First of 3 parts
PRESIDENT Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s move to give the US four additional military camps that it can use to station its troops and stockpile war materiel for a war in the region has placed the country further in harm’s way. As a result, there are now nine camps from Cagayan in the north to Palawan in the south that are now in the cross-hairs of China’s People’s Liberation Army, if ever the two superpowers’ rivalry in the region turns into war, or even just a limited conflict.
In our relationship with the US, Bongbong is Noynoy 2.0, adding four more camps to the five that the late President Benigno Aquino 3rd gave the US military full access to under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). The members of our Congress should find deep in their hearts some ember of patriotism and call Marcos to its halls to publicly explain why, with totally no consultations at all with them, he gave the US practically all they wanted.
China immediately angrily reacted to this news. Its spokesman in Beijing described Marcos’ deal as leading to “the strengthening of the US deployment in the Asia-Pacific.”
The US frightened the Aquino government in 2014 into signing the EDCA, giving the Americans the freedom to turn overnight five of our military camps into US camps if ever the Americans were to go to war in the South China Sea. These so-called lily-pad bases have become the US’ preferred basing strategy, as it would not require the huge infrastructure of the old-style military camps such as Clark Airbase and Subic Naval base.
Aquino acquiesced to the US proposal, as he was afraid that after angering China by filing the arbitration suit against it over their territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea, the Chinese would invade Palawan or turn Scarborough Shoal — which the Americans fooled him into abandoning — into a naval base.
President Obama himself reportedly told Aquino that American intervention in the region would be difficult, as the US no longer had military bases in the country, which would make military deployment extremely hard. Aquino also foolishly thought that if the US is given the five bases, it would help him recover Scarborough Shoal. The US though didn’t lift a finger to help Aquino.
“The addition of these new EDCA locations will allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges,” the US and the Philippines said in a joint statement. This is total bullshit; the Americans and even Marcos officials apparently think that we are idiots.
The reason why the Americans got Marcos to give them four more military bases, is their worry that the Chinese will very soon — 2025 or even 2024 are the dates bandied about — invade and take over Taiwan.
Aquino gave the US “EDCA I” so they could have bases for quick troop deployment to the Spratlys in the South China Sea. Marcos gave them “EDCA II” for the Americans’ fast mobilization of their troops to Taiwan, when China invades it. Out of the four additional “agreed locations” under EDCA, two are in the country’s northernmost provinces of Cagayan and Isabela and one in Zambales.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s statements in the 20th Communist Party Congress in October had raised alarms in the Pentagon: “Taiwan is China’s Taiwan. Resolving the Taiwan question is a matter that must be resolved by the Chinese. We will continue to strive for peaceful reunification with the greatest sincerity and the utmost effort, but we will never promise to renounce the use of force, and we reserve the option of taking all measures necessary.”
Analysts also believe that Xi, on his third and last term, is, like all mortals, seeking a place in China’s pantheon of demigods. And he intends to be remembered as the Chinese leader who brought back within the Middle Kingdom the rogue Taiwan, which had become in 1949 the last refuge of the communists’ archenemy they defeated, the Kuomintang. Taiwan under Kuomintang rule survived only because of US protection.
Russia’s war against Ukraine has also changed the geopolitical calculus for China’s invasion of Taiwan. It has proven that even with the superpowers (the US with its allies and Russia) at war with each other, albeit in a proxy way for the Americans, a nuclear war that would be catastrophic for them can be avoided. The US and China therefore could be at war with each other over Taiwan, but there wouldn’t be an Armageddon of a total nuclear war.
There are other lessons from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that the Chinese are closely studying. While it has proven that a small state can resist total conquest by a superpower — with US help — it has given Chinese generals a plethora of war and political lessons, from the role of tanks and anti-tank weapons in modern warfare to the crucial importance of a citizenry committed to defending their nation. Taiwan’s big businesses, having seen how Chinese capitalists have flourished in China, are said to be willing to have their nation integrated into China, if their capitalist rights are respected.
The world’s biggest chip foundry firm is in Taiwan, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd., which manufactures 57 percent of the world’s chips. The world will demand for the US to stop defending Taiwan and let it be integrated into China so the firm can continue supplying them with the chips so essential to the digital age.
For chrissake, didn’t Marcos do some research that he could have found out through a few clicks of his keyboard: We are the only country in the Asean area that has de facto US military bases, authorized by the EDCA.
In a US-Sino war, we will be the first to be bombed — with tactical nuclear or conventional bombs –even before hostilities start at the Taiwan Strait, just as the Japanese bombed us and landed their troops 10 hours after they attacked Pearl Harbor in1941. Sorry for us, we don’t have the sophisticated air-defense systems the US has in its military bases in Japan and South Korea.
While these two countries have US military bases, these are much further from Taiwan, compared, for instance, to Camp Osias at the tip of Cagayan province (one of the four camps Marcos gave to the Americans to use) that is just 500 kilometers from Taiwan.
Giving the US four more military camps is Marcos’ worst decision so far surpassing by miles his insistence on being agriculture secretary, which has resulted in chaos at the department and absence of governance over the price and supply of basic food items. Marcos’ insistence on keeping that portfolio has already badly hurt Filipinos, with the high prices of food the main factor for an unabated inflation. This recent geopolitical decision will have a much worse impact on Filipinos’ daily lives.
This latest of Marcos’ strategic blunders has not only made areas in the northern Luzon provinces the target for Chinese missiles and bombs, it has put us on the road to economic ruin, as China is our biggest trading partner and will surely retaliate, gradually perhaps but in a devastating way, as our banana and pineapple producers had a taste of during Aquino’s Scarborough Shoal stand-off with the Chinese in 2012.
And it is so terribly wrong for Marcos to do this without even consulting the National Security Council or even Congress. Marcos has put all Filipino lives and the economy at risk, without even consulting anybody it seems, not even Congress. I don’t think presidential legal counsel Juan Ponce Enrile, whose office is in the Palace itself, had been informed that Marcos has made his peaceful Cagayan province into a Chinese military target.
On Wednesday, February 8, EDCA II’s economic consequences
Book orders: www.rigobertotiglao.com/shop