Marcos’ foreign policy

THE CORNER ORACLE - Andrew J. Masigan - The Philippine Star

Last week, I hosted a dinner for a Singaporean investor who is deeply entrenched in Philippine business. This man has invested billions of pesos in various Philippine companies. As the conversation drifted to politics, he declared that he is “cautiously very optimistic” about the incoming administration. He went further to say that “at least, Marcos is better than the present leadership so the Philippines is now in a better place.”

I didn’t expect such a glowing assessment from this seasoned businessman but I was nonetheless glad to hear it. His optimism, evidently, is based on Marcos’ recent statements on the future of Philippine foreign policy.

In a series of declarations last month, Marcos provided a glimpse of how Philippine foreign policy will shape up under his administration. His stance was made clear when he said that, “Philippine foreign policy should not be shaped by the interest of other states.”

On the West Philippine Sea (WPS), he said he has no plans of giving up the country’s territories to any state, including China. He further declared that “we are sovereign and we will not comprise it in any way…”

“We will not allow a single millimeter of our maritime coast (sic) and up to 200 kilometer rights to be trampled on…

“We talk to China consistently with a firm voice…

“We have a very important ruling in our favor (referring to the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague). We will use it to continue to assert our territorial rights. It is not a claim, it is already a territorial right.”

Marcos also highlighted the importance of our alliance with the United States.

It will be recalled that on Sept. 10, 2016, President Duterte announced his intention to pursue an independent foreign policy. It became evident later on that “independent” really meant independence from the United States and an all-out pivot to China. He also attempted to forge an economic and military alliance with Russia but was unsuccessful.

It’s been said that the pivot to China was motivated by a commitment by the Chinese to invest tens of billions of dollars in infrastructure and factories. That commitment never materialized – at least not in the scale promised. Worse, President Duterte maintained a defeatist posture in relation to China’s illegal encroachment in the WPS, often citing how the Philippines has neither the resources nor the military wherewithal to face China should armed conflict arise. He even referred to our arbitration victory in The Hague as “just a piece of paper,” aping the words of Chinese diplomats themselves. All these emboldened China to have its way with our sovereign territories.

If Marcos’ recent declarations are any indication, the incoming administration is expected to veer away from Duterte’s foreign policy and instead pursue one    that is consistent with the true preferences of the Filipino people. How do we know what these preferences are?

In an SWS Survey conducted last October, 82 percent of Filipinos said that government should asserts its rights on the WPS according to our victory in the Permanent Court of Arbitration; 85 percent said government should forge alliances with other countries to defend our territorial and economic rights; 80 percent said we should strengthen Philippine military capabilities; 65 percent said the Philippines should conduct joint military patrols of the WPS with its defense allies; 58 percent said government should fully implement the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the US.

Poignantly, only two out of ten Filipinos said they trust China. Meanwhile, 75 percent of the population trusts the US and more than half trusts Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom and the European Union.

The SWS survey speaks volumes about where the Filipino people stand on the WPS issue and where their loyalties lie.

Marcos’ foreign policies is much akin to that of Noynoy Aquino who upheld a “what’s ours is ours policy” and who prioritized territorial defense.

But there is much more to foreign policy than just our stance towards China and the WPS conflict, says Dindo Manhit of the Stratbase Institute. We must bear in mind that we live in a multipolar world where the interests of nations are intertwined, interconnected and interlocked. Such links are evident in economics & trade, terrorism, organized crime, health care, cybersecurity, disruptive impacts of new technologies and a host of other concerns.

That said, Manhit recommends that our foreign policy must prioritize multilateral cooperation with like-minded countries that uphold the rule of law. In addition, the Philippines must aggressively engage with countries that have shared democratic values to help us restore our damaged democratic institutions. Human rights must be held sacred again, the same with the rule of law and due process. Above all, the overtures towards authoritarianism must be quashed.

In terms of the economy, Marcos must leverage on diplomacy to foster better trade opportunities for the country. He will do well to fully maximize our existing economic treaties like APEC, GSP+, AFTA, EFTA, etc. as well as the free trade agreements we have with certain countries, asserts Manhit.

By no means should we miss out on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which is still pending in the Senate. Neither should we forgo the opportunity to be part of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF). The IPEF was proposed by President Joe Biden last month for which the Philippines was invited to be one of the 12 founding members.

Suffice it to say that the Philippines must create more channels for cooperation. Now is an opportune time since numerous countries are recalibrating their foreign policies.

A new chapter is being written in Philippine foreign policy and so far, it is looking considerably better than the present one.

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Email: [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @aj_masigan


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