President Aquino’s suicidal defense policy



[First of Two Parts]

Let’s make sure we know exactly what this bases access offer to the United States and Japan really means.

First, President Benigno Aquino 3rd is taking sides in what will be the paramount superpower rivalry in coming decades. That’s a radical departure from the past administration’s policy of building strong relations with America, China and Japan, since it isn’t wise for small, weak nations to make enemies of big, powerful ones.

Aquino’s U.S. alignment puts the Philippines in a position similar to that of Cuba during the Washington-Moscow Cold War rivalry from 1950 till the Soviet collapse in 1990. Cuba’s alliance with the U.S.S.R. shut it out of the world’s most dynamic and prosperous economy of the past half-century. America also used its dominant geopolitical and military clout to constrict Cuba on the international stage.

Now, China will become the top global economy for the coming decades, as the U.S. was in the past two generations. As the leading trading partner and foreign investor for dozens of nations, China also exercises growing global influence. If the nation continues Aquino’s policy of siding with the U.S. against China, expect the Philippines to get from China the same economic and diplomatic cold shoulder that Cuba got from America.

Second point: The Philippines now plays host to a constant rotation of nuclear-armed American warships and submarines capable of nuking from the country eight of China’s ten most populous cities (see April 15 column). Now, President Aquino offers the U.S. and Japan access to air and naval bases. This policy succeeds where Cuba failed when the U.S. stopped the stationing of Soviet rockets on the island during the 1960 Cuban Missile Crisis.

If aviation and maritime facilities are made available to American and Japanese forces, China would have to add to its ballistic missile target list Clark, Subic, Villamor, San Fernando, Basa, and other possible bases. Thus, in confronting China over half-submerged islets and shoals far away from the main Philippine islands, Aquino proposes to make airports and seaports near major population centers legitimate targets for Chinese attack. Is that suicidal or what?

There’s more. If there are tensions between China and America or Japan, even when the Philippines has no direct interest in the issues, such as the Beijing-Tokyo dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyutai islands, the country is forced to be involved, since our lands and seas would be places from which the U.S. and Japan can wage war.

Thus, to get purported American and Japanese backing in our one dispute with the Chinese, Aquino will involve and endanger Filipinos in the many security issues that big powers inevitably have with one another, from Taiwan and Vietnam to North Korea and Senkaku/Diaoyutai. That includes tens of thousands of compatriots working in Chinese cities, including Hong Kong and Macau. Is this the way to advance national security?

Now, bringing in the U.S. and Japan into the country’s backyard is supposed to make China less aggressive and more agreeable in the South China Sea. In fact, it has the opposite effect. By allowing American and Japanese forces to permanently operate in and near the archipelago, with access to bases, China will have even more reason to build up its air, naval and missile capabilities in the South China Sea.

Far more strategically important to China than tiny outcrops and waters visited by its fishermen are the South China Sea shipping routes through which a mammoth chunk of its trade, including four-fifths of its oil imports, flow.

To counter potentially hostile forces of America and possibly Japan prowling in the Philippines within cruise-missile and fighter-bomber range of Chinese oil and cargo vessels, the People’s Liberation Army, including PLA navy, air force and missiles, must necessarily expand their reach and firepower in the South China Sea.

Hence, over a year ago, the PLA moved at least one rocket brigade to the southern coast, from which its medium-range projectiles can attack all of the South China Sea and most of Southeast Asia, including the entire Philippines. Moreover, China will continue building up its naval facilities in the Spratlys.

With the escalation of U.S. and Japanese activity in the Philippines, Beijing would almost surely not sign a binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. Certainly not an accord restricting military deployment and activity in the area.

China hosted Code negotiations for years until the Philippines insisted last year on having a common ASEAN position before resuming talks. If Beijing signs a pact, the PLA would have to restrict operations and expansion in the disputed waters. That would leave the South China Sea open for the U.S. and Japan, which would not be Code signatories, to build up their air and naval strength.

In sum, not only does President Aquino’s defense policy expose the Philippines to Chinese economic, diplomatic and defense pressures, it also worsens the South China Sea problem by forcing the PLA to build up in the area to match the U.S. Seventh Fleet and the Japanese Navy expanding in and near the Philippines.

So how should the Philippines defend its territory and economic zones without becoming a U.S. and Japanese outpost in their rivalry with China? That would be the subject of the last part of this article, to be published on Wednesday.


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  1. Talk2kaiservonne on

    I think Mr. Saludo, used a wrong background of flag representing his country. The next time, show yourself a picture using a Chinese flag because your thoughts and feelings speaks so. This time of urgency, with the internal and external threat from China`s PLA, you still have the face to write a column that is entirely pro-China.Why not pack up so as to spare you from China`s anger.

  2. Alexis torres on

    do you think it would make China less aggressive if we don’t coordinate with the Amercians and the Japanese? my answer is NO. You can’t tame this wild beast it will go and hunt for food if it get’s hugry.China’s militarization of the spratlys wouldn’t stop even if you beg them.We need all the help that we could get from the international community.If you want to make friends with the Chinese,then you might as well serve them the whole country in a silver platter.China’s interest is solely it’s interest nothing more,nothing less.

    • rightly said, we cannot be neutral at all times. we have to make a stand and choose where we stand. no amount of dialogue or any formalities will stop china from continuously encroaching in our territories. we may not be able to match their military superiority but filipinos will always fight to the end and we need help for that. hindi nakakahiyang humingi ng tulong sa mga kaibigan mo in times of dire needs.

  3. I’m still wondering why until now we still go for that mythical invisible being to be on our side when we are in trouble or in need. Is more than four hundred years of christianity not enough to convince us that there is no truth to such existence of an all powerfull being above all creatures on earth including man?

  4. A. M. O'Rafferty on

    At the outset, I’m sorry to find Mr. Ricardo Saludo, to me the most balanced and wise Filipino columnist who was underestimated when he was a Philippine govt Cabinet member and Civil Service Commissioner, now seeming to be unaware of the quiet but expansionist tendency of China.
    This has always been so. Even when China was ruled by emperors, later by warlords. and since Chairman/Emperor Mao (read his friend Edgar Snow again) by different shades of Marxist, Stalinist, Marxist-Leninist factions, all of them nationalistic, of the Chinese Communist Party and the Party’s Military Commission, Chinese rulers and governments have had a policy of swallowing up weaker neighbors, bit by bit, tent by tent, village by village, tribe by tribe, party by party, faction by faction.
    The Philippines’ being virtually still the pre-WW II American Commonwealth of the Philippines (something like Puerto Rico and Massachusetts), the US bases in Clark, Subic, etc., the US Seventh Fleet guarding Taiwan (and sort of protecting Hong Kong too) prevented China from invading and making garrisons of our islands and reefs.
    Among the few correct policies of the Cory Aquino presidency was its opposition to the foolishly sentimental, anti-pragmatic, naive and anti-Philippine economic-growth movement to close down the US bases. Unfortunately, the policy to keep up with the nationalist and anti-American Joneses in Europe, Asia, the Arab World and Africa won in the Philippine Senate, thanks to such models of self-interested
    wealth and power as Estrada and Ponce Enrile.
    Let’s hope Saludo’s next column really presents a doable, effective and viable way of defendiing our sovereignty from Communist-party governed China without making ourselves totally dependent militarily on the United States.

    Eddie de Leon

    • jojo plantado on

      So if you (Mr Saludo) think that PNOY defense policy is suicidal then, what is your own suggestion, realistic and doable solution to the problem we are facing against the bullying of CHINA? Do you have any??????

  5. well, what do you want us to do, side with china and give in to all their whims? much better you migrate to china and leave all your possessions and belongings here ok. in as much as this is just to comment your leaning to china impression, i will expound further, YOU SEE abled writer and commentator, the US and Japan even if we were being conquered by this nations before stood up and are willing to make amends of what they have done to our nation to rectify and help us in times of this nature and they should be because of their interest (business or other) while China, your employer, has time and again encroach into our reefs, shoals and land, destroying anything and taking it back to their country to sell, manufacture something with impunity and yet, you are here complaining and whining WHY the US and Japan wants to help. in short, write something nationalistic, patriotic and maybe just maybe go and change something that you think you must change, your views, outlook and your character as a PILIPINO, ano po, PILIPINO..we need the help from those who will give us assistance, be it on anything that we can defend our sovereignty from china that will be a big boost to us and a deterrent to a country most loathed after..china..salamat po…

  6. well, something that you fail to realize is that without the US and our allies, we would no longer have our 200mile EZZ, and chinese oilers would be freely cruising in philippine waters.the main difference between the USA and china is that the chinese dont respect the sovereignty of other nations. now if you will cite the US wars in the middle east, i say that without the taliban hatred for the US, there would be no reason to invade them. the us is losing more money in the wars than i ever hopes to make by drilling for oil.

  7. Without U.S.A. , China will expand and bully claim all the islets and shoals/reefs in the spratly. China can aim all its missiles at any country at its own option and nothing can stopped them but only U.S.A. No country stand alone. It has to align itself to a friend like America. Align our self to communist China is unacceptable to freedom loving Filipinos. Mr. Saludo, your thinking is pro china… must be from U.P.

  8. Tom De Leon on

    first of all, even without the presence of US forces in the country today, China still will make aggressive moves and quietly creeping into the archipelago in search for oil, natural gas and fisheries which are abundant in WPS. HIstory proved this when the PLAN sunked and killed 24 Vietnamese sailors in their skirmishes in south china sea. China also already invaded and occupied 2 of the islets and more coming. How then can you trust China? Before when there were no rumors of presence of natural gas and oil in WPS, China was not interested, but now that there these data known, suddenly they say they own all of south china sea islets. So are you just going to give in to their aggressive actions and plans? I think Pnoy is right and is right to allow US and Japanese forces temporarily station their troops and ships into the country on rotational basis. Without these foreign forces and with our dilapidated AFP if China attacks or clashes happens the US may not help, but with the presence of US forces, they are most likely going to help maybe not in troops but in materiel and equipment. PHL really does not have much option right now because it neglected its AFP for decades.

  9. Pete Gabriel on

    Do you have any background in the military? How about as a diplomat? You don’t know what you are talking about, that is just my opinion. Anything that China occupies, they never give it back, i.e. Tibet. You think they will give back the little islands that they have already occupied? I don’t think so. The PH government already tried protesting and every other legal means you can think of, to no avail. Is South Korea and Japan an outpost for the US? They have bases in those countries. I hope that you can come up with a better solution on your next article, because there are talks among the Generals of China’s PLA that they are willing to teach the Philippines a hard lesson. You better start learning how to speak mandarin. China is already building their Navy long before they started island grabbing, look it up on Jaynes Fighting Ships. China recognizes that to be a credible super power and exert your influence beyond your borders you got to have the capability to project your military through naval strength. Granting access to the US and Japanese military just makes sense. The Philippines will never be able to match China’s military might, and no amount of diplomacy will make them listen to a solution that everybody can agree on, not while there is a large amount of oil and gas to be had to fuel China’s still growing economy.

  10. Yes go be friends with China and take all the Filipinas ouit of America while your at it! Good luck with that!

  11. Sonny Dela Cruz on

    Don’t say anything to someone’s policy if you have nothing to offer, good or bad. I have my own policy too to offer later. This is about democracy, freedom for all Chinese people who is now enjoying the said “American Dream”. They are much much better now economically under the American business partnership and they deserves to be free. I am finishing my song entitled “I’m Coming to China Gate” I have my first Demo song but I have to polish more to be effective. The song if heard in China will make them aware the importance to be free, then Chinese will be fighting against Chinese, that’s my policy. Let Chinese fights among themselves.

  12. Edgar Nacorda on

    God bless the Philippines if the Philippines stay on God’s side. The 2nd World War started in the Philippines with victory in God’s side. I pray that the Filipino leaders stand to uphold the Preamble of the New Constitution. It’s sad to remember that many
    cristian crusaders lost their lives in the past to advance the will of God. But, they were
    all remembered in the history as heroes, saints and sages. We are now entering in the crucial turning point of history as tne first and only solid Christian country in Asia. The future of our country is determinant in the future of the world. Let us pray more intensely as a nation to seek God s help to bring victory which starts from a brilliant and wise decision making.