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America’s Decline and How That Affects the Philippines

The inevitable clash of hegemons?
The inevitable clash of hegemons? Photo: nanalyze.com.

he United States was seen as an amazing country by many Filipinos during the latter half of the 20th century. In fact most of the Free World saw America that way. American companies produced incredible products, American astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first human to set foot on the Moon, and so on. To many Pinoys—this author included—Americans were smart, exceptional, and fair-minded individuals.

For the most part, Filipinos did not mind clinging on to Uncle Sam’s long coattails. America led the world and we were more than happy to be its close ally. But that was then.

Today, America appears to have lost its edge. By most measures, America no longer leads. Instead of the “American exceptionalism” of decades past, pettiness, divisiveness, distrust, and intolerance seem to characterize the typical “American” of today.

It is important to note here, that in its long relationship with the Philippines, America always had its racists and bigots who looked down on Asians. But the vast majority of Americans didn’t, so it was easier then to tolerate the few bad apples in the bunch. In general, Filipinos liked Americans, and Americans liked Filipinos.

Unfortunately, the world today is a different place. With America clearly on a downward spiral, the Philippines must forge ahead, no longer clinging to Uncle Sam’s coattails. Luckily, since 1946, Filipinos have slowly weaned themselves off American dependence. Pinoys have learned to stand on their own two feet. But as a small, developing country, it still depends on America’s mighty military for protection. The Mutual Defense Treaty signed on August 30, 1951 guaranteed that protection. According to Wikipedia, “The overall accord contained eight articles and dictated that both nations would support each other if either the Philippines or the United States were to be attacked by an external party.”

However, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s rapprochement towards Communist China creates some major wrinkles in this agreement. Americans will want to know if the Philippines will still come to its aid if hostilities break out between the US and China? Filipinos on the other hand have always wondered whether the US would really aid the Philippines if China attacked it. Given former US President Barack Obama’s inaction to China’s aggressive takeover of Scarborough Shoal in 2012, it appears that American military assistance based on the 1951 treaty might not always be forthcoming.

So where does all this leave the Philippines? From our perspective, the country should hitch its star, not to the Americans or the Chinese, but instead to multinational, rule-of-law-based, coalitions like the United Nations, ASEAN, and the European Union.

America has long stood for freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. But America is on its way down. China is now the rising power. But China is a totalitarian, non-transparent, aggressive country that uses military might to threaten and intimidate its neighbors. It is not a country the Philippines should be close to either.

The Philippines won a landmark ruling from the international community in 2016. Unfortunately Duterte has completely disregarded it to appease what appear to be his Chinese masters. The Philippines must reassert its claim and demand that China comply with the Hague court’s ruling given that China and the Philippines are both signatories to UNCLOS. At the same time Filipinos must stop seeing themselves as helpless victims incapable of doing anything except cry for help. They should instead begin building up their military in earnest. A bully like China will respect Filipinos only if they stand up to them. It will be a tough world in future decades and that will require a new kind of Filipino to meet that challenge. Published 05/08/2018

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