"The situation has become ludicrous."
The advent of the Trump administration saw the most abominable distortion in US foreign policy. Some say demagoguery has taken over diplomacy that observance of international law lorded by zealots could lead to their salvation.
Some say this is symptomatic of increasing US insecurity. Trump, Pompeo, and their cabal of white supremacists believe that such unconventional approach to imposing tariff is purposely done to blur US inability to compete in the free market, falsely accusing countries of violating the international property rights to secure advantage.
In other words, the US has resurrected the primeval political clichés of nationalism that saw the world plunged to two World Wars. The “America First” represents the meanest form of diplomacy. It is intended to steer the passion of nationalism until it solidifies to a doctrine of jingoism justifying aggression, invasion and economic blockade.
Take for instance the US policy of providing military aid to our armed forces. One could see that there is in this US policy a veiled expression of wanting to dominate without the sentiment of ideological bonding. Notably, US military assistance is rather loaded with conditionalities and restrictions. There is forced sale using as their beachhead the military agreements which forced countries to enter into during the Cold War.
The irony about this is the tendency to deny states the option to exercise their right as independent and sovereign states. Often, the US dictates the kind of weapons based on what it sees as the defense requirements of that country. The whole system become odious and ludicrous, for often, countries are required to pay for their arms acquisition.
US military assistance agreement has become one-sided, for while US officials choose the armaments, it has become their license to prohibit us from acquiring weapons from other countries.
This exclusivity clause negates freedom and trust which are supposed to be the hallmark of our alliance with the US. In fact, the military assistance agreement we signed in 1946 was in exchange for their use of the bases and became their venue to provide us with hand-me-down equipment paid under our allocated defense acquisition from the US. As one commented, the US, in reality, was making money in their supply of outdated weapons.
Our military assistance has become a farce, for while we acquire our equipment under the treaty, we are not free to acquire them from other countries to literally make a truism of the saying that “beggars cannot be choosers.” Many suspect US defense contractors and salesmen are making a killing in the sale of military equipment. The President needs only to review the total amount of budget allocated for their acquisition. Almost 95 percent of our arms acquisition is directed to purchasing US arms which means we are practically subsidizing the US arms industry.
Even members of the US Congress have joined in the lobbying to block our purchase from other countries which is tantamount to interfering in our domestic affairs. They did not even consider that almost all of the weapons in our armouy are supplied by them. Besides, it is not for the US Congress to determine with whom the Philippines will purchase its arms requirements.
The situation has become ludicrous because the US is selling their weapons at a price higher than what is offered by other countries. There is no escape, for easily the US invokes our military agreement which prohibits us from purchasing weapons from other countries without the approval and/or permission of the US Defense Department or US Congress. Impliedly, this means the US Congress and the Defense Department stand as more powerful than our elected president
In one report, it says the Philippines shunned the purchase of Russian-made Mi-171 helicopters. Instead, we opted to buy 16 US Black Hawk helicopters from Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. which will cost us about $240 million. The reason given is that US President Trump signed a law punishing Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea, for its support of the Syrian government of Assad and suspected that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election, an accusation Kremlin has denied.
This means, the Trump administration has overstretched the prohibition even if technically the ban should only apply to US corporations dealing with Russia, and not on the Philippines wishing to acquire helicopters from that country.
Before that, it was also learned that the country was offered to purchase the US-made AH-1Z Viper, a less costly twin-engine chopper but smaller than the AH-64E Apache and of lower payload capacity. It says the AH-IZ Viper “will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country which is an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in South-East Asia.”
Likewise, our purchase of those helicopters is intended to give priority to improving the security and defense capability of the US although they are destined for use of our armed forces, and the cost taken from our own defense budget.
On our purchase of weapons from China, we were about to receive $3.3 million worth of rifles from Norinco, China’s arms manufacturers, to be given to the PNP. Unfortunately, this was blocked by the US Senate fearing they will be used to violate human rights the same way it blocked the sale of about 26,000 M4 rifles with the prodding of the local opposition.
An inventory of all the weapons and ammunition now used by our police and armed forces indicate they are all supplied by the US. What irritates the President is the support extended by the opposition, accusing the government of violating human rights during his campaign against illegal drugs. This means that some US members of Congress are now serving as spokesmen to defend the local opposition than of the interest of this country as formulated by the President.
Finally, the US should have anticipated that states remain free to acquire military assistance from any country just as they are free to reject such aid from whatever source. To forbid them is to reduce the status of that country to a vassal state. But as it is, our military assistance with the US has become its gateway to interfere in our domestic affairs. The US has effectively used it as its tool to isolate us from other arm suppliers, viz. to monopolize their sale of arms.
In 2020, President Duterte signed the P4.1-trillion budget, which is larger by 12 percent than the 2019 budget. It is expected that the Philippines will spend 300 billion pesos ($5.6 billion) over the next five years to upgrade our defense capability. This amount will be spent mostly in the acquisition of US military equipment, which means our arms acquisition from the US will remain unimpeded in the next five years.
It is for this why we see an increasing insecurity of the US of losing its lucrative milking cow, nicely disguised as military assistance agreement. The US will fight tooth and nail to defend their control of the arms sales. Once this lucrative business is lost, the US would have lost the Philippines not in the South China Sea but in the money-making of arms sales.