The Duterte-Yasay Show was on again this week.
Soon after President Rodrigo Duterte said he would review the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. promptly declared that the EDCA needed no review, since the Supreme Court declared it constitutional.
As this column argued a week ago, the Duterte administration may be deliberately sending confusing foreign policy signals signals to keep major powers off balance, so he can get more concessions in recalibrating relations with them http://www.manilatimes.net/president-dutertes-tough-talk-foreign-policy/288448/
That’s why his alter egos, like Sec. Yasay, don’t get fired for repeatedly altering what he propounds: it’s all part of the script.
The Hitler brouhaha may save lives
Was the Hitler line scripted, too? Media here and abroad misreported that Duterte likened his bloody campaign against illegal drugs to the Nazi leader’s genocide of millions of Jews in World War II.
After outrage abroad and among Jews, the President apologized for offending them, and visited the community’s Manila association.
That may mollify international anger, but one fearsome cabal probably won’t buy Duterte’s denial, and will still insist — with delight — that he disdains Jews.
Terrorists purportedlly fighting for Islam would cheer the misconstrued Hitler comments. And despite Duterte’s apology and denial, they may well cling to the apparent affront to Jews exterminated in Nazi death camps.
And that stubborn misimpression among so-called jihadists may well slash the risk of terrorist attacks on Duterte’s nation. For the enemy of my enemy is at least a non-target.
Scripted or not, the Hitler flub may yet spare many Filipinos, including millions in Muslim countries, from killers who now think our President is a Jew-hater. Go figure.
Now, the headline topic: trashing the EDCA. We recap arguments from past columns.
The EDCA escalates the risk of Chinese attack.
Nuclear-capable missiles on American warships, submarines and aircraft rotating in the archipelago under the EDCA can hit most of China and its vital sea lanes in the South China Sea, where four-fifths of its oil imports
pass, among other essential cargo.
One result: The burgeoning US deployment in the country has led China to build up forces in the South China Sea, including military-capable facilities on reclaimed land.
What’s worse, US forces and the bases they use under the agreement could be attacked even before war erupts, according to US Army-sponsored think tank RAND.
Its report, “War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkalble,” explains: “Sensors, weapon guidance, digital networking and other information technologies used to target opposing forces have advanced to the point where both US and Chinese military forces seriously threaten each other. This creates the means as well as the incentive to strike enemy forces before they strike one’s own.”
And what might the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) target first? RAND’s answer: “The Chinese regard aircraft carriers and regional air bases as prime targets.” That includes the Mactan, Puerto Princesa and Cagayan de Oro military airfields, shared with civilian terminals and available for US use under the EDCA, along with Pampanga and Nueva Ecija bases.
The pact has, thus, revived the fear of then-President Ferdinand Marcos about Clark and Subic in 1975: “[D]oes this not expose the Philippines to the animosities, suspicions and the conflicts arising out of the American military build-up — animosities and conflicts that we have no participation in making — and do not these bases endanger the safety of the Filipinos and the Philippines, not only from conventional armed attack, but from possible nuclear attack?”
For this reason alone, the EDCA should be abrogated. But there’s more.
US forces won’t help defend our territorial claims.
No less than President Barack Obama, as well as Ambassador Philip Goldberg, have made it clear that US forces will not expend a bullet to help the Philippines assert our claims in territorial disputes with China.
Asked twice by Malacañang reporters right after the EDCA signing in 2014 what America would do if the China-
Philippines maritime frictions turn violent, Obama only said that territorial disputes should be settled peacefully.
Yet just days before, in Japan, Obama reiterated Washington’s pledge to defend Tokyo’s control of the Senkaku/Diaoyutai islands also claimed by Beijing.
Then in Davao in June, when then-President-elect Duterte asked visiting Ambassador Philip Goldberg, “Are you withus, or are you not with us?” in territorial frictions with China, the envoy replied, “Only if you are attacked.”
So we must first be suicidal enough to ignite a shooting war with vastly superior Chinese forces before America would consider taking action.
And for this we risk PLA missiles raining on the archipelago, targeting US forces we host under the EDCA, plus the five bases they use, in any Beijing-Washington spat?
Is there a more dumb and dangerous deal in Philippine history?
The EDCA doesn’t help deter Chinese encroachments.
The usual pro-EDCA argument contends that the Philippines cannot defend itself without it. Let’s take this apart.
First, as we just argued, US forces will not intervene until there’s a shooting war with China — not much help in deterring territorial encroachments.
Second, scrapping the agreement does not mean the US will not protect the Philippines from invasion. What ensures American defense is the strategic imperative not to allow a hostile power to take over the archipelago and use it as a regional military platform, as the EDCA now allows US forces to do.
Third, the pact has not provided the anti-access, area denial armaments (A2/AD) which Washington defense think tank Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments says the Philippines needs: anti-ship coastal weaponry, maritime surveillance aircraft and air defense systems.
And why not? Just a wild guess, but maybe it’s because if we get the arms to counter Chinese intrusions, we’d depend less on America.
Plainly, if a less wealthy nation like Vietnam can stand up to China without Uncle Sam, it’s about time we did.
How? That’s a future column, and it won’t have the word EDCA anywhere.