Taking a stand on Ukraine | Inquirer Opinion

Taking a stand on Ukraine

/ 04:40 AM March 01, 2022

Last week, a day after Russia invaded Ukraine using only the flimsiest of pretexts, 87 countries — almost half the membership of the United Nations — voted in favor of a Security Council resolution condemning Russia’s act of unilateral aggression.

Despite being a founding member of the UN and, as such, making it committed to opposing war as a means of settling disputes, the Philippines was not one of those that voted for the ill-fated resolution that was unsurprisingly vetoed by Russia.


In fact, five days after Russia began its invasion of its peaceful neighbor, the Philippine government has yet to make a pronouncement about its official position on the matter.

The closest thing heard from a ranking government official was the pronouncement made by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who said that the country was “going to be neutral for now … We should not meddle in the affairs in Europe, because we are not beside the borders of Ukraine.”


This stance is unfortunate, if not shortsighted. For one, while the conflict is happening half a world away, the adverse economic effects of Russia’s invasion is already being felt locally through petroleum prices that have risen substantially in recent weeks as tensions rose.

As Russia is one of the world’s biggest energy exporters, a prolonged conflict poses a direct threat to the economic security of the Philippines. Sustained high fuel prices at the pump will result in higher transportation costs and demands for increases in public transportation fares. This, in turn, will push up the inflation rate, once more, just as it had begun to ease. High inflation will result almost immediately in higher interest rates which, in turn, will directly and adversely impact the country’s economic growth as it is recovering from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Weak economic growth will mean less tax revenues for the government’s spending programs, and greater unemployment for Filipinos.

Quote card for Editoria; Taking a stand on Ukraine

So we stand to lose — and lose big — no thanks to Russia’s aggressive actions against its European neighbor.

In today’s interconnected world, nothing is farther from the truth than to think that, by staying neutral, the Philippines is protecting its own interests from the ill effects of some faraway war.

The government’s silence is perhaps understandable given the current policy of the incumbent administration to have warmer relations with China and Russia. President Duterte, who had made a visit to Russia and confessed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, had approved the acquisition of military equipment from Russia as well as COVID-19 vaccines. This policy apparently was the reason for taking a “neutral’’ stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

There is also the matter of the ubiquitous overseas Filipino workers. But Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has already seen to their safety, having personally supervised the repatriation of a busload of our compatriots from Ukraine via Poland. Still, many Filipinos opted to stay put, instead of going back to their homeland.


If our government is worried about the ongoing deal to buy military hardware from Russia, it should remember that other countries are already rolling out a slew of sanctions against Putin. Pushing ahead with buying weapons from a country that is the subject of sanctions from every major Western democracy could make the Philippines an international pariah.

Most importantly, however, failing to speak out against the violence being inflicted by Russia on Ukraine brings into focus the Philippines’ own troubles with its belligerent neighbor, China.

China has made and continues to make aggressive military moves against our country’s interests in the West Philippine Sea.

In a bid to buttress its position against a military and economic giant, the Philippines relies heavily on multilateral pressure from the international community—from countries as far afield as Europe—in the hopes of forcing China to adhere to a rules-based system.

To fail to speak out on behalf of another oppressed country while hoping that others would stand up for us and stand with us against oppression is us hoping to have our cake and eat it, too.

To be sure, there is some merit to the government’s pragmatic stance of not getting involved in other country’s troubles. But at a certain point, pragmatism must give way to idealism and solidarity with the international community of nations when the injustice is so plain to see as it is on social media, with video clips of a Russian tank running over the car of a Ukrainian civilian (with the driver still in it), or of Russian missiles and artillery shells raining down on Kyiv apartment buildings and kindergartens.

As Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

If the Philippines does not want to side with oppressors, it must speak out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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TAGS: Editorial, PH stand on Russia-Ukraine war, Russian aggression
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