Amid all that pomp and pageantry that met the most powerful president in the world, Obama came, saw but not completely conquered. The reason being that his statement did not square with the great expectations of America’s little brown brothers that mother America, in adherence to President McKinley’s Manifest Destiny, would come to the immediate defense of the archipelago if attacked by the big bully up north. This was in stark contrast to the categorical pledge of the US president to immediately come to the aid of its erstwhile enemy of World War II if attacked by China.
This was explained by the US president. In contrast to Japan’s occupation of the disputed islands, this country, allegedly America’s staunchest ally in Asia, did not occupy any of the disputed territory. Most observers took this as a lame excuse.
President Obama emphasized that the US had no intention of getting involved in the messy business of territorial claims of both countries stressing that both claims were nebulous, and should best be decided by the international tribunal.
The message of the president could not have been clearer—the US does not desire to get involved in the South China Sea dispute and is only interested in the freedom of navigation in the vast ocean through which flows substantial energy and other resources needed by his country.
President Obama later gave a lecture on US-China relations, which he characterized as cordial. On the political side China he said has supported the US in many instances such as reining in North Korea when it gets out of line, etc. On the economic side the US has found a lucrative market in the Asian colossus for goods, services and investments adding that she is also a huge market for US government bonds.
Hegemoney not hegemony
While sometimes bothered by Chinese unruly behavior in the China seas, many U.S analysts, like many of us, believe that China is more concerned with “hegemoney” than hegemony. Today Chinese economic influence in many parts of the world, be this the Mekong Delta, Africa, Australia and even parts of Latin America is already quite substantial. It does not have to be colonialist, like Western powers in the past to grow. For certain, it will not go to war over a piece of rock jutting out of the sea, even if it will energetically stake its claim over the same ,even using water hoses and intimidating naval maneuvers to do so.
This explains the rather subdued and composed approach to the China issue by the American leadership in stark contrast to the panicky demeanor of ours.
So Why the Treaty?
Apparently as pointed out by Columnist Tiglao of The Manila Times, we have become part of the US defense strategy. Our take is that this is part of cutting back on the military budget in response to US economic malaise in recent years. Reducing US military personnel on shore and keeping them on board big vessels is certainly cheaper than housing them on sprawling military installations in foreign lands. This will of course require the prepositioning of the logistical requirements of its armed forces in their so-called Forward Operating Sites (FOS) which act as operating bases for future operations. This is what ECDA is all about. To sugarcoat their proposal to this government the Americans are making it appear that these facilities can also be used to store aid materials required by communities damaged by natural calamities.
While this is all well and good for the US, the question is will not these depots act as a magnet for future Chinese attack as in Pearl Harbor when push comes to a shoving match between the two giants? The typhoon material camouflage will certainly not deter Chinese missiles!
If the idea is to build a credible defense force for this country, why does not the US just provide this country with a few spare long-range truck-mounted anti-ship missiles, plus a squadron of fighter jets and a few frigates destroyers equipped with cruise missiles–and some drones too? This would certainly make a potential invader blink. This way there would not be any constitutional issues since the war materiel would belong to our country. We believe China, would not really be offended if we arm ourselves – a right of any sovereign nation. On the other hand the EDCA approach might be perceived by the Chinese to be conniving with the US to contain her.
Since President Obama has categorically stated that the US has no intention of containing China and engaging them militarily in our defense on the South China Sea dispute, we would like to make some cost-effective suggestions to enhance the EDCA:
Let local contractors build the FOS and charge the US minimum rental.
Provide our military with a credible defense force to be paid for in easy terms.
Give US military personnel longer shore leaves and let the Philippines grant them tourist visas plus big discounts in local hotels. This should not deter them from indulging in training programs of local armed forces personnel.
The above suggestions should be a big boost to the tourist industry, not offend the Chinese and avoid a constitutional challenge.