To depend or not: Not really the question

By: Jason A. Baguia October 28,2016 - 10:33 PM

The Chief Executive has recently stated that he intends to pursue an independent foreign policy on behalf of all Filipinos and that he wants all foreign troops out of the country within the next two years. He added that in line with this goal, he will abrogate agreements that the Philippines has signed with other nation-states.

That has set many of us wondering what would be the contours of an independent foreign policy. Are we really to become so independent as to be self-sufficient in many aspects of national life? What alternatives will the country take once we have grown into the level of independence that the President wishes we have?

Following his shock-and-awe declaration in a state visit to China that he is parting ways with the United States on the military and economic fronts, a statement that he has since tempered, developments only underline the impetuousness of his pronouncements and interpretations.

China has donated millions of pesos to the country in support of recovery efforts in the wake of supertyphoon Haima. The President said the contribution has no strings attached though that is hard to believe following the announcement that Filipino fishermen already have Chinese permission to return to disputed territory that an international tribunal decided belongs to the Philippines in the first place.

Japan could become our partner, the President said, in joint naval exercises. How that can coincide with his desires for a Philippines free from foreign military presence strains the mind.

With South Korea, the Philippines signed a deal worth US $337 million for the acquisition of two navy frigates.

To Russia, the Philippines has indicated that it will decide what would be in our best interests after the Russian ambassador invited our government to make a wish list indicating how Russia can help the Philippines.

A US C-130 has arrived in the Philippines recently, a purchase from the Americans discounted by US$20 million that the Philippine Air Force chief welcomed as a sign of the strength of Philippine-American relations.

It looks like the President’s qualification that to separate from the United States does not mean severing ties with it was made to save face, to acknowledge that an independent foreign policy is far more complex than can be encapsulated in a few lines calculated to land on the front pages of newspapers and websites.

No one contests that the United States and the Philippines still have many issues to resolve. For instance, the church bells of Balangiga remain on American soil, having been taken by US troops as war booty after our ancestors fought back against them in retaliation for probably the biggest massacre Americans perpetrated on foreign land prior to the Vietnam War.

Justice and reconciliation, however, are never accomplished in an atmosphere of separation. They are attained in dialog; and dialog, not mindless monologue, is the proper mode of communication for a people that wishes to be respected in the community of nations.

Many have argued that calls for Malacañang to stop the carnage in the Philippines in light of the current dispensation’s war on drugs were what really drove the President into hotheaded comments against other countries.

This is unfortunate. In psychology, the Johari window technique helps people know that everyone has blind spots in terms of self-awareness and relating with others that can be compensated for only with the help of the other. So goes foreign relations. The validity of the call for the rights of Filipinos to be upheld amid the war on drugs is not lost just because this comes from countries with their own horrible human rights records. If a nation reacted only with infantile anger every time its errors are pointed out by another, then that nation is complicit in elevating the error into a culture.

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TAGS: chief executive, China, country, economy, Filipino, foreign military, foreign troop, foreign troops, Haima, International Tribunal, johari window, johari's window, Justice, military, nation, national, needs, Philippines, President, Russia, United States of America, wants

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