It takes a thief to catch a thief, goes the saying. In the case of the Philippines, the people needed a “Dirty Harry” to terminate drug pushers, therefore, they voted for Rodrigo “Rody” Roa Duterte as their new president. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. To the world, Duterte may be a thug, even a cannibal, but who are they to lecture what’s best for the Philippines.
At the recent G20 Summit at China, the naughty Chinese humiliated President Barack Obama, supposedly the most powerful man on planet Earth, by staging a drama and refused him a staircase. As a result, Obama was forced to exit from the “butt” of the mighty Air Force One – a propaganda success for the Chinese.
Turns out, not only Chinese President Xi Jinping had wanted to embarrass lame duck American president. The Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte got his chance too when he called Barack Obama “son of a bitch”. After cursing Obama, Duterte expresses his regret, but short of an apology. At the same Asean Summit in Laos, Duterte said he wants to eat terrorists – alive and raw.
But Duterte’s stunt didn’t stop there. Just days after declaring that the Philippines “will pursue an independent foreign policy”, Duterte said on Monday that American special forces must leave Mindanao. He said – “For as long as we stay with America, we will never have peace in that land [Mindanao]. We might as well give it up. So, those [American] special forces, they have to go.”
Unlike previous presidents before him, President Duterte doesn’t play “political correct” game with the U.S., largely because he knew it’s impossible to comply with American’s democracy of protecting human rights while at the same time combating illegal drug problems. That was why when Obama started lecturing him about human rights, Duterte went berserk.
Duterte conveniently flashed the card of “Jolo massacre”, where Muslim Filipinos were killed by US troops in the early 1900s. It’s a public knowledge that the Philippines president is not a fan of the Americans. However, that presents a great challenge to his foreign officials, who have to do fire fighting every time their president says something unconventional and humiliating to the U.S.
But if the West thinks Duterte – often called the Trump of Asia – was merely rambling without being serious about pursuing an “independent foreign policy” after 70 years of pro-America, they could be looking at an unexpected surprise. In a latest twist, Duterte announced his administration is considering buying weapons from China and Russia.
Not only the Philippines are seeking military purchase from the American traditional enemies, the country is also ending joint patrols with U.S. forces in the South China Sea. In a televised speech Tuesday before military officers in Manila, Duterte said 2 countries had agreed to give the Philippines a 25-year soft loan to buy military equipment.
Although he didn’t identify the 2 countries, he dropped an “obvious hint” when announced that Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and “technical people” in the armed forces would visit China and Russia “and see what’s best.” He said he wanted to buy arms “where they are cheap and where there are no strings attached and it is transparent.”
The words from Duterte suggest that the Philippines had been forced to adopt certain hidden agendas when purchasing military hardware and software from the U.S. Since 1950, the U.S. has accounted for about 75% of the Philippines’ arms imports, according to a database from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
By refuse to continue buying from the U.S. and at the same time stop participating in expeditions patrolling South China Sea, essentially the Philippines is welcoming China’s continuous aggressive claims to more than four-fifths of the disputed waters. “I just want to patrol our territorial waters,” – President Duterte said.
More importantly, Duterte was trying to be practical about spending huge amount of money on luxury military hardware that is nice to have but impractical for immediate needs. “I don’t need jets, F-16 – that’s of no use to us. We don’t intend to fight any country.” – said Duterte. Instead, he said the Philippines needs propeller-driven planes that it can use against insurgents and fight terrorists in Mindanao.
That may sound naive and foolish but in reality, the Philippines armed forces are no match against China if the Chinese (or Russians or the Americans for that matter) decide to invade. Seriously, has the Filipinos voted the dumbest president who is willing to dump a known evil United States in exchange for two unknown evils China and Russia?
Not at all. Rodrigo Duterte may be smarter than Barack Obama. He could be playing a genius game of getting the best bargain from both sides – the U.S.-Japan and China-Russia. Together with the U.S., the Japanese have been giving away freebies to keep Philippines from becoming one of Chinese allies.
Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to provide two large-sized patrol ships and lend up to 5 used surveillance aircraft to the Philippines. That was on top of 10 smaller-sized patrol ships given to the Philippines earlier. The generosity, of course, was to ensure the Philippines would continue its hostility against the Chinese.
But hostility and being a pawn is the last thing that the country needs now. Philippine needs true foreign investments and economic reforms – both of which the U.S. fails to deliver after 70 years. Therefore, why not shift the pro-America to pro-neutrality for a change? The best deal is to give the U.S., Japan, China and Russia a level playing field to compete for the Philippines’ support.
Yes, the brilliant Duterte wants cheap military gadgets which can do the work, not overpriced high-technology hardware which fails to eliminate terrorists and drug traffickers. He also wants soft loan or free money for such military purchases. And China is more than willing to give away some of its military gear for free, after rip-off from Russia and U.S. technology.
The U.S. provided US$441 million in security funding to the Philippines from 2002 to 2013, with a promise by Obama administration for US$120 million in military aid this year alone. Chances are, in its attempt to stop China’s rising power, the U.S. would dance, sing-song and promise Duterte more free money and aid to the country which it had once colonize until 1946.
Likewise, Duterte represents the best opportunity to China in rebalancing the Asia-Pacific power. Hence, the cash-rich Chinese are not only ready to give free weaponry and armaments, but also investment in the Philippines poor infrastructure. After all, it was Duterte who once said – “China gives us money and infrastructure. America gives us principles of law and nothing else.”
Other Articles That May Interest You …
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