The true independent foreign policy

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GIL H. A. SANTOS

IN this 21st-century age of information, communications, knowledge and advanced technologies, there appears to be some confusion on the interpretation—and application in real life—of what is the meaning of an independent foreign policy.

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Some of my friends in civil society and even in school criticize President Rodrigo R. Duterte for “being too friendly with China—and Russia. And he is grossly misled by anti-Americans in his circle to abandon and blast away at the US, a tested ally from way back after we suffered a lot from the Spanish colonial oppression.”

They add “he should be aware that China is using its newly found economic (and growing military power) prowess as a tool to influence and control the less developed countries in the world.”

“We must all be wary of the Chinese financial aid and its offer to build the railway infrastructure to connect Beijing with the rest of the world. It is now doing this to stretch its geopolitical persuasion in the Southeast Asian region, Africa, Central Asia and Latin America.”

On the other hand, some pro-Chinese friends (and also my students) clearly state by asking: “But is it not a fact that the Chinese and the Russians—regardless of their communist ideologies—are only interested in promoting trade and total economic activities which will eventually result in progress for all?”

But in comparison, consider what the Americans have done to us. They made us a dumping ground of their exports since they started colonizing us before the turn of the 20th century. And they made exporters of raw materials exclusively to the US for more than half a century. Washington even murdered our people who did not want to surrender to them. Remember how General Pershing ordered the development of the .45 caliber automatic hand gun against our Muslim brothers they could not conquer? And their Balangiga massacre and how they murdered Gen. Gregorio del Pilar?

“And China never invaded nor conquered any country.”

The culprit here, and that is no-brainer, are their respective biases, or lack of historical background, lack of verified information and a lot of perception. In the end, there is only one logical solution to this misunderstanding of what true sense of Filipino nationalism: A rewritten—or correction of—Philippine history to set our national unity and even to understand the need for regional (Asean) unification in this 21st century.

Rewriting history for accurate knowledge of our past, so we can truly understand and appreciate how we came to our present state of mind and economic-political development—and enable ourselves to strategically plan our common future—is no joke. Easily, it will need some five years of detailed and thorough research and vetting even with the scientific and communications (internet) technologies which forces manufacturers to set shorter obsolescence period of miniaturized mobile devices.

It will need a set of researchers, writers and editors to accomplish—and millions of pesos. My argument in favor of rewriting our past and present is simple: Yes, it is expensive. But do you want ignorance and confusion instead?

I agree that there should be an assessment of President Durerte’s first year in office. But his record, efficiency or effectiveness must not be compared with that of the other Presidents we had because the circumstance under each elected President are not the same.

All factors affecting foreign policies of any nation are dynamic. Domestic and global factors that affect foreign polices of nations change daily; and these must be scrutinized in evaluating public policies. Otherwise, any assessment that skips that process will end up convoluted and irrelevant at best.

Don’t believe. Ask our able and retired diplomats and former national public figures who are members of the Philippine Council of Foreign Relations under the leadership of former Ambassador Jose V. Romero Jr. and former national security deputy director Dr. Alan Ortiz.

One cannot just depend on the daily domestic media commentators and columnists or newspapers and hearsay. You must have the necessary network of sources of data and the capacity to get policy statements from the horses mouth, so to speak. That requires a good amount of experience, personal networking developed over years of actual work, and maturity.

There are always two sides of any event, person or historical period one analyst and interpretative writer must go over with a fine-tooth comb. For example, some Japanese scholar I have met in Tokyo know that the Chinese emperors tried to invade Tokyo centuries ago, But the Chinese naval commanders did not foresee the weather and in two separate occasions, their attacking junks and troops were beaten by the typhoons that sank them in the Bay of Tokyo.

True, the present Chinese leadership know they can use their new international economic status to help world development because their offer of railway systems to to the Asean members will increase trade for the developing, less wealthy nations of Southeast Asia.

The Americans were in the same situation when Henry Ford went into mass-producing the motor vehicle so “our citizens can realize the American dream of owning a home and two cars”. That was the beginning of the American economic dominance in the world.

The Germans and the Japanese had the same experiences or historical eras of their own that propelled their economies to new heights. So did the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Romans, the Dutch, the British, the Scandinavians before and during the first industrial revolution.

In all cases, the desire or ambition to be the word hegemon were fired in all of them—without exception.

So what will make China and Russia exceptions, when the trigger of all world conflicts is the burning desire in each national leadership—particularly when their countries become world powers (and they necessarily build up their military powers or offense weapons in the diplomatic guise of “defense weaponry to protect our sovereignty”). I’m not saying China and Russia will colonize us.

My point is simple: an independent foreign policy like President Duterte is now practicing, means being friendly and trading with every other nation we can export to and import less from, regardless of ideological considerations.

It requires the implementers to consider what is best for the Philippines and the Filipinos first before going into any deals of any sort—bilateral or multilateral.

In this century of globalization, and to a certain extent regionalization, progress means –in simple terms and Philippine context—having internal peace and stability, with food and water security in a sustainable environment rich in natural resources.

The urgent need now—in the Philippines and the entire Asean—are communicators to get accurate information to trickle down to the grassroots level and cost-efficient managers of our natural resources to insure sustainable development.

Comments and reactions to gilsmanilatimes@yahoo.com

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