The Philippines Will not Gain Safety by Means of Escalated Military Alliance with USA
USA is using the dispute over the Spratley islands between the Philippines and China to escalate its military presence in the former
Now in the negotiations table is the escalation of military presence of USA in the Philippines, according to news reports last week. (I am writing this Hub on August 20,2013).
Presently, a military visitations agreement (MVA) between the USA and the Republic of the Philippines (RP) is in place. It consists of periodic visits of USA military forces in the Philippines and conduct of joint military exercises between USA and RP forces, among others.
Vestige of military bases
MVA is the vestige of a larger military bases agreement between USA and RP from 1946 to 1990. At that time USA built the Clarck Airbase in Pampanga province, the largest US airforce base in the far east. It also built the Subic Bay naval base, also the largest US naval facility in the far east. The Clarck airbase was the host of USA bombers and fighter planes that raided Vietnam during the Vietnam war. The Vietnam war was directed from Camp John Hay in Baguio City, province of Benguet, Philippines.
The USA military bases were symbols and concrete demonstration of USA military power and imperialist hold over the Philippines. USA annexed the Philippines since early 1900s.
Filipino nationalists objected to these military bases on principles of sovereignty, and arrogance on the part of Americans. The bases are also magnets of attacks by foreign powers.
Retention of military bases agreement
It was during the presidency of Pres. Corazon C. Aquino that the agreement was to be terminated. Pres. Aquino wanted an extension of the agreement arguing that it provided help in national security and employment for some Filipinos.
It will be recalled that Pres. C.C. Aquino came to power as president in 1986 replacing the dictator Ferdinand Marcos with no small support from USA. At the height of the People Power revolution, also called EDSA I, Pres. Ronald Reagan of USA instructed Marcos to “Cut clear,” and “Cut clean,” delivered by phone through a Republican senator.
“Cut clear” means move out of power. “Cut clean” means don’t make any trouble; meaning don’t gun down the throng in EDSA and don’t provoke a shooting war between your loyalists and those of the rebels. The objective was to ensure that the Philippines could smoothly pay its foreign loans. In the first meeting under her presidency with foreign lenders, Pres. Aquino asked for at least one-year reprieve in paying out the loans. This was not granted, according to Estanislao Fernandez, then the Secretary of Finance. No reprieve was granted despite the fact that the country was in dire economic straights largely promoted by foreign lenders. They thought that Marcos was in complete control of the country that ensured their profits.
Marcos could only say: “I am disappointed” (Nick Joaquin. The PC and EDSA). Marcos had several reasons why he obeyed Pres. Reagan’s order. He and his wife, Imelda R. Marcos, had properties in the USA that the USA government could easily confiscate. Also, the US intelligence knew where Marcos had deposited billions of pesos he had carted away from the Philippines. These could be easily forfeited or located and returned to the Philippines. In post-Marcos era some deposits were located in Switzerland and Germany.
In the middle of the night of February 24,1986, Marcos and his party were flown to Hawaii by US military helicopters then parked in Clarck. The joke was that Marcos heard he was to be flown to “Paway” that’s why he boarded the plane. Paway is a town adjacent to Batac, Ilocos Norte, the hometown of Marcos, where a replica of Malacañang Palace had been built. On February 25,1986, Corazon C. Aquino was sworn in as new president of the Philippines.
The Philippine Senate has the power to ratify treaties. It had the power to terminate or extend the US military bases. When the military agreement was being debated in the Senate, Pres. Aquino lead a rally in support of the extension of the military bases.
Former senator Jovito Salonga was then the President of Philippine Senate. He is a staunch nationalist. The Senate voted to terminate the US-RP military bases agreement.
Some professors in the University of the Philippines, Diliman campus have raised objections to prospects of escalated presence of US military in the country. They say that it is a virtual return of the US-RP military bases agreement that had been terminated in 1990. Nationalist students follow the same line of thinking.
The dispute between the Philippines and China over the Spratley islands has raised scarecrows on the part of the Philippines. There is no denying the military power of China that now owns a blue water navy aircraft carrier. There is no denying that the Philippines lacks a matching naval force. The Philippines has filed its claims over the Spratley with an international body.
The scarecrows must be driving the Philippine officialdom to make closer ties with USA.
Posture of USA
What could be the posture of USA toward the dispute over the Spratley between China and RP?
One. USA and China have been allies since 1972. This alliance is stronger than the military visitations agreement between the Philippines and USA now in place. This alliance is even stronger than the matter of South Korea that was not factored in during the negotiations for rapprochement with China. The civil war in the Korean peninsula is not yet over; it is only in a state of stalemate and ceasefire. And thousands of American soldiers had already died in the battlefields of the Korean war, 1950-53, fighting Chinese soldiers.
In some ways, USA abandoned South Korea and sacrificed American lives to forge an alliance with China. To think that South Korea has a place in the peripheral defense of USA.
Two. USA would not stir a hornet’s nest with China over the Philippines. USA will not jeopardize its foothold on the vast China market by fighting for a much smaller market that is the Philippines.
Three. Formosa, now Taiwan. has no place in the strategy for defense of the USA. This is demonstrated by the abandonment of Taiwan by the USA. Feudal Chinese and military supporting Nationalist China led by Pres. Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan in 1949. The USA military contingent supporting Chiang were driven to Taiwan likewise. In the Korean war, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, then commander of the United Nations armed forces in South Korea and Supreme Commander of the Southwest Pacific theater (that includes Japan) put value to Taiwan as a US defense outpost. However, in the negotiations for rapprochement between USA and China brokered by Henry Kissinger, then national security adviser of Pres. Richard Nixon, Taiwan has no place in the defense circle of USA (Burr, W. The Kissinger Transcripts. 1999). USA abandoned Taiwan that is just north of the Philippines. Taiwan lies between the Philippines and Japan. .
If Taiwan has no value as defense outpost for USA so does the Philippines.
Four. In the plan of a conventional warfare by Kissinger and Nixon, South Korea and Rukyus form part of the peripheral defense of USA. USA has a strong presence in South Korea.
Five. Likewise, Japan has value as US defense outpost. Presently Japan is under control by USA that has imposed the Japanese constitution drafted by Gen. MacArthur. USA has rehabilitated Japan as a buffer in the Asian region. Mao Tse-tung, former chairman of China, during the rapprochement negotiations mentioned to Kissinger that Japan is capable of world hegemony. Kissinger assured Mao that Japan will not be in such a position. Of course, Kissinger did not mention: “unless USA allowed Japan to rebuild its armed forces.” Mao was aware of that.
Six. History has demonstrated that short of a direct war between USA and China, (or fighting a dummy war) USA has no change of defeating China. Pres. Nixon said that China can afford to lose half of its population to engage in an all-out war. The tacit implication is that USA cannot afford the same.
In the Chinese civil war between the forces of Mao and Chiang, USA supported Chiang with warplanes (Phantom 4 with nuclear capability), guns and ammunition; with 153,000 military personnel including 53,000 marines; with topnotch generals like Gen. Joseph Stilwell, Major Gen. Robert Wedemeyer and Gen. George C. Marshall, former chief of staff of the USA armed forces.
American and Chinese forces had tangled in the Korean war in an undeclared war; the USA supporting the UN and South Korea, China supporting North Korea.
Mao and Kissinger agreed that USA will not attack China; China will not attack USA (Burr, W. The Kissinger Transcripts. 1999).
Therefore, in case of an armed conflict between China and the Philippines, USA will sit on the fence and watch.
The Philippines will not gain safety by means of closer military ties with USA.
If anything, the scarecrows are a fortuitous ruse for USA and the Filipino collaborators to chip away at the sovereignty of the Philippines.