Even as President Rodrigo Duterte hobnobs with the great Chinese “empire” albeit sans his appointed representative, the former president Fidel V. Ramos, we must also look to other possible allies as we seemingly veer away from the American orbit of influence.
Last week I wrote about this shift and mentioned a possible ally that we must also cultivate and not leave insecure because it is without doubt one of the most technologically advanced and trustworthy neighbors we have in Asia. I am referring to Japan.
While it is also incorrect not to deal with China in direct talks, I think it is also foolhardy for this administration if it will not also strengthen its long post-war relationship with Japan.
In 1956, the Philippines finally ended its state of war with Japan, some eleven years after the empire surrendered to our colonial master, the United States, on board the USS Missouri at Tokyo Bay. This year marks a full 60 years of the signing of our own treaty of friendship and cooperation with Japan.
Having borne the brunt of Japanese might during World War II, it took us far longer to end our anger and bitterness with Japan. But once we closed that painful chapter, Japan helped this country rise from the ashes, paying for war reparations that resulted in such things as the old Mandue-Mactan Bridge.
After paying for the damage wrought on the country, Japan entered a phase of providing soft Yen loan packaged to the country to help its infrastructure needs starting in the 1970s.
The South Road Properties and the second Mandaue-Mactan Bridge named after Supreme Court Chief Justice Marcelo Fernan, are both a result of those loan packages.
It is therefore impractical for the Duterte administration not to take note of the possibilities of overcoming the 20-year public transport and public infrastructure gap that we are in (due to the ineptitude and the corruption of previous administrations) with the help not of China, which continues to pillage our islets in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), but of Japan, which has shown a long record of fulfilling its promises.
I wonder, for example, what would happen if we ask the Chinese to build our light rail transit system and the Mindanao railway project and then we suddenly go into a crisis as it begins to unilaterally pump oil from our own territories in the WPS?
The Chinese will certainly withdraw in a huff and leave their projects unfinished and then demand that we pay for those that have already started. Even as our two nations snob each other and prepare for confrontation.
I am sure a scenario like this has not escaped the economic planners of the Duterete administration. And the side that is disadvantaged is certainly not China.
And so therefore, let me say the oft-quoted advice that is most relevant at this juncture: Caveat emptor! Let the buyer beware!
Japan is no longer our enemy. I would rather trust one who has not arrogated unto itself what are rightfully ours than ask help from someone who has consistently denied us our rights.
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