Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Where Do We Side? by Erick San Juan

This past week has been quite a handful for President Noynoy as he tackled domestic issues and at the same time had to leave the country for a gathering of world leaders at the East Asia-Asean Summit in Bali, Indonesia. Before that, the conference in Hawaii (APEC) and the meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton here. But at end of the day, that nagging question remains – who benefits?

When US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared in Honolulu earlier that the 21st century will be "America's Pacific century". It is quite clear that in order to implement this is to have a strong leverage in the region. Who will follow their “agenda” is the big question mark. Obviously Sec. Clinton’s visit here was to make sure that the present administration will adhere to Uncle Sam’s plan. Diplomats such as the Secretary of State and the US Ambassador, with their too goody words projecting to the Filipino people and to the world that they will always be on our side are mere rhetoric because reality check and the country’s past experiences – it was the opposite. Remember the Wikileaks report that then US ambassador Kristie Kenney sent through the cable criticizing President Noynoy for being a weak leader? What about the double speak of Secretary Clinton during the meeting with PNoy and she said, " The US does not take any position on any territorial claim." But, Clinton told a forum with young students that Washington is "very strongly against any nation using coercion or intimidation instead of using the law to try to resolve these issues." (Manila Standard 11/17/11)

As what the Daily Tribune observed in its editorial (11/21/11) – “The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit visit of Noynoy in Bali, Indonesia turned out to be only a personal expression of support for the United States military buildup in the region, the announcement of which was timed for the Summit. In sum, that was the only marked achievement of Noynoy in the event which cost the government more than P6 million to undertake. It is not even necessary and may in turn have alienated the Philippines further from its Asean counterparts.”

PNoy has been calling all the claimants to the South China Sea to meet and make a united stand against China for an effort to resolve the issue of their claims to the area. A move that every claimant knows to aggravate the disputes further from resolving. As for China, it reiterated its stand that the issue should be resolved directly between related sovereign countries "through friendly consultation and negotiation."

In a different perspective, that of the big brother’s, such move by PNoy is a welcome act in spite of past bad experiences we had with the US.

With this constant irritation on China, Beijing launched its soft power approach (again) and met with the Asean leaders with a commitment of economic support. Over the weekend with the leaders of Japan and South Korea, China pledged to work on a free trade agreement (FTA) that will serve as a counterbalance to the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Citing the events at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Hawaii, Obama had voiced frustration at China's trade practices and he pushed for a new Asia-Pacific trade deal with some of Beijing's neighbors.

The moves are seen as an attempt to reassert U.S. leadership in the face of China's rising influence around the Pacific Rim and reassure allies such as South Korea and Japan that it would remain a strong counterweight. (Reuters 11/18/11)

But obviously, this move by China will add another irritant on the part of Obama’s economic set up in the region.

The rest of the countries in the Asia-Pacific region should be wary for both US and China's agenda. China is determined to hold on to its claim to the whole South China Sea and a move that is counter to its goal could lead to a possible regional conflict.

Summits and conferences will always be part and parcel in maintaining global peace and economic stability no matter who will benefit most in the process. The most important thing is – as a sovereign country, our leaders must be sensitive enough to put forward what is due us and stand by it with conviction and sincerity. He should first unite the nation. Where do we side?

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