Philippines’ move to keep US military pact reveals shift in South China Sea calculations
The decision comes as Beijing’s increasing assertiveness in the sea fuels anxieties in the region and Manila grapples with the coronavirus crisis Experts say the move would likely be viewed with relief by other claimants and could offer the US a chance to reset its strategic ties with the Philippines
Maria Siow + FOLLOW
Published: 4:15pm, 6 Jun, 2020
Updated: 4:15pm, 6 Jun, 2020
Demonstrators rally outside the Chinese consulate on November 21, 2018. Photo: AP Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision last week to retain, for now, a long-standing military pact with the United States reflects Manila’s shifting geopolitical calculations as Beijing’s assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea fuels anxieties in the region, analysts say.The experts add that economic woes also factored into the move to keep the two-decade-old Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) – which is central to the Philippines-US military alliance – as the Philippines grapples with the financial fallout from lockdowns to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Manila’s announcement in February that it would begin the process of suspending the VFA in 180 days was seen as a move to downgrade its traditional alliance with the US, although Manila officially said it was so the country could develop its own defence capabilities and alliances.
The National Interest
February 23, 2020
How Duterte Turned the Philippines Into China’s New Play Thing
Rodrigo Duterte, in pursuit of development dollars, has put his country’s national security in jeopardy. In fact, Duterte’s first major foreign policy decision, barely a month into office, was to effectively dump the Philippines’ historic legal warfare victory against China.
Contemplating on the geopolitical earthquake of the twentieth century, namely the collapse of the once-mighty Soviet Empire, Francis Fukuyama emphasized the necessity for distinguishing between ‘what is essential and what is contingent or accidental in world history’. Drawing on the works of G. W .F. Hegel (via Alexandre Kojève) and Plato, Fukuyama foresaw the twenty-first century as the age of Western triumphalism, a unique era marked by the world’s post-ideological embrace of democratic capitalism as the only game in town.
Inspired by the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, he came to worry less about a return to the great power rivalries of modern times than nihilistic slide boredom and existential anomie. Hence, ‘the last man’ part of the book-length version of Fukuyama’s groundbreaking essay at the National Interest. Three decades since the publication of The End of History (1989), another geopolitical earthquake has shaken the world, though, so far, on a far smaller scale.
This month, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte effectively ended his country’s century-old alliance with the United States. By unilaterally abrogating the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which provided the legal framework for entry and rotational stationing of American troops on Philippine soil, the Filipino leader has made robust bilateral security cooperation close to impossible The Philippine-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), which was forged on the ruins of Second World War, stand like an empty shell, a CPU without an operating system. The VFA was the software, which operationalized the MDT.
On paper, the alliance still stands but, in the words of a top Filipino official, it’s now “practically useless.” The perfunctory and highly dramatic abrogation of the VFA was deeply personal, brazenly politicized, and, frankly, a reckless decision, which will expose the Philippines to a whole host of security challenges, including the menace of transnational terrorism and extreme weather conditions that have ravaged the country in recent years. And no less than China—namely, the only power that has provided a real ideological alternative to Fukuyama’s triumphant democratic capitalism—is expected to be the biggest winner of Duterte’s latest gambit.