Benefits of not being a US puppet

PRESIDENT Duterte ended the Republic’s subservience to the US, which its past 11 presidents either failed to do so, or even worsened, as his unthinking predecessor did.

Duterte has about five years to go, and the US imperial eagle will still try pull back its old pawn in the Pacific under its claws. We will see though the benefits of independence from the US, so that Duterte will most likely get the nation’s support for his earth-shaking change in our subservient foreign policy. That will be one of his most important legacies.

The timing of Duterte couldn’t be better.

It is only in recent years that China has indisputably emerged as an economic and military power, and the dire prognostications that its hundreds of millions of its poor in its inner territory will slow down its growth have not occurred. World Bank economists are applauding what they see as China’s miracle, that from 1988 to 2013, it has lifted out of extreme poverty (those living on $1.90 per day, or roughly P96 per day) 800 million of its citizens from 1988 to 2013.

The very pro-American Aquino regime’s filing of a case against China over its claims in the South China Sea made the Chinese see us as the US proxy in a dispute that is not its business at all. Despite this legal battle with China, Duterte in only a few months managed to warm up to this Asian superpower.

China seems to have put that arbitration decision we won behind it—as indeed most of the world has. Proof of this is that China pledged during Duterte’s state visit $9 billion in low-interest or soft loans for our infrastructure projects. Total Chinese economic assistance promised by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Duterte is estimated at $24 billion.

Now, the other economic superpower in Asia, Japan, which also has serious territorial disputes with China, can’t be outdone in wooing the Philippines. It rushed to extend to the country a similar magnitude of soft loans.

That idea isn’t even just my analysis. A news story that was published a few days ago in the privately owned Japan Times, the largest and oldest English-language newspaper in Japan, said much the same thing. The longtime city mayor who a Yellow writer said wouldn’t understand international geopolitics, is proving to be adept in diplomacy – the essence of which is take advantage of other countries’ self-interest, in order to advance the interests of one’s country.

The Japan Times article
Following is the text of the Japan Times story:
During a summit in Tokyo with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday reaffirmed Tokyo’s commitment to providing economic cooperation worth ¥1 trillion over the next five years.

The move is seen as an economic assistance race against Beijing to form a better relationship with Manila.

Abe has been trying hard to win Duterte over in dealing with territorial disputes in the South China Sea, in which the Philippines is a key diplomatic player.

Meanwhile, China, too, is trying to woo Manila by pledging to extend economic assistance worth $24 billion (¥2.5 trillion). The pledge was made when Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Duterte in Beijing in October last year.

Then, in January, Abe pledged that the government and private-sector corporations will extend economic cooperation worth ¥1 trillion over five years to help Duterte’s initiatives to revamp social infrastructure, including projects to build subways in Manila and improve rivers in Davao City, where Duterte served as mayor for many years.

“The government of Japan will strongly support the sustainable economic development of the Philippines by extending quality infrastructure assistance, using Japan’s funding and technology,” a joint statement issued by the two leaders said.

Japan’s assistance will include programs to ease “serious traffic congestion” in Manila and to “vitalize other areas” as well, it read.

For his part, Duterte has been trying to “maximize” economic assistance both from Japan and China, said Wataru Kusaka, associate professor of political science at the Graduate School of International Development at Nagoya University.

“Duterte’s intention looks very clear. He is trying to maximize what he can win from Japan and China,” Kusaka said.

“So, it’s important for Tokyo to have Philippine people feel that Japan is moving fast, in particular in assisting social infrastructure projects. That’s why infrastructure projects come at the top of the list” of economic cooperation items in a summary of a joint statement released by the Japanese government the same day, Kusaka said.

According to the gist, Japan also pledged to help the Philippines introduce better electric and liquefied natural gas facilities to improve the country’s power supply systems.

Tokyo will also help the Philippines crack down on the use of illegal drugs and aid the country in strengthening its maritime safety organization to monitor coastal areas, the statement read.

“He is trying to tread a fine line of balanced diplomacy with China, the US and Japan,” Kusaka said.

Since taking office last year, Duterte has put a fresh emphasis on Japan and China, thereby creating a situation where the two economic powers are “competing” to impress Manila with promises of generous fund infusions.

But at the same time, Duterte, despite his crude rhetoric against Washington, may be viewing the US in a different light after US-led troops intervened to help Manila fight Islamic State-linked militants in what became a five-month-long conflict in Marawi, the associate professor said.

Filed under: Manila Times Columns

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