IT must be the pure sea breeze in Cagbalete Island that has induced us to a deep slumber, dreaming a paradigm on our foreign policy: We have entered into an “entente” with China, the awakened Dragon of Asia.
The axiom, “There are no permanent alliances; there are only permanent interests,” has been with mankind since the dawn of history. Will and Ariel Durant relate that there had been dazzling “reversals of alliances,” for instance, during the mid-18th century, or the Seven Years’ War in Europe, to maintain peace or to make war.
England (William Pitt) forgot its amity with Austria and courted Prussia (Frederick the Great) to check France and Russia. Austria (Count Kaunitz) befriended France, despite centuries of hatred between the Hapsburg and Bourbon rulers, and made alliances also with Russia and Poland.
Among the results of the Seven Years’ War were: Poland ceased to exist as a state; the Austrian Empire was tamed; Russia became a power to reckon with; Frederick emerged as the greatest general of his time; England harvested much of the French possessions overseas, from America to India – (“The sun never sets in the British Empire”).
World War II in the Pacific was ignited by an infamous sneak attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor. America and Japan reduced Manila into the second most devastated city in the War. But thereafter, America gave more aid to Japan than to its allies, like the Philippines. That is realpolitik. Only national interest counts.
Today, Japan and the Philippines are allies of America, with an “automatic retaliation” guarantee given to Japan but not to the Philippines, to repel an attack from a common danger.
Lately, President Benigno Aquino 3rd signed with Japan a “secret” compact, a VFA-like (Visiting Forces Agreement) arrangement (questioned by Congressman Antonio Tinio at the Supreme Court). The PH-Japan VFA and the PH-US Edca (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) are pointed against China. (However, lacking Senate concurrence, both are, undoubtedly, unconstitutional). The call for Japan to rearm is loud and clear. There seems to be no more pretense for talking peace, while preparing for war.
We are indeed faced with Chinese aggressiveness in the West Philippine Sea, China has occupied our Scarborough Shoal, and has constructed artificial islands and other improvements. It has proclaimed the policy, “Nine-dash line,” a hegemony over more than ninety percent of the South China Sea. Moreover, it has issued an Adiz (air defense identification zone) over the East China Sea, covering the Senkaku islands claimed by Japan and some submerged rocks contested by South Korea.
Of course, we have haled China before an International Arbitration Court at The Hague on issues of the “Nine-dash line” and the Unclos (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea). We have high hopes of winning. But even if we do, China may follow the non-exemplary behavior of Israel of not honoring decisions, opinions, or resolutions of international tribunals and UN bodies, on Palestine. And America has not ratified the Unclos for its own ends.
As our dream lingers on, we feel that President Aquino and his men have neither the time nor the will to execute a “Filipino pivot” on our foreign policy. Executive Secretary Ochoa, rarely seen and seldom heard, is in no way a Kaunitz (“the best mind,” in their time, according to Frederick the Great); Defense Secretary Gazmin is hardly an Austrian Marshall Daun; and President Aquino is, of course, no William Pitt (a Cicero, most Machiavellian, incorruptible –placing no one, not even God, before England).
Yet some red-blooded Filipino officials, current or in-coming, have to do the paradigm shift as dictated by geopolitical imperatives. We are of and in Asia. Befriend China, for peace if not survival. Avoid the fate of Poland. Not all would agree with Recto on the Filipinos as a “race with a mysterious urge to suicide,” at risk of being incinerated into radioactive ashes. But America has sent air and naval patrols to the “Chinese” artificial islands at the West Philippine Sea. And accidents do happen.
The new accord would normalize the situation in the West Philippine Sea. It would amplify the 1975 RP-Sino joint communiqué, establishing diplomatic relations, recognizing the “One-China” policy, and especially providing that China observe the UN principle of non-use of force or threat of force.
In return, the Philippines has to denounce the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty, as proposed by a resolution of Senator Enrile in 1989. Edca has also to go.
Unquestionably, the United States will always have its “Freedom of Navigation,” of the high seas, which is the second line of defense of the US foreign policy.
Unfortunately, Mar Roxas cannot do the paradigm; he cannot disown Manuel Roxas, the original author of that colonial policy “to follow in the glistening wake of America.” Through their alter egos, President Aquino covenanted with US President Barack Obama on the Edca. As an Aquino legacy, Edca, financially and politically crippling, is a cross to be borne by the Motherland till the West Philippine Sea runs dry.
Comes now Grace Poe, winning her case at the SET (Senate Electoral Tribunal). Regardless of vicious demolition campaigns against her (like the piece of defamation by Narciso Reyes Jr., apparently on behalf of Roxas), and despite disqualification cases against her, Grace Poe is elected President of the Republic.
A few months after her oath-taking, she does a Pitt; she denounces the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty together with the Edca, as a relic of the Cold War – thereby proving beyond cavil her “undivided” allegiance to the Filipino flag.
At the same time, Poe amazingly does a Kaunitz; she signs an entente with China. China withdraws from the Kalayaan, and announces it will cease and desist from further activities at the West Philippine Sea.
Waking up, we head toward the water and have a refreshing swim.
Nelson D. Laviña is a retired ambassador