Monday, June 1, 2015

Real War or Rhetorics by Erick San Juan

Remember, it was in April last year when Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) was signed hours before the arrival of US President Barack Obama. And guess what, from the observation of Mr. Ernest Bower, Senior Adviser and Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies at CSIS, “Filipinos have become increasingly concerned about China’s continuing reclamation in the disputed waters of the Spratly Islands and the threats those actions pose to the Philippines’ sovereign interests. Still, many have not connected the dots on the urgent need to move ahead with the EDCA, preferably before Obama visits the Philippines to attend this year’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit in November”.

Again, the urgency to pass the EDCA which is still pending at the Supreme Court for a year now. Hopefully this June, the Supreme Court will come out with its ruling after some former senators and progressive groups and other sectors questioned the constitutionality of EDCA.

And what if the Supreme Court will not vote in favor of EDCA or still undecided before Obama’s visit in November?

However, if the Supreme Court does not move expeditiously on the EDCA and the agreement is not in place before Obama’s visit, “the White House will have to ask whether the Philippines is serious about implementing its treaty alliance with the United States,” said Bower.

“Obama will also be more constrained in his ability to talk about potential US investments in the Philippines’ defense modernization efforts, thereby sending signals to Beijing of Manila’s uncertainty even as Filipinos will be preparing to head into a national transition that will elect a new president to replace Aquino in May 2016,” he added. (Source: Manila Bulletin online by Elena L. Aben May 31,2015)

Whatever happened to President Obama’s commitment in supporting the country in times of attack? It was also last year when he declared an ‘ironclad’ commitment to the Philippines.

The ironclad policy is perceived by coffee shop pundits as rhetorics which could be music to the ears of the unlearned. We have to wake up to the reality that without US Congress approval to go to war, it’s plain play of words.

As what US Defense Secretary Ash Carter's tough talks on China’s reclamation projects in the South China Sea, it's just talks. It did not hold any real strategy against Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. The region is left to wonder whether Washington intends to back up its words.

“There should be an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by all claimants” in the South China Sea, Carter told the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. “We also oppose any further militarization of disputed features. We all know there is no military solution to the South China Sea disputes. Right now, at this critical juncture, is the time for renewed diplomacy, focused on finding a lasting solution that protects the rights and interests of all.”

Senior Colonel Xiaozhuo Zhao, an official in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, confronted Sec. Carter at the conference Saturday. Zhao completely rejected Carter’s premise and called his remarks about the South China Sea inaccurate and not constructive.

“Freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is not at all an issue because the freedom has never been affected,” he said. “Also, it is wrong to criticize China for affecting regional peace and stability through its construction activities, since China has never taken any proactive measures.”

Zhao called China’s activities, which now include placing military hardware on reclaimed reefs in the Spratly Islands, “legitimate, reasonable, and justified.” He said U.S. criticism of China and other U.S. activities such as reconnaissance flights over disputed islands were hurting the prospects for peaceful resolution. The harsh words bode poorly for Carter’s call for diplomacy. (Source: Ash Carter Talks Tough on China, But It's Just Talk by Josh Rogin)

Even Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, in his keynote address at the IISS Shangrila Security Dialogue said that US and China are engaged in a competitive dynamic which is reportedly expected from superpowers. He added that the disputes should be contained before it lead to more tensions and bad outcomes. "Resolution is necessary and Asians stand to lose if regional security and stability are threatened."

In these exciting times, when the drums of war are getting louder and louder and the scenario that we have been saying all these times that the next battleground is going to be in the Philippines is coming true.

God forbid!

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