Relying on US as treaty “partner” has not helped the Philippines to develop its own military capability; it is also not expected to be of help in engaging China militarily.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – The Philippines, China and even the United States “know they will benefit from a peaceful resolution of the conflict” which outwardly emanates from contesting claims on Spratlys and Scarborough shoal. In an interview with UP professor and geopolitics expert Roland Simbulan, he reiterated that China, the Philippines and the US need each other as markets for exports and, particularly with US and China, also for capital.
But the Aquino government’s tack of talking tough against China, without the backing of its own defense capability in case China obliges and engages the Philippines in a war, is not wise at all nor helpful to Filipinos, according to Simbulan. He explained that the Aquino government is mistaken in thinking that the US is a Philippine ally against China.
“The Aquino government is living in a fantasy that the US is with the Philippines and will go all the way in supporting its claims on disputed lands and seas over China,” Simbulan told Bulatlat.com. He said if the Aquino government had only done their research well before pursuing this tack and entering into talks with the US this January, “they (Aquino government) would not have pursued this tack, because the US is not a signatory to UNCLOS (United Nations’ Convention on the Law of the Seas).”
The Aquino government bases its claims on Scarborough shoal on the UNCLOS, which the US refuses to sign until now.
If push comes to shove with China, Simbulan warned, the US will not come to the rescue of the Philippines, despite the ‘fantasies’ of the Aquino government. “The US doesn’t believe in the UNCLOS and they don’t want to be identified with the Philippine position on it,” said Simbulan.
Worse, for that fantasy of mutual defense treaty partnership, the Philippines has been turned into a military base for the US, in violation of its own constitution. As this becomes more evident, according to critics, the reason why the US will not sign the UNCLOS also becomes evident.
“Normally the US does not seek permission whenever they pass our waters,” said Simbulan. If the US signed the UNCLOS, it would compromise itself and it would have to seek permission to pass by the waters of countries such as the Philippines. Simbulan surmised that Philippine authorities concerned with the country’s defense and foreign affairs are likely aware whenever US ships or submarines pass through the country’s waters, though its actual positions are not revealed to them.
Progressive peoples’ organization denounced recently the latest example of the increased US military presence in the country, which came in the form of an “unannounced, unwanted and illegal docking of the nuclear-capable USS North Carolina in the former US naval base in Subic, Zambales.”
A case of fantasizing or puppetry?
The Philippines, because it relies on the US as treaty “partner,” has not developed its own military capability. On the contrary, “the Philippine government is serving as an imperialist stooge in blindly allowing the US imperialist military to trample on Philippine sovereignty with willful contempt,” said the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in a statement.
“Aquino and his retinue of Amboy officials raise a howl and vigorously wave the flag of ‘patriotism’ when the Chinese government sails its ships at the edge of Philippine waters, but fall deafeningly silent and fold up the Philippine flag when American military ships and submarines sail and dock within the very scope of Philippine territory,” the CPP said.
The Aquino government’s tack with China is currently exacting a toll on its agricultural exports and tourism. The US government has expressly distanced itself from the conflict, although critics said it has taken advantage of the anti-China ultra-nationalist sentiments in dramatically increasing its military presence in the Philippines in the past weeks.
For example the US has recently unloaded thousands of troops for “military exercises” in various places in the Philippines, mainly in Palawan and Mindanao. It has approved the release of some surplus US materials for the Aquino government, and it signed last May 5 the $65 million Partnership for Growth.
But all these are not exactly serving the Filipino peoples’ interests. “We’ve had a lot of agreements with US, this is just one of them,” Simbulan said. He added that as with other agreements, this one has strings attached to it.
According to U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg, “These agreements will support the implementation of programs that promote inclusive growth under Partnership for Growth, enhance the delivery of health services in support of the Philippines’ Universal Health Care Initiative, and improve local governance and stimulate community-driven development in Mindanao.”
Rights-based organizations in the Philippines have previously pointed out the link of such US-funded projects to counter-insurgency operations like those being implemented under Oplan Bayanihan.
Simbulan cautioned that past US aid in the Philippines, including military assistance, have served the US in terms of securing for them their increased or continued presence and access to bases or bases-like arrangements in the country. These the US need for their continued intelligence gathering, monitoring, influence and, as reported before, even direct involvement in military operations in the Philippines.
Critics said the Aquino government should rather pursue diplomatic courses of action in resolving its conflicting claims on the Spratlys and Scarborough shoal.
“The Filipino people must push the US interventionists away from the picture so they could independently confront China and be able to forge a mutually beneficial agreement through bilateral and multilateral diplomatic negotiations among the claimant countries,” the CPP urged.