Last of three parts
LAST year, both the VFA and the EDCA came under siege from militants and “nationalist” legislators. The militant Akbayan representative in the House of Representatives filed a resolution for the termination of the VFA with the alleged killing of a Filipino transgender by a US Marine cited as one of the reasons. Others want to review the VFA. Meanwhile, petitioners are challenging the constitutionality of EDCA before the Supreme Court.
At a Senate hearing in early December 2014, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said that EDCA was a “deterrent” to threats to the country’s security and not a guarantee that the US will rush to the aid of the Philippines if an armed conflict with China erupts in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) because US Congress approval is needed. This is in sharp contrast with the statement made in April last year by US President Barack Obama that the US commitment “to defend the Philippines is ironclad” because “allies never stand alone.” On September 28 at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, Obama declared: “As President of the United States, I am mindful of the dangers that we face; they cross my desk every morning. I lead the strongest military that the world has ever known, and I will never hesitate to protect my country or our allies, unilaterally and by force where necessary.” As if echoing his president, Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy, chief of the US 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, on October 1 told the Philippine contingent in a military exercise in Fort Bonifacio that the US will come to the aid of the Philippines “within a matter of hours” in the event the latter’s sovereignty is challenged.
The question that arises is: Will the US walk the talk? China should also be able to answer the same question.
In the September 3 military parade in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, China flaunted its new weaponry and equipment to project that it is militarily strong “to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.” In short, China’s strong army is a “deterrent” against the American “pivot” designed to contain China. A visiting Chinese academic said in Manila in late September that the massive Chinese reclamation activities in the South China Sea were a reaction to the US pivot and a condemnation of the Philippine move to settle its maritime dispute with China in the South China Sea before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, Netherlands. China has long been advocating bilateral negotiations between parties involved.
In an apparent attempt to dispel apprehensions over China’s rising military might, President Xi Jinping told the United Nations after his state visit to the US in late September that no matter how strong China became it will “never pursue hegemony, expansion or spheres of influence.” In other occasions, China had claimed that it has never colonized nor occupied another country. Be that as it may, China cannot obscure the fact that it has shown aggression in the past. Although China has become the Republic of Korea’s biggest economic partner today, many South Koreans are not oblivious of Red China’s role in the Korean War (1950-1953). In pursuit of its territorial claims, China attacked India in 1962 and the Vietnamese in 1974. [And what about the annexation of Tibet?]
Also, in his speech at the UN, Pres. Xi said: “All nations, big, strong and rich should not bully the small, weak and poor.” The Chinese are masters at doublespeak. Look at what the Chinese are doing to our fishermen in disputed waters. In April 2015 in Jamaica, Pres. Obama accused China of “using its sheer size and muscle to force countries into subordinate positions… just because the Philippines or Vietnam are not as large as China doesn’t mean that they can just be elbowed aside.” In June 2015, Obama again censured China, urging it to respect the law in its territorial disputes in the South China Sea and to stop “throwing elbows and pushing people out of the way.”
During the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) Foreign Ministers Meeting in Kuala Lumpur in August 2015, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivered a speech to emphasize that “China objects to any non-constructive words or deeds that attempt to exaggerate disagreements, hype up confrontation and heat up tensions, which do not conform to reality.” But what China’s mouthpieces say about the Philippines et al are nothing but insolent:
China Daily (June 11, 2014)
On the football game between soldiers of Vietnam and the Philippines in an island controlled by Vietnam in the South China Sea: “both countries are behaving like scoundrels on the street.”
Xinhua news agency (2014)
The US is a “kibitzer” for its meddling in the South China Sea issue.
The Global Times (April 22, 2015)
The Philippines is “a cute little submissive of the United States” for its military exercises with the latter.
The late Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew had provided a relevant and revealing insight about the Chinese:
“They expect Singaporeans to be respectful of China as it grows more influential. They tell us that countries big or small are equal: we are not a hegemon. But when we do something they do not like, they say you have made 1.3 billion people unhappy… So please know your place.”
Irrespective of the validity, veracity or dependability of the US commitment under the Mutual Defense Treaty, it is comforting to have a Big Brother amidst the presence of a bully in the neighborhood.