"I agree with Enrile; the President should just ignore his critics."
The appearance of former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile last week during the weekly television talk of President Duterte, together with some of Duterte’s cabinet men and Senator Christopher Lawrence Bong Go, gave the people an enlightening insight into the West Philippines Sea issue.
The President should have more resource persons from the private sector.
During that interview of Duterte and Enrile, it was made clear that the President is the sole architect of the country’s foreign policy and that he alone can speak authoritatively on issues over foreign policies. It was also established that the Department of Foreign Affairs secretary is the President’s spokesman on foreign policies.
What made the appearance of Enrile enlightening was that he was speaking from his experience as a Senate President and secretary of national defense during the Marcos incumbency. He used to hold talks with American state and defense officials on defense and national security.
There was one aspect of the West Philippine Sea controversy, on the Scarborough Shoal, which made the Philippines withdraw and give way to China. He expressed surprise that former President Benigno Aquino III had approved the backchanneling of then Senator Antonio Trillanes IV during this controversy.
There were a lot of questions raised on this one. It was the United States that brokered the Philippine dispute with China through the efforts of then Philippine Ambassador to Washington Joey Cuisia. This resulted in the country losing to China in that sea dispute. It was also very clear that the possession of China of that shoal was done during the incumbency of Aquino as president, with Albert del Rosario as foreign affairs secretary.
Enrile was forthright in saying that the US may not come to the defense of the country in the treaty regarding the Philippines as a “Pacific ally.” There is no mention of the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea. Enrile told Duterte that he considered the Philippines as a strategic partner of the US. But then the US naval base in Subic and the Clark Air Base were withdrawn when the Senate decided to end the bases act with the United States.
This is why there is a need for the Philippines to strengthen its military capabilities and then perhaps have alliances with Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea against China in case China pursues its expansionist policies. Enrile also raised the need for the country to purchase more arms and plane capabilities.
Enrile also believes that the US will not go to war over the Philippines with China in the event that China invades the country. He talked about the possibility of a nuclear war if the US comes into conflict with China, considering the fact that China has allies in the Middle East and Africa that have nuclear weapons. All this could turn the world into a big desert land.
Enrile said the President should just ignore his critics and those who want to take issue with him over the West Philippine Sea.
Personally, I believe that Duterte’s independent foreign policy and his pivot to China could well be his legacy when he steps down from the presidency. Many question his pivot to China, but there are pros and cons to it. Duterte believes, and rightly so, that the only thing we can do with China’s frequent bullying is protest diplomacy. We cannot afford to go to war against a superpower like China.
I believe in Enrile’s suggestion that we should strengthen our military capabilities and form alliances with Taiw an, Japan and South Korea, and even with Vietnam.
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Last Saturday (May 22) during our Zoom meeting of the 365 Club with JPE in the aftermath of his dialogue with Duterte, several questions were asked in connection with the back-channeling of Trillanes as representative of former President Aquino on the issue of Scarborough Shoal.
What was the back-channeling about? What was it for? The absence of any document makes this a mystery.
Another question asked was why an American state representative brokered the dispute between China and the Philippines.
The Senate should investigate.