An under appreciated president on the world stage
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-09-06
You’ll find many Filipinos having a big concern over international developments when they’re OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) who are under threat of losing their jobs, or lives, due to turmoil in their overseas work place. Most Filipinos are either disinterested or uninformed about international matters that affect us as a nation.

Even our middle and upper class members of society are hardly aware of the many international developments that can drastically alter our lives here. Filipinos would rather follow the KC Concepcion and Piolo Pascual relationship crisis than keep abreast of major events like China’s claim to the Spratlys and the world’s dwindling supply of oil. KC and Piolo merely satisfies our addiction to showbiz gossip. A US-China war over the Spratlys could make our country ground zero and the potential devastation would be unimaginable.

It’s therefore not surprising that many Filipinos little appreciate the fine performance President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) has been doing on the international stage. P-Noy’s deep immersion on the subjects of national security and intelligence made him realize that external factors could upset all the best-laid plans of mice and men for improving our people’s lives.

P-Noy understood the dangerous developing conflict between the US and China over the Spratlys. In a world fast running out of oil, the Spratlys is worth dying for if you were the US and China. P-Noy correctly sees our rightful place in that looming conflict. We must be a peace broker and should avoid taking sides in the conflict.

China’s aggressive pursuit of its claim to the Spratlys — at times bordering on bullying us to kowtow to them — may have unduly created the impression that P-Noy had swung 100 percent to the side of the US. He did no such thing. What he did was a very smart move. P-Noy used our bilateral ties with the US to send China the right signal that we’re not without recourse when push comes to shove.

However, after soliciting the right endorsements and vows of support from US officials, notably State Secretary Hillary Clinton and Ambassador Harry Thomas, P-Noy shifted to paving the way for improved communications and dialogue with China. In his recent trip to China, P-Noy sent all the right signals and even reached an agreement with China for a multi-lateral peaceful approach to the Spratlys dispute. P-Noy’s visit to the Cojuangco original birthplace in China underscored his shared culture and roots with China.

P-Noy’s approach to the Spratlys dispute established these two important parameters:

1. It’s not our intention to engage in armed conflict but to solicit the involvement of the international community, notably the UN (United Nations) and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), to ensure the equitable sharing of resources among the claimants.

2. We will actively defend our territories from foreign encroachment, as defined by the UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea. We are careful to emphasize that ours is a defensive posture. The US card is played within that context.

Filipinos must appreciate the historical context to the looming US-China conflict over the Spratlys. Many Filipinos continue to suffer from the mistaken notion that the US is like a benevolent parent to the Philippines. Few Filipinos are even aware that martial law here was imposed because the US wanted it. During that period, the US sponsored the rise of many dictatorships in Asia, Central and South America in order to arrest the spread of Communism.

If we are to review US-Philippine relations, we’ll see that most of the time it was only the US that benefitted greatly from it. Not only that — when it is to their national interest, they can even deal us a great harm, like the imposition of martial law, the Parity Rights and the Mining Act. Many Filipinos mistook for a romantic interlude what is actually an American rape of our country.

China may be high handed. China may be operating a repressive system of government. However, compared to the US - China has a better track record for dealing fairly with its partners. You don’t see a Chinese overlord in North Korea and Myanmar. China lets them run their own affairs. Yet despite all the bad press that North Korea and Myanmar give them, China has not junked them.

Many neighboring nations, tribes and States were forced to kowtow to China through the centuries but you never hear of China invading and conquering new territories. Tibet was originally a part of China and so that cannot be considered as conquered territory. Most of the time, China was content to receive tribute from its neighbors, Vietnam one of them.

Actually, we’ve been paying tribute to the US in other forms except that many of us do not know it or want to believe it. Would you not rather want to deal with a country where the relationship is clearer and more equitable?

Filipino unity is an imperative if we are to swim with these big sharks, the US and China, and survive. If it suited their national interest, either of them is capable of initiating events here that could upset the status quo.

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  Previous Columns:

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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