Various political analysts, heads of non-government organizations, and a former official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that “the Philippines should ideally maintain good relations with all countries, be neutral like Thailand, Vietnam or Switzerland, not becoming a pawn or military ally of any one superpower against other countries.”
This view was expressed in the light of the Philippines and the United States agreeing to designate four additional bases for US troops to operate in the country in a bid to accelerate the full implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
The agreement was reached in the course of a recent visit to the Philippines by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, which included meetings with officials, including President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., and Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo.
STRENGTHEN PEACE INITIATIVE
Still, during a recent talk at the Pandesal Forum of the 84-year-old Kamuning Bakery Café in Quezon City, retired US Colonel Ann Wright—a former American diplomat who resigned in 2003 due to her disagreement with the U.S. war on Iraq—appealed against the expansion of U.S. military bases in the Pacific, especially in the Philippines, and against additional war games which she warns could cause dangerous contaminations, jet fuel pollution and other environmental hazards.
A 2017 US Peace Prize recipient, Wright, called instead for strengthening peace advocacy.
Among those who shared her views were former Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Ernesto Abella, Leiden University-educated geopolitics analyst Sass Rogando Sasot, Partido Manggagawa (Workers Party) Spokesperson Wilson Fortaleza, Asian Century Philippines Strategic Studies Institute (ACPSSI) President Herman Laurel and ACPSSI Vice-President for External Affairs Prof. Anna Malindog-Uy.
They called upon President Marcos to stop the four new EDCA military bases of the U.S. in the Philippines, review the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), and uphold the constitutionally-mandated independent foreign policy of the country
During the forum moderated by columnist and analyst Wilson Lee Flores, former DFA Undersecretary and ex-President Rodrigo Duterte’s former Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella appealed to the Filipino people to strengthen patriotism and uphold a genuine independent foreign policy, pursuing Filipino national interests.
For her part, Sass Rogando Sassot quoted various American think tanks and media reports projecting that USA military action or war against its rival China could happen in the next few years, especially over the issue of Taiwan.
She appealed for President Bongbong Marcos to be the hero in preventing the Philippines from becoming dragged into this possible war.
At the forum, Vietnam was cited as a country which refuses to allow foreign military presence or foreign military alliances against others. Thailand was cited for its consistent neutrality even during World War II, which caused it to suffer less casualties than the Philippines which was then a colony of U.S. and thus became a military target of Japan.
Partido Mangagagawa (Workers Party) Spokesperson Wilson Fortaleza lamented that increased militarization and war decisions usually involve politicians and military leaders but it is the workers and the ordinary people who ultimately suffer the horrible negative consequences.
He appealed for the workers of the Philippines, U.S.A., China and other countries to vigorously oppose militarization, and to fight for peace.
Herman Tiu Laurel said leaders, legislators and civic society groups should work to uphold an independent foreign policy for the Philippines to ensure safety and stability for ASEAN and the country. He appealed to government to stop EDCA military bases and to review of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.
Prof. Anna Malindog-Uy warned that “in a worst-case scenario, if things go wrong and a war in the Asia/Indo-Pacific region breaks out, the Philippines will end up the collateral damage. The country may end up with the same fate as Ukraine.”