OF TREES AND FOREST
Former Senate President
The United States has inaugurated a new president. Former Senator and Vice President Joseph R. Biden was inaugurated as its 46th president a few days ago. I congratulate President Biden on his victory in the recent elections and his eventual assumption to the office of the presidency.
I have said before that based on my own experiences, I believe that the “presidency is destiny.” And this is certainly true of President Biden. His unsuccessful runs for the presidency in 1988 and 2008 did not deter him from his dream of serving his people. He also survived brain surgeries due to pulmonary embolism in February, 1988.
His extensive experience as a US senator from 1973 to 2009 where he served on the chamber’s Foreign Relations Committee, twice as its chair, and on the Judiciary Committee, has made him a veteran in lawmaking and should serve him well as he attempts to shepherd legislation in a fractious Congress.
He deserves his chance at serving his country at the highest level and I wish him well. The tasks are tremendous and the challenges are serious. And despite the controversies that attended his presidency, I also think that the administration of Donald Trump should be credited for successes in the economic field—lowest overall unemployment rate in over 50 years, increases in average income in all economic class, more than 7 million jobs created (including more than half million manufacturing jobs), and the tremendous performance of the stock market which reached 131 new all-time-high closings.
The question for us Filipinos, of course, is what does this mean for our country and our “special relations” with the US. The good thing that happened, I think, is that President Rodrigo Duterte’s shift in foreign policy has made us immune to changes in US administrations. During the first months of his presidency, Pres. Duterte made sure that our foreign relations would not depend on the US too much, as we have done in the past. Our country strengthened relations with a diverse set of allies like Japan, Russia, China, and ASEAN countries. Our independent foreign policy will serve us well as we navigate this new chapter in Philippine-US relations. For instance, while President Duterte has been on good terms personally with President Trump he was very critical of US foreign policy.
I think the most important thing we need to see from the Biden administration is for it to treat us as equals and not as some Third World country they can bully. In the same way that the US insists on protecting its interests, it need to realize we do have our own interest and that we will do everything in order to promote that national interest in this interdependent world.
I hope that the years he spent as chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will guide President Biden as he embarks on renewing ties with the Philippines and the whole of Asia, for that matter. Geopolitical relations have changed over the past two decades and America’s position in it has also changed. It is no longer the policeman of the world and sole superpower and the Biden administration needs to evolve a foreign policy that respects the values and protects the interest of its allies.
In his campaign, President Biden talked about restoring American leadership in the global stage, one that he claimed his predecessor has abandoned. I hope that leadership comes with responsibility and does not merely revert to the interventionist policy of the US in the past. There is a vast difference between responsible leadership and bullying in order to assert one’s authority. I hope President Biden opts for the former.
I sincerely wish President Biden and the American people well as they try to unify their country amidst crises and fractious politics. I hope they succeed. And I hope that Philippine-US relations evolve into something that is respectful of each other’s differences and mindful of the need to help each other as we face the challenges of a new world.