Talk to China

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

A few months before an election that he won so overwhelmingly it sent shockwaves through every corridor of power in the world, Bongbong Marcos already made known what his policy would be in the contested South China Sea. And that is to continue or adopt the Duterte policy of setting aside the useless and unenforceable arbitral ruling obtained by Noynoy Aquino and instead directly engage China bilaterally.

It is from the direction of China where the potential for trouble comes. So that is the direction Bongbong wants to face squarely. This position completely rejects the charge made during the campaign that just because he flatly refused to dignify the charade of being interviewed by a hopelessly-biased media, he was therefore a coward, a wimp, one who cannot face up to crises.

Well, by choosing to engage China, Bongbong has decided to seize the bull by the horns, or in this case, the dragon by its neck. It makes so much sense this way. The United States, as self-appointed policeman of the world, might be expected to come running at the first sign of trouble. But China is where the uncertainties lay, so that is where our focus must be. As they say, keep your friends close, your enemies closer.

A lot of Filipinos reject this approach, even if it didn't dent the popularity of Duterte one bit. To many, relying on America totally for our defense is the way to go. They point to our mutual defense treaty with that country which obligates either party to come to the defense of the other in case of attack. They forget, or completely do not know, that the treaty, a Cold War pact, has US interests in mind rather than that of the Philippines.

Moreover, Bongbong is not the son of his father for nothing. Whatever bad things the elder Marcos may have done, you cannot begrudge him his brilliance. It was Marcos Sr. who exposed the fallacy of the notion cherished by most Filipinos that America will drop everything and come to our aid in case of an attack. Marcos Sr. made the expose in the heart of America, in a presscon following a speech at the National Press Club.

Marcos Sr. was asked why he was asking for higher compensation for America's use of what were its biggest bases overseas then --Clark and Subic. He said he just wants the money to be unilaterally ready because US assistance under the treaty is not automatic. He then quoted by heart an article in the treaty that says assistance will come in accordance with the constitutional processes of either country.

He then explained that even if America wanted to come running to our aid in case we are attacked, the constitutional process in the US for deployment of its troops overseas is to require congressional approval first. According to Marcos Sr. by the time the first US boots hit Philippine soil, the country could have been pulverized by then. So might as well ask for reparations ahead of time.

What Marcos Sr. said should be instructive to those Filipinos who have belly-upped themselves to the US and our treaty with that country. Remember what he said. That aid will not be automatic. Bongbong, as the son of his father, must have been painfully aware of this fallacious over-dependence on the treaty for our defense. Hence his adoption of an independent foreign policy ala Duterte.

Besides, there is now an increasingly palpable reluctance on the part of the United States to commit American lives to somebody else's war. This is very much evident in Ukraine. In fact, I suspect the war in Ukraine was a US plan all along. Not wanting to lose American lives, the US played Russia into doing something to trigger sanctions. If you can destroy Russia by way of a money squeeze, why go into a shooting war?


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