September 20, 2022

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Marcos does not see a future without US

By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

PHILIPPINE President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Tuesday said the United States remains a key partner, adding that not having it as an ally is inconceivable. 

“I cannot see the Philippines in the future without having the United States as a partner,” he told New York Stock Exchange chief commercial officer John Tuttle, based on a transcript sent by the presidential palace.

“Many of the drivers of our early economy were actually American corporations,” he added.

Mr. Marcos made the remark amid escalating competition between the US and China in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Many of the strongest corporate benefactors to the government and to the rest of society in the Philippines were coming from the United States,” he said.

Strengthening the Philippine-US alliance is “extremely necessary” as the world faces economic and geopolitical crises, Mr. Marcos said. “This is something that is central to our thinking when it comes to the economic planning for the Philippines.”

The president noted that when the Philippines is in a crisis, it always looks to the US. “The reason we have done that is that for the most part, we can say that the United States has not failed us.”

“We are driven together in many ways by forces that exist now in the world.”

Ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte, his predecessor, led a foreign policy pivot to China away from western super powers such as the US. He terminated an unpopular visiting forces agreement with the US and often verbally assaulted top US officials, including ex-President Barak Obama, who have been critical of his war on drugs. 

“The President is not saying anything new,” policy analyst Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco said in a Facebook Messenger chat. “He is merely restating what the reality is between the Philippines and US.”

“The reality is our foreign policy has always been to be friendly with the US,” he said. “This has never changed, even during the time of President Duterte.”

Mr. Yusingco noted that being an ally of the US does not automatically mean that the Philippines needs to join it in its “geopolitical adventurism.”

“The enemy of the US does not automatically become our enemy. Being their ally does not isolate us from the community of nations.”

The Philippines Government, represented by ex-Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez joined US President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and 11 other leaders and ministers of regional partners from Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam in virtually launching the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework in May.

Member-countries account for 40% of the world’s economy.

Experts said the level of Philippines participation in the US-led economic platform would be a litmus test for the Marcos government’s independent foreign policy push.

Robin Michael U. Garcia, who teaches political economy at the University of Asia and the Pacific, said Mr. Marcos’ recent statements do not necessarily signal a pro-US stance.

“I would not say it is a pro-US statement and I do not think it is a complete return to pre-Duterte Philippine-US relations of reliance in and full accommodation of the United States,” he said in a Messenger chat. “The statement is rather general, broad, and safe.”

Mr. Garcia said the Philippines has yet to craft a “rigorous and comprehensive” approach toward China and other rising powers. “The foreign policy direction of the Philippines is still vague.”

Mr. Marcos, 65, took office in June amid tensions in the South China Sea and naval competition for influence among Southeast Asian countries.

In his first address to Congress, he promised to protect Philippine territories, although he did not name China as an aggressor. He neither sided with China nor the US, saying the Philippines “shall continue to be a friend to all and an enemy to none.”

Mr. Marcos had been criticized during the campaign for supposedly taking a conciliatory stance toward Beijing, which has refused to recognize a 2016 arbitral ruling that voided its claims to more than 80% of the waterway.

“The primary concern of the prez should always be the national interest of the Philippine and nothing else,” Mr. Yusingco said. “His words here still fall within that ambit.”

“It should stay that way regardless if he was talking about the US or China or any nation-state for that matter.”