ARF and the ARP - “Asian Resident Power”
By Erick San Juan
The recently concluded 18th ASEAN Regional Forum in Indonesia with its 27 participants for this year has proven another milestone in keeping the world, particularly the region, at peace. Although some view the forum as “…the ARF’s perceived ineffectiveness in managing the region’s security has indubitably risen in recent years. The ARF — ‘Avoiding Regional Flashpoints’, if you will — has garnered a reputation for keeping hard security challenges off its agenda, and doing little when such issues happen to force their way in.” (Source: ASEAN Regional Forum at 18: Dealing with regional flashpoints by See Seng Tan, NTU 7/22/2011)
Was there really an avoidance in taking up the region’s flashpoints? From the reports I gathered, Uncle Sam through Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has aired their concern to the growing tensions in the disputed areas in the region involving several ASEAN members with China. They even reiterated their “national interest” in the region as vital in keeping one of the world’s busiest sea lanes peaceful.
During the post ARF meetings, at the sidelines, Sec. Clinton addressed the need to resolve the relations between the two Koreas, particularly North Korea’s return to multi-nation nuclear disarmament talks.
Declaring the United States a “resident power” with vital strategic interests throughout the Asia-Pacific, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said North Korea must do more to improve ties with the South before Washington will consider resuming six-party talks aimed at getting Pyongyang to abandon nuclear weapons in return for concessions. (Source: Associated Press 7/23/11)
It is very clear that Uncle Sam has to establish its presence in the Asia-Pacific region through support from its allies. And, the Philippines through this present administration has shown its continuing cooperation with the US and was perceived as kowtowing to Washington’s every whim and caprice.
The so-called military support of Uncle Sam in the “modernization” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines was actually seen by patriotic Filipinos as another “praise release” by the Obama administration. In truth, our country will be spending several billions in this undertaking, as what this report shows :
The military is "just using the South China Sea (locally referred to as the West Philippine Sea) dispute as an excuse for AFP fattening and corruption while the country's poor are wanting and in dire need of resources. Our conflict with China and other claimant countries in the Spratlys can be resolved peacefully," Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño said in a statement.
During the deliberations of the Development Budget Coordination Committee, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad disclosed that the Aquino administration will spend P40 billion from 2012 to 2016 (P8 billion annually) to "catch up" with the AFP modernization program. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex 6/20/11)
Added to this, is the expansion of the Coast Watch South towards western seaboard, and even further north of the country. The Department of Energy has earmarked the budget for the said program which will be drawn from the Malampaya fund. The Department of National Defense is expecting the implementation of the expansion within the next two to three years. This writer has written (in the past) about the existing Coast Watch South in the southern part of the country, along the Celebes Sea. Such existing maritime security is perceived by several pundits as listening post and conveniently located in the T3 – “terrorists transit triangle.”
Translation – our government is spending so much for military modernization and probably being used as a pawn in the proxy war between the “two elephants” in the process. After realizing this, there is no other way for PNoy’s administration but to strongly assert our role in the region vis-à-vis our relation with Washington and what is rightfully due us.