As with a lot of the rhetoric that is derived from the mouth of the current administration’s President Duterte, this one appears to have no difference in the concerns for the Filipino people’s well being.
Throughout president Duterte’s tenure, there has been a number of conflicts as to what is right and what is wrong and what is best for the the country as a whole.
As with all politicians that are on the campaign trail, Duterte’s campaign was no different. From the unseal spiel of we are going to clean up the country to make it great again, to the we’re going to fix all of the infrastructure to we are going to get rid of the vast influx of drugs.
It was only a short time of beginning his time in office on June 30, 2016 when the problems of a not so well thought-out plan became apparent to the general public. From the killing of “suspected drug users and dealers,” without any kind of due process to the normal chant of we are better off without the US being here, and this is where he has gotten it wrong on so many levels that it leaves one to wonder if they could count that high.
In the time that Duterte has been in office, there have been more blunders than any Filipino, or any other country for that matter, cares to admit that they elected him in the first place.
While I could go on about this for some time, I want to concentrate on the last three blunders as there are more post coming that deal with the issue at hand in the South East Asian territory.
First, the President’s hard line stance on drugs might of, in his mind, set a president to the general public that you should get clean and sober and pass the word to those that are thinking about smuggling drugs into the country that it is not a good idea. As we can see. That failed.
Where his concentration of hard line stance should have been is in protecting the Philippine people’s land. Specifically, I am referring to the Spratly Islands that are about 22 miles (35 km) to the west of Manila.
The president not only knew that China was in the process of artificially building an island out there since 2014, but he continued to sleep on it without any kind of interaction for some time to come. After it was to late, there was the rhetoric “the US should have taken care of it.”
There’s just one problem that the president forgot about. Not only during his campaign trail speeches of we are better off without the US, there were several other incidences of where the president had condemned the US for not investing or supplying enough money to the Philippines. Again, a complete failure of the Philippine people as the US has built and operates a plethora of call centers, built and operates CNN and has always managed to mysteriously be present to clean up and supply food and water to those affected by a typhoon.
Case-in-point. Super typhoon Yolanda of 2013. The US donated, without asking for repayment, $90,864,627 (4,402,890,933.60 peso (4 trillion)) worth of supplies to those effected as well as place a lot of men on the ground to help clean up the mess that was left over.
With all of the Philippine jobs that are created by US companies, one would think that a president would be more grateful for the work that was involved, but not this one.
Moving forward and skipping a lot of the other blunders that this president has managed to accomplish, we need to talk about the Visiting Forces Agreement.
The Visiting Forces Agreement is an agreement between the US and the Philippines in support of the Mutual Defense Treaty. It was signed in 1951. In 2016, the president decided that he needed more money so that he could proudly show the Philippine people his worth as a president to start his “I’m going to fix the infrastructure” projects.
In the end, as we’ll see, it might have been a better thought to stop the siphoning of tax money for other worthless projects – or directly just steeling it – and use that money for the projects that were much more important to the people.
To this end, the president in 2016 decided to announce that he was getting a divorce with the US because the US just was not donating enough money or whatever the rhetoric was that he decided to bullshit the people with.
Setting out to get more money, the president went to China to secure $24 billion of Chinese loans and investment pledges for his ambitious infrastructure overhaul, a few weeks after saying the Philippines was being treated like a dog by Washington and would be better off with China.
The president seems to have forgotten something once again. Those were loans from an aggressive country that would take repayment out of his hide, which in the end, it would come out of the hides of the Philippine people that are having a hard enough time trying to make ends meet.
But only a fraction of China’s pledged support materialized, exposing Duterte to criticisms he has been complicit in allowing China to pose threats to Philippines’ sovereignty, and been left high and dry by Beijing.
So why did this happen? It turns out that after the president’s aggressive stance on drugs and rampant killings, that Senator Leila de Lima criticized Duterte for those killings and was subsequently jailed for it on drummed up charges. This led the US to revoke Senator Ronald Dela Rosa visa, it turn angering Duterte.
As with a lot of my post, a quick history refresher or lesson for those the do not know is always on tap in an effort to make sense of what the writing is about.
The Philippines has had a love-hate relationship with the US dating back to 1898. As always, there is more to the story than a one-liner.
At the time, the US kicked out colonial Spain after the Spanish-American War, but to the dismay of many Filipinos, the US did not grant the country its freedom, instead ruling the islands for a period of 48 years. It would not be till 1946 that the US would recognize the Philippines independence. The original year of recognition was supposed to be 1944, but was delayed due to the US’s involvement with World-War II.
My personal thought on this is that the US should have kept the Philippines as a US held territory, much like Guam. In hind sight, the country would not have had to go through the turmoil of past rulers, dictators, etc, that it has and would be in much better condition financially, structurally and safety.
Why did the US get involved with the war in the Philippines? The Spanish–American War was an armed conflict between Spain and the US in 1898. Hostilities began in the aftermath of the internal explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in Cuba, leading to the US intervention in the Cuban War of Independence. The war led to the US emerging as predominant victor in the Caribbean region, and resulted in the US acquisition of Spain’s pacific possessions. That led to the US’s involvement in the Philippine Revolution and ultimately to the Philippine–American War.
Another issue that is in the far-back minds of some is the atrocities of General Jacob Hurd Smith. General Smith was a US Army officer notorious for ordering an indiscriminate retaliatory attack on a group of Filipinos during the Philippine–American War, in which American soldiers killed 2,500 Filipino citizens. His orders included, “kill everyone over the age of ten” and make the island “a howling wilderness.” Some historians have stated that the number of killed Filipino civilians is 50,000. General Smith was later court-martialed for the incident. In the end, he was dubbed “The Monster” by the press as a result.
The indiscriminate killings also reminds us of the current president’s policies on drugs, making him no better than General Smith.
With our history lesson out of the way, it seems that the president still did not learn his lesson by announcing his displeasure with life in general, deciding to tear up the Visiting Forces Agreement in February of this year.
This conundrum leaves both the US and the Philippines in a bad situation. For the US, they now have to figure out what equipment they have in the Philippines that they have to ship back to the US and what equipment that would cost more to ship than it’s worth.
For the Philippines, it leaves them completely open for China to simply step ashore and state the Philippines now belongs to China., which in China’s view is the perfect solution for repayment.
There is nothing more that China would love to see than the entire main island of Luzon leveled, made into a bunch of airstrips with jet fuel storage tanks furthering their plan of complete ownership of the South East nations of Japan, Taiwan, (technically, Taiwan is part of China’s one nation, two governments) Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and ultimately, India.
As mentioned above, the president decided to terminate the VFA in February of this year, only to rescind on that promise in June of this year. It’s worth noting that the two sides had 180 days to find a cure or on the 181st day, the termination would have gone into effect.
Overall, the US presence in the Philippines is small. As of March 2020, the Pentagon reported that 196 active duty military personnel and a dozen civilian DoD employees were permanently stationed in the Philippines.
Recently, again, the president decided to show the world that his lack of thought would prove to show the world an empty void of complete ignorance.
Lets count the ways.
First there was the incident where the Philippines coast guard was dispatched out to where there were Chinese fishing vessels that were within the Philippines waters. Upon arriving, the coast guard was met by two much larger Chinese coast guard vessels that basically told the Philippines coast guard to turn around with you tail between your legs and go home.
Second. There’s been the incident of the Spartly Islands, where China decided to just build an island, throw-up and air strip, some jet fuel tanks and call it China’s military base. In response to this, Duterte announced to the Philippine people that there was nothing he could do. Remember, it’s been four years and those loans and interest are due and as I mentioned, China will take it out of Duterte’s hide.
Third and by all means not least, there is the recent incident where Duterte announced to China and the world that he would send in the US to take care of them. A complete sign of ignorance.
In a worst case scenario in which US forces have to come from the US to a conflict in the Indo-Pacific region, time and distance would be as great an enemy as the adversary itself.
Assuming a speed of 22 knots, (25 mph/40 kmh) a ship like the LHA 6, home-ported in San Diego, would take nine days to get to Tokyo, 12 days to get to Taiwan, and 13 days to get to the South China Sea.
By the time US forces were able to reach the Philippines, China would eat the them for lunch. This obviously does not include aircraft, but even at 550 mph/885 kmh) it’s still a 15+ hour trip from the US to the Philippines, again, leaving the Philippines wide open for China to eat them for lunch before the US would be able to get there.
The only saving grace the Philippines would have is if there were/are the proper aircraft needed stationed in Guam, but that still does not discount the fact that China knows it would have to keep Guam very busy while attacking the Philippines.
This only leaves us with the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf and is derived from the English idiom “to cry wolf,” defined as “to give a false alarm.”
The tale concerns a shepherd boy who repeatedly tricks nearby villagers into thinking a wolf is attacking his town’s flock. When a wolf actually does appear and the boy again calls for help, the villagers believe that it is another false alarm and the sheep are eaten by the wolf and this is where Duterte has effectively placed all of the Philippines’ islands in grave danger.
The response from the US has been nil, nothing, no word of support. The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
What has happened from the US is that Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s decision to fly nearly halfway around the world partly so he can spend several hours in the nations of Palau, Guam and Hawaii to ensure those nations that they have the unwavering support of the US in this time of uncertainty.
It is with this that if Duterte had one ounce of common sense, he would make a phone call to US president Trump to ask if it would be ok to come over for dinner – I’m sure a good fat-ass USDA steak would settle well with Duterte too – and the chance to lick his shoes in an effort to say “I’m sorry. I’m a hot head without a brain,” in an effort to show the US’s president that it would be more than ok to station 50,000-100,000 troops, fighter jets and other equipment at the north and south end of the Philippines islands. That would seal the deal to inform China that the Philippines can and will survive without them.
Something else that Duterte seems to forget, military personnel spend money like anybody else thereby helping the economy in this time of need.