Monday, March 2, 2020

Make The Philippines great again, say goodbye to American soldiers

This February, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte formally terminated the "Visiting Forces" agreement, which means American forces are no longer welcome in Philippines.

Basically, Duterte is declaring that Philippines do not need American troops to help fight Muslim terrorists.

What he did not publicly said is that Philippines don't need American harangue on how Duterte needs to fight the country's war on drugs and at the same time meet the standards of human rights treatment satisfactory to the American politicians.

Duterte also resents the extraterritorial privileges American soldiers enjoy while visiting in the country. This means if an American soldier commits a rape or murder, he won't face the Philippine court of law but would be tried by an American court martial.

Since Trump has a way of turning soldier-murderer into heroes, this is not reassuring.

Duterte also resents the constant reminder that the United States continues to act as if the Philippines have remained a colony.

The rupture of the bilateral relations will have short term economic consequences. Many of the brothels will have to shut their doors.

But the shortfall would be made up by investments from China. China is already in midst of converting the Clark Air Base, that the U.S. was previously evicted from, into industrial parks, apartments and airport.

The Philippines actually enjoy huge economic potential with the mineral resources lying beneath the ground. The Chinese could provide technical, financial and management assistance to exploit the hidden wealth. The kind of assistance that the Americans could have provided but didn't.

However, The Philippines have a highly educated and trained human resources along with the wealth from mega billionaires to undertake the development of its natural resources without any outside help.

But in the past, thanks to unbridled democracy, corrupt politicians rose to the top and nothing got done. Their best and brightest had to find work overseas, as doctors and nurses in America and as nannies and maids all around the world. Their remittances home became life support to the Philippines economy.

Even though being kicked out of the Philippines was okay with Trump--would save America money,-- it would leave a hole in Pentagon's strategy to surround China with the first island chain, a chain of military bases from Japan to Okinawa to Taiwan through the South China Sea.

Defense Secretary Esper has already declared the wish to renegotiate some sort of accommodation to keep a toe hold. It will be up to Duterte to decide as to the kind of "clean" break from the past that's of interest to the people of Philippines.

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