PH foreign policy is like a US drone
It’s been said that our postwar and postindependence foreign policy continues to be dictated by Pax Americana, and not by our own assessment of our needs. And the behavior and actions of the P-Noy administration in the past three years do not seem to deviate from this pattern.
Since he took office in 2010, President Aquino has put foreign policy in the hands of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and security policy with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who are both considered very close to Washington circles. Lately, the two men have been arrogating unto themselves the formulation of foreign policy and security policy, and have acted as articulators and spokespersons of Washington and the Pentagon in Malacañang.
P-Noy’s foreign policy highlights a restoration of US military forces in the Philippines. But not only that: On a strategic level, this foreign policy has adjusted itself as beyond being a supporting column of Pentagon policy in the Asia-Pacific. It has become like a drone, directed by Washington and the Pentagon for surveillance, and as an attack dog to those who challenge US hegemony in the region.
We Filipinos have nothing against the American people. We admire the American freedom fighters who battled for the independence of their country from the tyranny of the British monarchy. Yes, we love American anti-imperialists like Mark Twain, and also Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky and Boone Schirmer who support the Filipino people’s struggle for self-determination. And yes, we love courageous Americans like Sgt. Bradley Manning and Ed Snowden, who exposed how their own government deceives and snoops on its own people.
But we cannot love an American government run by oil companies and merchants of death-dealing weapons, which invades other nations (as when the United States invaded our newly born republic more than a century ago, claiming to civilize it). Certainly, we cannot love a government that seeks to direct its budget from the American people’s basic needs to establish its military outposts overseas, whose soldiers rape our women, kill our citizens and get away with it, and whose military operations and gunboats destroy and poison our soil, rivers and precious ocean reefs.
Nonalignment in an emerging multipolar world should be the formal policy position of the Philippines. In international cooperation, we should look to medium-term and even strategic goals of regional security, with Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) as the vessel. This significant regional collective body should not be downplayed.
If our economic policies set the blueprint of our foreign policy, then we should seek constructivism in our relations with immediate neighbors like China. The reality of China’s global economy should clear the heads of those who are advocating confrontation and war to resolve territorial and maritime disputes. Narrow nationalism should not be the hallmark in engaging a welter of issues, including territorial claims. We should recognize Asean-style conflict mediation that has kept neighbors from war, starting with the resolution of the conflict in the former Kampuchea, which led to the withdrawal of Vietnamese troops from that country.
We should be consistent with our counter-hegemonic position. Our behavior should not comprise resisting the hegemony of an emerging global power and at the same time welcoming and surrendering to the current superpower, the United States, which rides roughshod on our land and whose troops, with their presence and facilities, violate our laws and our Constitution. We should stand up to ANY superpower that violates our national sovereignty and tramples on the dignity of our people and nation.
There is a growing perception among Southeast Asian countries that the Philippine government is the representative of the American government, and even the Japanese government, especially when it openly invites more US, and even Japanese, military forces into Philippine territory.
The Philippine government’s invitation to US and Japanese military forces to use Philippine bases can only stir up Chinese nationalism and give popular support to Chinese hardliners in the People’s Liberation Army. Even within Asean, we do not seem to be sensitive to the fact that a resurgent Japanese military in Southeast Asia is not entirely welcome because of the region’s experience under the occupation of the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. China suffered the most during World War II: Many of its cities, especially the entire city of Nanjing, were razed and its people suffered one of the worst massacres in Asia by the invading Japanese imperial forces.
Trumpeting the United States’ “pivot to Asia” and “rebalancing” to counter China in our territorial and maritime disputes and using the Cold War paradigm may no longer hold water. Globalization has taken over the Cold War, so much so that the economies of China and the United States are so integrated and interdependent in the present world. China is now the factory of the American economy, and the United States is one of the largest markets for China’s exports (as are most Asean economies). Thus, disengaging would be disadvantageous for both parties.
And when the controllers and bosses in Washington and the Pentagon do not move to direct the drone, we do not move on our own. We could not even defend our citizens and people in Sabah when they were just claiming what is legally Philippine territory.
In sum, Philippine foreign policy has not only been drone-driven, it has also acted like a drone controlled by Washington and the Pentagon.
Roland G. Simbulan is vice chair of the board of directors of the Center for People’s Empowerment and Governance. He is a professor of development studies and public management at the University of the Philippines.
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