IF we as a nation have really decided to be the vassal of after all still the most powerful nation on Earth, the United States of America, we should have some dignity to demand that our country’s transformation into its staging post for its war against China gives us more resources to grow our economy.
Whether we call it economic aid, or rent, or remuneration for agreeing to be a vassal, we should demand that the US extend to us bigger official economic assistance for agreeing to have nine platforms-for-war located throughout the archipelago, from the tip of Luzon to the outermost island of Palawan.
From 1947 when the Military Bases Agreement allowed the US to maintain and expand its bases here, to 1992 when the Senate aborted the treaty, the Philippines received an average of $570 million per year (in 2020 dollars) in economic and military aid from the Americans. With the Philippines becoming less useful for the US with the closing of their Clark and Subic bases in 1992, official aid was gradually reduced, so the average per year was just $236 million.
We will be such a pitiful vassal if the US doesn’t increase its economic assistance to the Philippines to the level of the $570 million in that era when the American bases here were crucial deterrents against the USSR during the Cold War and strategic bases during the Vietnam War. The justification for the nine bases under the so-called Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) was that these are deterrents to China’s expansionism.
The US president’s budget message calls for only $154 million economic and military aid for the Philippines for this year. Will he make a startling call for the economic aid to be tripled to approach the $570 million average during the period when the US had bases here? Unlikely.
“But we’re hosting US bases not for the money, but for freedom and our defense,” our Amboys will claim.
Both because of the powerful Jewish lobby in Washington and as a means of keeping the Muslim Arab nations in check, Israel has been receiving an annual average of $4.4 billion in economic and military aid from the US. Total US economic and military aid to Israel from 1952 to 2022 totals an unbelievable $250 billion.
We don’t have to go far to make comparisons. Indonesia also doesn’t have US bases, but has been receiving an annual average of $343 million since 1947, bigger than our $236 million from 1993 to2022.
My point is the following.
Hosting nine US military bases (no matter how much this is concealed as merely forward operating locations) will at the very worst scenario make these locations into Hiroshimas and Nagasakis if war breaks out between America and China. The most peaceful scenario would be for China to reduce investments and trade with us, which if that happens will result in grocery shelves being emptied and carrying only expensive US and probably Australian produce.
If it is a fait accompli that nothing will change President Marcos Jr.’s mind to reverse his decision, then at least he should demand much bigger aid from the US. If the worst scenario doesn’t materialize and we’re still here, that bigger aid will be extremely crucial for our day-to-day lives if our biggest trading partner — China — stops trade with us.
The Philippine Coast Guard officials as well as those so ignorant of our South China Sea disputes should do some research before blabbing again and again that there is no question that Ayungin Shoal is ours because it is within our exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
It was in fact the 2016 ruling of the arbitration panel that heard our suit against China on South China Sea issues that weakened our basis for claiming Ayungin as ours.
Ironically, it was one of the late President Aquino 3rd’s American lawyers in the arbitration suit, Philippe Sands, who first conceded — a stupid blunder — during a hearing in November 2015 that the Philippines had lost the shoal:
“China took de facto control of that feature in May 2013. Chinese marine surveillance vessels, navy warships and fishing administration vessels have surrounded the shoal. They have blocked Philippine vessels, including civilian vessels, from approaching Second Thomas Shoal.” (Transcript of hearing, Day 2, page 158.)
The tribunal quoted that statement by Aquino 3rd’s lawyers in its award but threw out their arguments to rule that China was in violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) on two grounds.
First, the award declared: “The tribunal has reviewed the record identified by the Philippines and is not able to identify a single documented instance in which Chinese government vessels acted to prevent Filipino fishermen from fishing at either Second Thomas Shoal or Mischief Reef. The tribunal considers that the Philippines has not established that China has prevented Filipino fishermen from fishing at Mischief Reef or Second Thomas Shoal and that, in this respect, the provisions of the convention concerning fisheries are not implicated.” (Award, paragraph 714 and 715)
Surprisingly, a fishermen at Ayungin Shoal supported that conclusion by the arbitral panel. In an interview with a TV crew, a Filipino fisherman — who with two others were invited for snacks in one of the Philippine Coast Guard vessels that figured in the April 23 near-collision incident — asked the PCG officers (in Filipino): “Why are you here? You raised tensions here. We’re not being bothered by the Chinese.”
Second, and more importantly, the tribunal ruled that Chinese vessels’ actions to prevent Philippine government vessels from resupplying the BRP Sierra Madre in May 2014 were “a quintessentially military situation, involving the military forces of one side and a combination of military and paramilitary forces on the other, arrayed in opposition to one another…” (Award, paragraph 1160). It ruled that such military situations in a dispute over territory were beyond its jurisdiction as well as of the Unclos.
Yes, the tribunal agreed that Ayungin was within the Philippines’ EEZ as defined by Unclos. However, it did not rule that China’s claim of sovereignty over it since it is part of the Spratlys, which it calls “Nansha” archipelago, as illegal. What it did rule was that the so-called nine-dash line had no basis. But nowhere in China’s constitution and declarations did it claim that the line was its basis for claiming sovereignty over the Spratlys.
Bringing the Ayungin issue to the arbitration suit was a big blunder. It wasn’t among the complaints the Aquino regime included in the suit when it was filed in January 2013, and it was included only after the 2014 incident when Chinese ships drove away the supply vessels to Ayungin.
How can the US or its allies assist the Philippines in maintaining its presence in Ayungin when an international tribunal, which the Americans even likely influenced, had ruled that the shoal was the subject of a legitimate territorial dispute?
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