Pledges are nothing but ‘promises’ | Inquirer Opinion

Pledges are nothing but ‘promises’

/ 05:01 AM September 15, 2022

As the Sept. 12 editorial (“Economic diplomacy”) stated, “President Marcos Jr. brought home $14.36 billion in investment pledges during his first official foreign trip last week to Indonesia and Singapore,” stressing that the materialization of such pledges “will be a big help to the country’s economic recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” among a myriad of other woes. The operative word is, of course, “pledges.”

Such news is par for the course every time our nation’s leader and his coterie of hangers-on go abroad on a “state visit” or just plain junket. It’s really nothing for cash-starved people to be chomping at the bit.

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Former president Rodrigo Duterte’s administration never failed to brag about the billions of “pledges” (mostly from China) upon his return to the country. As Inquirer columnist Richard Heydarian put it bluntly: “The problem, however, is that Mr. Duterte fell into what can best be described as a ‘pledge trap,’ whereby he forward-deployed geopolitical concessions in exchange for illusory gains” (“After Duterte: Avoiding China’s ‘pledge’ trap,” Horizons, 11/30/21). One would think that a street-smart politician like Duterte would normally insist on “kaliwaan” when making any deal. Almost all pundits now seem to agree the country got screwed.

Looked upon generally as just “a matter of courtesy” to the visiting head of state or other foreign dignitaries, “pledges” are nothing but “promises” that have absolutely no legal binding effect in international law. Their vaporous value is just for the pledgee’s domestic consumption and propaganda. In truth and in fact, they are more honored in their breach than in their fulfillment. If any lesson could be learned from the seeming naivete of the previous administration’s so-called economic think-tank, the Filipino people should believe such “pledges” only when they see the “pledgers” put their money where their mouths are. Only time will tell.

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Stephen L. Monsanto,[email protected]

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