One of the longest and most enduring relationships that thePhilippines maintains is with the United States. We like to call this “special relations”. Still, recent geopolitical developments show that there is need to reconfigure and redefine that relations.
The “pivot” or “rebalancing” of focus and forces of the Obama administration may however point to some possible demons that may bedevil this special relations. The US pivot is already in Asia; Australia has agreed to receive 2,500 more US personnel to be stationed. Singapore has granted more docking facilities to US ships.
The pivot is already in the Philippines when one we consider the following;
A.) Augmentation of 600 plus American troops rotation deployment.
B.) More frequent docking of US warships at our ports (they pay fees?)
C.) Unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) found in Masbate. Drones are use for targeted killings.
D.) Dumping of untreated wastes in our waters by US Ships.
E.) The Tubatahak unfortunate accident
The developments impact on Philippines – US relations, more specifically on the Visiting Forces Agreement. The VFA is often cited as covering US actions but the Agreement may no longer be adequate to govern the activities of pivot. It is time to revisit the VFA and renegotiate provisions on a) concept of “Visiting”. b.) when “activities” are deemed covered by the VFA. c) Criminal jurisdiction.
The provision or criminal jurisdiction was severely tested during the celebrated rape case filed against America Serviceman Daniel Smith. The US ambassador Kristie Kelley-former SFA Secretary Alberto Romulo agreement which allowed Smith to be spirited away from a Makati jail subverted Philippine judicial processes and should not to be allowed to happen again.
The Pivot also impacts or Philippine-China relations. Claim sees the pivot as an attempt by the US to arrest its growing influence in Asia and intrusion by a “ foreign power in regional concerns” (read South China Issue). The challenge for Philippine foreign policy is to craft an agenda that prevents the Philippines being a pawn in the competition between the two powers. Both China & the US are not the countries they used to be. Be that as it may, the powers will not prejudice their strategic relationships for some rocks or shoals in the region.
Recently, DND Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said return of US troops to the Philippines in “cases of external” emergency including a breakout of war in the Korean peninsula is possible. SFA Secretary Albert del Rosario followed this comment and said that it would be logical to assume that in the event of an attack on the Philippines or a treaty ally, the US would be allowed to use our bases.
He also welcomed more US troops.
If these media reports are accurate and are really realistic possibilities, it will be more strategic if they are left unsaid. The demon of the Philippine being a clone the US still persist. During our campaign and even during our membership of the Security Council of the United Nation, we successfully overcame this demon and established a separate identity and independence. A foreign policy carried out in a country’s national interest will justify itself.
Whether one likes it or not, the United States will be the closest ally of the Philippines. Shared history, geopolitical imperatives and people to people relationship are umbilical cords which unites in two countries. There are more than 3 millions Filipinos in the US-Fil-Ams, immigrants, and TNT’s. The challenge for Philippine foreign policy is to craft a clear and coherent strategy and promote our own national interests. Philippines and US diplomats reach should be longer than their grasp, otherwise demons will continue to haunt their countries.