One of the few commendable major decisions made by the Aquino administration is to promote even closer relations with the United States and strengthen the Philippine-American military alliance.
This is something the more powerful and rational leaders of other Asian countries are also doing—including those in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
Critics of the United States, of the so-called outmoded and colonial Philippine foreign policy—especially the Visiting Forces Agreement and the PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty— find that idea despicable.
But the reality of present-day Philippine geopolitics calls for us to nurture our “special relations” with the USA.
We do realize how a deeper examination will show that our post-Independence “special relations” with former colonizer America resulted in disadvantages to our Republic or at least to an important segment of the citizenry. But these disadvantages came to be only because most of the Filipino leaders dealing with their American counterparts at the bargaining table—or at their friendly get-togethers and socials—were not guided by a clear vision of what they should obtain for our Republic and the Filipino people. Often, they were more concerned with how they and their families and factions could benefit from Philippine ties with “Mother America.”
Fending off claimants to our territory
Today we need to fend off China and whoever else claims to own part of our sovereign territory, our reefs, islets and marine structures within our exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) is clear about what our EEZ is. China has taken over some parts of our EEZ by building fortified structures on islets and reefs—and destroying Philippine buildings there. With its superior government patrol and surveillance vessels China has succeeded in blocking Philippine fishing boats (mainly from Zambales province, whose fishermen in the area nowadays known as Masinloc have, since before the Spanish colonization, been based on shoals in the West Philippine Sea) and forcing away Philippine government vessels. Chinese intimidation has caused residents and officials of an island to close down its school and clear out.
It is necessary for the Philippines to have the deterrence benefit of a substantial, if rotational, US armed presence.
While making sure, as our DFA and Defense negotiators vow to do, that Philippine interests are protected, the Framework Agreement with the US increased military presence here must be approved.
Seeking to have American muscle back our fishermen, Coast Guard and naval boats against interloping Chinese maritime surveillance ships that prevent Filipinos from operating in our own waters is merely pursuing our self-interest.
But this notion seems to be too difficult to understand for some Filipinos—the leftists and anti-Americans—who have an unusually strong influence on some of the most powerful and wealthiest media and who are some of the most influential voices in academe.
Foreign relations strategy
What Philippine foreign relations strategy objectives should be: To maximize anything that will help preserve our territorial integrity, to boost the creation of jobs through the rebirth of our manufacturing industries and the invigoration of our agriculture, to increase Philippine trade with the US and other countries and to increase our advantage as the “Brown Americans” of Asia (as earlier we were hailed as the “Brown Europeans” like Jose Rizal, Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo among others).
Treasuring our official, cultural and personal people-to-people closeness to and our military alliance with the United States—which despite the doomsayers wishes is far from becoming the defunct economic and military leader of the world—will ensure the development and survival of the Philippine Republic, its multi-cultural and pluralist society and the Filipino people.
Not doing so will ensure that sooner than later we become a historical footnote as a sub-province of the People’s Republic of China.
But this doesn’t mean that we should treat China as an enemy. We should continue to deal with it as a “strategic partner.” But with prudence. And never forgetting that it has done us wrong by taking over some of our territories.