EDITORIALS




20September

Independent foreign policy

States should have an independent foreign policy, or they lose the requisite of a free and sovereign entity. They are either like the colonies of olden days or simply client, failing, or failed states.

Until today states’ national – even international -- policy has always been seen as reflective or copy paste of the old norm: “My country right or wrong”. This expression is probably more of a jingoism. But is it really so? Look around the world today, there are more reasons to believe that states continue to conduct both their domestic and international affairs with it as the centerpoint. There may be exceptions, yes, but they are very hard to determine and quantify.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s pursuit of an independent foreign policy is in the right direction. It should be pursued vigorously and consistently. In fact, this is what the 1987 Constitution says: “The State shall pursue an independent foreign policy. In its relations with other states, the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest and the right to self-determination.”

“We will observe and I must insist – I repeat, I must insist – on the time honored principles of sovereign equality, non-interference and commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes to best serve our people and protect the interests of our country.”

This was what President Duterte stated upon arrival in Davao City from Indonesia where he met President Joko Widodo recently.

Be this as it may, states are not necessarily islands or archipelagic that they can exist alone. Bridges have to be built to connect them with the rest of the world; hence, the need for diplomatic relations, and more importantly, for world bodies such as the League of Nations before and now the United Nations. The Association of Southeast Asian Countries (ASEAN) can also be appreciated in this light.

The truth is that the current position of the Philippines is very fragile, and thus to design a straight-jacket approach requires extra-ordinary care. A giant neighbor, China, has been very assertive if not aggressive in claiming more islands in the South China Sea. It also built military, naval and air, infrastructures in these islands or islets some of which are very near to us. On other hand, the US has always been the traditional ally of this country and is also trying to ensure that its number one status as superpower remains intact. Moreover, it has security, political, economic, and military interests in this region that it will protect and sustain. Any sudden or spasmodic attempt to change this state of things will not be welcomed naturally. Besides, it is the nature of international politics and power play that once a state is a colony or an ally, the once occupier will always want it secured and intact within the loop.

The US and China are giants or elephants, and the possibility of colliding cannot be ruled out. Suppose they will collide, where will the ant (the Philippines) go? We cannot run away, because we are not ant. The Philippines is immovable.

However, many foreign analysts believe that war between China and the US is not forthcoming. They simply base their view on the fact that these two giants are heavily in trade with each other. Some say that if China will pull-out its investments in the US which amounts to billion to trillion of dollars, the US economy will collapse.  The reverse is also probably true, because the US has also invested heavily in China.

This development is probably one of the reasons why this administration is retooling its foreign policy from blurred independent to clear-cut independent, from pro-US to neither pro-US nor pro-China foreign policy. This can also explain why China seems unperturbed with what it is doing now: a creeping occupation of islands in the disputed sea.