Increased rotational presence of US troops, decreased Philippine sovereignty

Akbayan (Citizens Action Party)

"Decreased sovereignty." This is how Akbayan Representative Walden Bello summed up the ongoing negotiations between the Philippine government and the United States to craft a framework for the increased rotational presence of American troops in the country.

According to the Akbayan stalwart, the Aquino government's decision to enter into negotiations for an increased rotational presence of U.S. forces in the country, by deploying aircraft, ships, supplies, and troops, is "injudicious."

Bello, who is also a renowned global political analyst, said it is to the country's grave disadvantage that the government allows foreign powers ease of access to our ports and natural resources without laying down a concrete foreign policy that secures our national interests.

"Putting the cart before the horse"

"Time and again, we have reminded the Aquino government to first craft a comprehensive, independent, and pro-Filipino foreign policy that will be the fundamental guide for establishing and fostering relations with foreign nation-states. It should also serve as the government's reference to upholding national sovereignty and territorial integrity," Bello said.

'We can't put the cart before the horse and expect it to move forward. The government must recognize that other countries have their own interests to pursue. While it is true that we will need all the help we can get from our friends and allies, we should first assess the kind of help we need from the US and ensure that their role in our territorial conflict with China will not undermine our national interests," Bello added.

Bello stressed that a solid foreign policy must go hand in hand with a comprehensive review of agreements and treaties the government has entered into with other countries.

"The review must involve the abrogation of agreements and treaties that are clearly unconstitutional or detrimental to national interests. These include all defense agreements and treaties such as but not limited to the VFA and MDT," Bello said.

"Can't fight Goliath by bringing in the Terminator"

Akbayan also argued that increasing American presence in the country is not a deterrent against China's bullying in the region.

"We can't fight Goliath by bringing in the Terminator. You don't confront a bully by bringing in another bully," Bello said.

"We avoid being caught between the dynamics and intramurals of superpowers. That will only complicate and worsen the situation with China. It will also leave the territorial issues to the margins, which renders the entire exercise self-defeating," Bello explained.

Third way

Bello said there is a third way to the territorial dispute with China.

"We don't have to choose between the two bullies. We are not in a situation where we are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. There is a third and more prudent approach to the regional dispute, and that is the fostering of stronger ties with our regional neighbors, especially those who have similar grievances against China's aggression," Bello explained.

Bello also highlighted the key points of an alternative approach: a) promotion of the demilitarization of the Western Pacific, b) pushing states to prioritize diplomatic solutions and multilateral fora to solve territorial disputes instead of resorting to force, in the same manner that the Philippine government brought up its dispute with China for adjudication with the United Nations' International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas, and c) forceful citizen diplomacy for peace.

"Pact with the devil"

Akbayan said that the Aquino government, in its desire to confront China's bullying and incursions in the West Philippine Sea, must not commit the mistake of entering into a "pact with the devil."

"It is the height of irony that in our collective campaign to secure our sovereignty against China and other foreign aggressors, the very same sovereignty that we try to protect would be the first casualty," Bello said.