 million or P808.4 million for the newer version (F-16 C/D) a piece. So, it we purchase a dozen of them, that would cost us P7.534 billion or P9.7 billion, respectively. That means, even if we allocate our entire budget just to purchase those weapons of war, that would not suffice. What is a dozen against China’s array of modern aircraft like their 200 SU-27,150 SU-30, 100 J0-11 and an undisclosed number J-20 Stealth fighter bomber. Worse, Wikipedia states that the F-16s had been in the US Air Force inventory since 1976 or for 36 years already, and had long stopped purchasing those aircrafts that today is being sold at astronomical cost despite its outdated technology. Maybe, it would be most prudent if we think of the 30.6 million Filipinos or 6.12 million families who are suffering from poverty as estimated by the Population Commission.
As said, China will never consider us a threat to its national security. For them to naively think we are is a big joke. China is an emerging world-class superpower no country could stop. It has a much improved weapons system, and there is no way we could match that. The only way we could compel China to change their thinking of us is when we decide to build our own nuclear bomb. That then could radically alter the balance in the region, and China need not be provoked to launch a pre-emptive strike against a fanatical puppet like the Philippines.
|“PHL sees expanded US military ties keeping China aggression at bay“AMITA O. LEGASPI, GMA News
January 27, 2012 4:05pm
The Aquino administration is pinning its hopes that Chinese incursions into the disputed West Philippine Sea will stop once an expanded military cooperation with the United States is in place.
He then confirmed that talks are ongoing between US and Philippine officials on enhancing defense cooperation between the two allies.
The Philippines badly needs defense cooperation agreements with other countries, the Place official said.
“I don’t think anyone will deny that the Philippine defense capability has lagged behind its neighbors in the last several decades,” Carandang noted, adding that “… the Aquino administration, since it came into office, has been working very hard to enhance our defense capabilities, particularly our maritime capabilities,” he said.
“We’re doing this in cooperation not just with the United, but also with Australia and other Asian neighbors. So that’s part and parcel of our efforts to enhance our defense capabilities,” he added.
In Camp Aguinaldo, Defense chief Voltaire Gazmin echoed Carandang’s remarks. “It may even result on no intrusions if we have (US) ships plying our area. Its not actually just in the Philippines because this is a large channel (where the US will be moving).”
“I would look at it from the positive point of view that there will be stability because we have enough deterrent. If we do not have a deterrent, there might be violation of our territories. Now, if we have good neighbor on the block, there will be not much intrusions, we will not be exploited,” Gazmin added.
For his part, Foreign Affairs chief Alberto del Rosario said: “Yes, it is to our definite advantage to be exploring how to maximize our treaty alliance with the United States in ways that would be mutually acceptable and beneficial.”
But Del Rosario quickly stressed that “any actions taken will be consistent with our treaty obligations and in accordance with Philippine laws and the 1987 Constitution.”
The Philippines has lodged diplomatic protests against China’s repeated incursions into the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea.
Treaty partners of the Philippines are “obliged to help defend us when there are incursions into undisputed Philippine territory, that has not changed,” said Carandang.
Nothing is final
Asked if US military presence in the Spratlys will be visible in the tension-filled area once an agreement has been forged, Carandang said he does not know.
“What we are really talking about is in undisputed Philippine territory. We never had Balikatan exercises in those disputed Philippine territories, always been in areas that are indisputably with the Philippines,” he said.
With the talks still in the early stages, Carangdang noted nothing is final and that it will not lead to a return of US military bases in the Philippines.
“We are not talking about permanent American military presence here, we are talking about temporary presence which does not violate our Constitution,” he explained.
US military presence in the Philippines started in 1898, after the Americans wrested control of the archipelago from Spain, which ruled over the islands as its colony for nearly four centuries since 1521.
In June 1991, the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in Zambales province buried the US Naval Base in Olongapo’s Subic Bay in ash and, months later in September, the Philippine Senate decided not to ratify the extension of the US bases treaty.
No basing arrangement
“Any arrangement we have with the US or any other country will be done in conformity with our treaties, our laws and our Visiting Forces Agreement in particularly with the US, Carandang told reporters Friday.
“So we do not believe that any of these things will be violative of the law,” he added.
None of the current initiatives involves basing arrangements similar to what the country had prior to 1991, the Palace official noted.
“Hindi po tayo nag-iisip na magbalik ng US bases similar to Subic and Clark prior to 1991. No. What we’re really looking at is our enhanced defense cooperation,” he said.
While it is not yet clear if the new military arrangement with the US can be forged during a meeting between President Benigno Aquino III and President Barack Obama around the middle of the year, military matters are on the agenda of bilateral talks, Carandang explained.
“I’m not sure what kind of timetable we’re looking at. But certainly, defense issues have been part of the discussions of enhanced bilateral relationships. And when the President goes to United States, it… certainly, again… defense issues will be discussed. — VS/RSJ, GMA News