“Ambassador Romualdez should know the country can never take an ambivalent position as if to sound out the country intends to open additional military bases including the allocation of a possible naval base.”
Many of the country’s geopolitical observers wonder whether it is this county that needs to keep alliance with the US or it is the other way around.
Listening to what Philippine ambassador to the US Jose Miguel Romualdez is saying, it seems it is the US that badly needs to keep them.
But in particular, our relations with China takes a unique position.
When the country decided to open diplomatic ties with China, we took it to mean cutting off diplomatic relations with Taiwan as pre-condition to our recognizing the “one-China” policy adopted by the People’s Republic of China.
It was this condition we agreed to before the Philippines formally opened diplomatic ties with China.
Nonetheless, in less than a year after the country opened diplomatic relations with China, the Philippines sought to open some sort of commercial and economic office with Taiwan to protect our workers and to secure our continued economic interest which obviously did not cease in our decision to recognize China in June 1975.
The Philippines wanted to maintain low-level relations with Taiwan called the Manila Economic Office (MECO) to facilitate the entry of Filipino workers and to continue the robust trade with that island.
Our ambassador, who is a relative of the president, fortunately, forgot that his foremost duty is to defend the country’s national interest.
The Philippines is committed to uphold the UN charter except on palpable instance of open aggression and violation of our territorial integrity and sovereignty.
To defend Taiwan if attacked by China is rather a loose supposition.
The observation made by our ambassador is rather an off-the cuff possibility.
Political analysts never conceived the possibility of China attacking Taiwan; there exists no alliance between Taiwan and the Philippines.
How on Earth can the Philippines give assistance to Taiwan when it has no military alliance with that island?
Besides, our relations with Taiwan is complicated because we made a unilateral commitment to adhere to the “one China” policy in maintaining our relations with China.
Effectively, when we promised to recognize China, we set limitations to our relations with Taiwan: that we cannot establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan or allow that island to host foreign military bases, allow it to use our existing military facilities granted to the US under the original US military bases we signed in 1946; which was subsequently superseded by our signing the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and finally by allowing the return of the US bases under the Enhance Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
One reason why the country is saddled in dealing with the US bases is essentially on how we muddled in our interpretation and purpose for stay of the US bases.
Up to now, our ambassador cannot categorically define the purpose and objective of wanting the US to keep their bases here. Both the US and the Philippines insist we are committed to defending and in preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic.
From one standpoint, US presence in those bases gives it the advantage. One classic example is the habit of the US to maintain a status quo or should we say on the application of its rule-based principle laid down by the US conceived alliance.
Analyzing this rule, the presence of the US bases is already an advantage to any would-be adversary of China.
More than that, the present-day alliance is totally different from those organized in the early 50s when the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) was formed.
It was an alliance exclusively formed to counter communist insurgency in the region.
The approach then of the West and its allies was to form one alliance recognizing the US as leader and pointing the responsibility to an area where there is rebellion.
The alliance usually operates in an area where they have air and naval bases.
The members of the alliance is only allowed to supply the manpower and selected weapons given as what the US did to the Philippines army.
It was a highly centralized form of alliance.
Effectively, it was the US that sought to enter an agreement with the countries that would host the bases.
In short, it was the US that signed the defense treaty with the host country only to effectively point at the enemy.
Today, such defense structure is totally different.
Two or several alliances operate in the same area of geostrategic sphere with those countries identified as allies or member of one or two military alliances at the same time.
This means that the country is given the choice which alliance it would wish to join, depending on the priority of its security and strategic interest.
For instance, Australia is a member of AUKUS, a newly formed alliance made up of the US, UK, and Australia to ostensibly supply that country of eight nuclear powered submarines as its main deterrent against China.
Besides membership with AUKUS, Australia has also existing treaty alliance with the US and New Zealand through the ANZUS Treaty.
The country is an active member of the Indo-Pacific states assigned to patrol the whole of South China Sea from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean with India, Japan and South Korea as overlapping members.
They are the so-called “Five Eyes” – an alliance of English-speaking nations in the Pacific.
Nobody could recall when SEATO was officially disbanded.
Editor’s Note: SEATO, after a final exercise on February 20, 1976, was formally dissolved on June 30, 1977 during the US presidency of Jimmy Carter and the Philippine presidency of Ferdinand Marcos.
(SEATO was established on September 8, 1954 with the United States, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Pakistan as founding members. The purpose of the organization was to prevent communism from gaining ground in the region.)
Another, there is also the RIMPAC or Rim of the Pacific Exercise, which seeks to enhance interoperability among Pacific Rim armed forces as a means of promoting stability in the region.
RIMPAC was used by Australia to send military contingent to Solomon Islands during the unrest in November 2021 to test if it too has the power to impose that country’s Monroe Doctrine in the Pacific.
This has alarmed China after the rioting resulted in the burning of several Chinese commercial establishment. Australia sent troops without permission from the government of Solomon Islands.
Many political analysts are confused at what ambassador Romualdez wants to convey.
They are confused whether he represents the interest of his country or that of the US.
At one point, he was quoted as saying “Nobody wants to have any kind of war or confrontation. We want to ask both countries to lessen the tension by having more dialogue and then trying to resolve all these issues because it’s in our part of the globe.”
On the same occasion he said: “…Manila and Washington were negotiating to expand the number of Philippine military outposts that American forces could use. The US is permitted to keep a rotating military presence in five locations in the Philippines owing to the Enhanced Defense
Cooperation Agreement signed in 2014. Our military and the military of the United States are all looking into the possible areas… Additional bases may include a naval base.”
Ambassador Romualdez ignores the fact that the US has been allowing foreign forces to operate in those bases granted to the US under EDCA.
In situations like the possible shooting down of China’s J-16 fighters or of Australia’s P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft, the Philippines could be involved in war initiated by a country not a signatory to a treaty.
The routine flight of Australian reconnaissance spy plane has become more frequent that skirmishes between China’s PLA air force have lately been observed.
Any incident involving foreign aircraft identified to have originated in the Philippines is most likely to involve the country.
The Philippines cannot deny responsibility. China will blame us for allowing foreign aircraft to operate from our territory and use them to spy on its sensitive areas like the Hainan Island.
The ambassador should know the country can never take an ambivalent position as if to sound out the country intends to open additional military bases including the allocation of a possible naval base.
He issued that statement at the height of the tension in the Taiwan Strait caused by the provocative visit by US speaker Nancy Pilose to Taiwan.