I WILL grasp a thorny topic from the perspective of the Philippines business and economy.
The Supreme Court has, in the face of challenge, judged the enhanced defense cooperation agreement with the United States legally valid—thus paving the way for the re-establishment of US bases in the Philippines and the resumption of military cooperation between the two allies.
Many see this as a retrograde step, a reversion to colonization and as a move that will make the Philippines a military target to forces hostile to the USA. There is no doubt some will criticize this as something which will upset a major trading partner, China.
US military forces are deployed in over 150 of the world’s 196 countries. In Japan there are nearly 50,000 personnel, in South Korea some 28,000, in Europe about 63,000. There is historic rationale behind most of these deployments—in Japan following World War II during which Japan was the enemy, in South Korea on the heels of the Korean War, and in Europe as a force to oppose potential Russian expansionism during the Cold War. They are not deployed to politically control, they are there by agreement with the host nations—in most cases for defense and in others for tactical military purposes.
The US military expenditure is about $600 billion annually, and given that 20 percent of its personnel are stationed outside the USA it would seem fair to say that it spends many billions of dollars in foreign countries. Wouldn’t the Philippines, with its $270 billion GDP, benefit from having some of that US military budget contributing to the domestic economy? Subic and Clark were initially developed by the American military providing a great foundation for later national development into the outstanding export zones that they are today. Clark in particular attracts much foreign direct industrial development providing decent jobs in decent surroundings and makes a significant contribution (up to 20 percent) to Philippine exports.
US bases were established in Europe following World War II to dissuade Russia’s imperialistic ambitions. In the South China Sea today we have Chinese expansionism with islands within the Philippine nautical zone being occupied and developed by China. It seems that there is nothing to stop them. Next stop Palawan, perhaps? Isn’t it common sense to allow the USA to return to the Philippines with military personnel and equipment to dissuade the Chinese from any further encroaching on Philippine sovereignty and trying to stake permanent claims to the islands and all the marine life in the disputed waters?
Attracting other nations to pay for infrastructure development is the way of the world these days. The UK is trying to attract Chinese investment in nuclear facilities, Russians own British newspapers and lots of expensive real estate in London, while US industrial companies have investments all over the world as do European companies. Foreign investment and foreign expenditure is not there to challenge sovereignty, it creates jobs, improves infrastructure and establishes industry, it improves technology and the skills of the national labor force. All being well, it makes profits on which it pays taxes to the host nation.
Colonization is an old fashioned and out dated concept in these neo-liberal days and the only people who could be said to be pursuing anything resembling it these days are the Chinese with their economic “colonization” of much of Africa, and now South America where they are often able to exert undue political influence on corrupt states due to the size (as a proportion of GDP) and impact of their investments in national infrastructure—the $50 billion canal in Nicaragua ($ 11 billion GDP) linking, in addition to the Panama Canal, the Pacific to the Atlantic
That the Philippines does not want any suggestion of a re-colonization by the USA must obviously be a given, but to have a bit of American military muscle around allows for a far more meaningful negotiating position with China over the future of the disputed islands and, at the same time, puts a useful shot in the arm of the national economy which, left to itself and despite the fiscal statistics, is not going to produce the necessary infrastructure development and the much needed improvement in the quality of life.
Many new business opportunities for small and medium enterprises will be introduced by an American military presence and it is the SME area which is so difficult to develop and sustain.
Mike can be contacted at email@example.com