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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Beware the Greeks bearing gifts

“Let us hope, therefore, that former President Duterte, in spite of all his misgivings and disagreements, can still partner with President Marcos to chart a way forward because the stakes are simply too high”

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Under our system of government, the conduct of foreign policy resides with the Office of the President. Whoever is the President, it is he or she that directs the foreign policy directions of the country and no one else.

One important reason for this is that the country must speak with one voice on foreign policy issues.

Once a President leaves office, that power is removed.

It does not mean, however, that his or her opinion is no longer valued because it is but this has to be done in formal settings like a National Security Council meeting wherein an ex-President is a member.

It appears that unbeknownst to the public, the Chinese Ambassador and former President Duterte have been meeting and having discussions over the past several months.

We do not know the reasons behind these meetings but at the very least, it is highly unusual.

The public would almost certainly have not gotten wind of it had former President Duterte himself not discuss it in his TV program.

Then last week, to the surprise of many, the former President was in Beijing being accorded a rare audience with no less than President XI Jin Ping.

As we all know, when PBBM assumed office, he completely reversed the foreign policy directions of the last administration with regard to the WPS, China and the United States.

He now prefers the multilateral approach to finding solutions to the WPS problem and, more importantly, he has chosen to expand our military alliance with the United States by strengthening the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

He has allowed four additional Philippine military bases to the original five the US can jointly and conducted the largest Balikatan military exercise ever.

This shows the two leaders have very different appreciation of the geopolitical situation in the region.

Unlike his predecessor, PBBM has chosen to anchor our defense buildup on our Mutual Defense Treaty with the US instead of simply relying on our bilateral relations with China.

By doing this, PBBM simply took advantage of other options available to him.

PBBM, however, reiterated that our relationship with China is vital and will be maintained or even expanded.

With due respect to former President Rodrigo Duterte who I am sure has the interest of the country at heart, he should not be meeting regularly with the Chinese Ambassador and then going public with what they are talking about.

If at all, he should write a confidential memo to PBBM to inform him about what had transpired in the conversation.

It may be doing the country more harm than good.

But this is perhaps why the Ambassador goes to see him because he knows that whatever he tells him will be made public which is probably the whole intention of the visits in the first place.

For all we know, the Ambassador wants to drive a wedge between FPRRD and PBBM to create problems in the administration.

The statement, for instance, that the country will become a graveyard in case hostilities will breakout in this part of the world is exactly what the Chinese Ambassador wants.

He also mentioned the issue of nuclear weapons being stored in the country which is prohibited by our Constitution.

He seems to be assuming that the additional military joint bases will be used by the US to store nuclear weapons without the knowledge of the Philippine government.

He does not seem to have confidence this administration will not allow this to happen.

The sentiments of former President Duterte with regard to our relationship with the United States and his very open preference for China to the point that he openly referred to our country as a province of China are indeed well known to all of us.

Whether he said it us a joke or not is left for the readers and listeners to think of as to what his real intentions were when he said it.

We tried his formula for six years and it did not work.

Even with all his visits to Beijing and his almost subservience behavior towards China, as his critics would love to point out, he failed to convince China to respect the Hague Arbitral Ruling of 2016 or allow our fishermen to fish in our own exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea that it has occupied.

In fact, the problem just got worst.

At this stage of the ballgame, and regardless of his position on the WPS issue, he should allow PBBM to craft his own foreign policy based on his own interpretation and appreciation of the geopolitical situation in the region.

It is important to show the world that we are speaking with one voice on the WPS issue and that 83 percent of Filipinos agree with his foreign policy directions.

If there are disagreements, these should be taken up and settled within the four corners of a conference room.

As the old saying goes, we have to beware the Greeks bearing gifts.

We have to remember that the reason why the Chinese Ambassador is here is to promote the interest of his country not our country’s.

But he should do this using the standard diplomatic protocols and not brazen warnings and threats.

Had the former president succeeded using his formula, PBBM in all probability would not have taken the steps that he did.

Let us hope, therefore, that FPRRD, in spite of all his misgivings and disagreements, can still partner with PBBM to chart a way forward because the stakes are simply too high.

At the end of the day, it is all for the sake of the country.

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