Last week, we saw a press report together with a picture of PBBM and the new United States ambassador taken, if I am not mistaken, in Leyte.
It must have been during the yearly celebration of the October 20 landing of General Douglas Macarthur in 1944.
What was significant about that picture was that it was the first time in seven years to see our President together with the US ambassador in a social event.
I do not remember former President Rodrigo Duterte being seen with the US ambassador in any social event. If at all, he was frequently seen with the Chinese ambassador.
Now, we are witnessing something different. Is this a signal that change is in the air?
As I have written in a previous piece during the US trip of PBBM, his rhetoric must have been music to the ears of US government officials.
Now, we are witnessing something concrete happening.
Most recently, we received a grant of $100M from the US to use in whatever manner we want.
This has never happened before.
This was followed by a statement attributed to PBBM that we will be procuring our helicopter requirements from the US instead of Russia.
Various military exercises are now also going on with plans for bigger military exercises in the future.
This must be making our AFP happy to say the least because there were hardly any significant Fil-US military exercises in the last six years.
Most of what we had were actually civic action activities and scaled down military exercises.
Now, AFP units can participate in badly needed military exercises involving live fire demonstrations including going to Hawaii to join US military exercises.
We do not know whether there are other programs in the works like the procurement of much needed defense equipment such as more advance fighter aircraft which we must acquire for the country to have a minimum credible defense.
Whatever is happening, we are now seeing more engagements with our traditional and longest ally, the United States in contrast to the frosty treatment of the US by the former administration.
In a way, the last six years did not all go to waste.
Something positive came out of it. For one, it gave both countries time for introspection. For us, after everything is said and done, the words of PBBM perhaps encapsulates it all when he said that “he does not foresee a future for the country without the US being a partner.”
For better or for worse, our link with the US is much deeper than what a lot of us realize. Although there are many other countries that now welcome Filipinos, the US remains the number one choice for Filipinos.
On the part of the US, it must have realized it cannot always take us for granted and expect that we will always dance to their beat and tune.
Those days are gone.
And from the way the new American ambassador talks, she seems to understand this when she said the
US will not pretend to tell the Philippines how to modernize its armed forces.
But I am sure the AFP would welcome constructive suggestions.
Sometimes, it is the manner of saying what has to be said that matters.
The latest statement from the US embassy about more quality American investments coming is a very good example of how things can be positively handled.
Perhaps, we are seeing a recalibration of how to engage each other.
But since it is too early to make any conclusions, let us wait and see how things will develop in trade, investments, and most especially in the area of defense.
As far as defense is concerned, there should not be any problem because this actually never stopped.
All that has to be done is to intensify whatever programs are in the works.
My best guess, however, is that both sides will do this gradually because there are considerations that have to be thought of very well.
For instance, there is a segment in the society who totally agrees with foreign policy initiatives of the previous president.
Another is whether the new trend is a fundamental shift on our part or simply a balancing act.
The fact remains nonetheless that we have to address at the soonest possible time our defense modernization needs. It is something that we cannot keep on delaying.
We have to continue modernizing our weaponry but at the same time not forget training, organization, and doctrines.
We may be able to acquire all the modern equipment but all these will be useless if we do not have a well led, well-organized, superbly trained fighting men who know how to use them.
I would also hope that our military leaders will have the wisdom to be able to choose the right weaponry suitable to the kind of military establishment that we have.