Government Politics

The Philippines needs a CREDIBLE military to protect its South China Sea interests

Opposition coalition group 1Sambayan should read this article published by the Cato Institute, “The Philippines: America’s Perpetually Useless Ally” by Doug Bandow. Bandow issues a contrarian opinion on the strategic value of the Philippines to the US in the region which China is now trying to dominate.

Indeed, some things never change. One is the limited value of the Philippines as an ally. Its people are friendly and welcoming — and quite pro‐​American. But it is a semi‐​failed state with a military to match. Manila is a sad example of how the US has picked up the old German habit of allying with the least stable nations possessing the weakest militaries — as Berlin did with Austro‐​Hungary in World War I and Italy in World War II.

In the case of Washington the primes useless partner is the Philippines. The relationship wouldn’t matter so much if Manila didn’t expect America to protect not only its home islands, but also every useless piece of rock claimed by the Philippines against China, such as Scarborough Shoal. If Beijing and Washington end up at war — a horrific possibility — the cause should be more serious than the Philippines.

The Philippine Opposition, for its part, is making the issue about President Rodrigo Duterte’s betrayal of the arbitral ruling which Manila Times columnist and former ambassador Bobi Tiglao has described as basically not worth the piece of paper printed on given the country spent over P1 billion to “win” a judgment which cannot be executed. It’s well-known that it’s difficult to win a fight against a bully. You have to have the means and the determination to put the bully down. America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan is proof of this. Despite the billions or trillions of dollars spent, the Taliban still stands with its middle finger at the Americans.

The opposition portrays Duterte as incompetent in foreign policy as does Barlow’s piece. But we must remember that in 2012, the US brokered a deal during the Scarborough stand-off that resulted in our loss of what has long been accepted as part of our territory. Filipinos should realize that it’s not as simple as the the tandem of retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario paints it to be. The tandem refuses to delve into the issue of the most simple example of why the arbitral ruling is worthless. Itu Aba has been part of Taiwan since it was still Formosa. How would the issue of Itu Aba be resolved in the event China takes back Taiwan?

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Self-reliance is what we are weak at. Among the ASEAN 5, the Philippines has the weakest armed forces. Indonesia’s air force is flying Sukhoi multi-role fighter aircraft. We are stuck with the trainer version of the Korean FA-50. The Opposition lately has been fond of root cause analysis. It wouldn’t be correct to think that they haven’t done this and the results would undoubtedly lead to the conclusion that drastic socio-political and economic reforms are needed if ever we are to build up our defense capabilities. Filipinos should delve into the issues raised by the opposition incisively because it is easy to fall into their simplistic trap. The “China alis” (“China get lost!”) slogan chanted by the Opposition does not do any good in the face of the present situation in the South China Sea.

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