Mounting tensions in SCS

Published February 23, 2021, 12:44 AM

by Hector Ronald Romero Villanueva


“Asia-Pacific countries do not wish to be forced to choose between the United States and China.”Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

Hector RR Villanueva

What if the United States decides to pay the maintenance of American troops stationed in the Philippines under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), and China then decides and offers to double the cost under the same terms and conditions?

Will President Rodrigo Roa Duterte accept the Chinese offer, and will the Filipino support him? What then?

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, son of modern Singapore is founding father Lee Kuan Yew, did not immediacy succeed his father but served as defense minister for a long time before being elected prime minister.

PM Lee Hsien is an ardent supporter of AEAN and international cooperation and asserts that Asian nations want to nurture friendly relations with the two superpowers, and not be forced to choose between the United States and China.

With China’s rapid rise as world’s second largest economy, and major trading partner and market to most counties, and the United States continues its presence in the region with widespread vested and commercial interests, codices have broadened and alliances have become necessary.

Since 1945 under the American umbrella and free enterprise system, Asian countries have flourished, particularly Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.

Today, there is a new boy in the block – China – who is challenging America’s hegemony and leadership.

Thus, there is not only stiff competition and upmanship between the two but also the proliferation of issues in contested areas such as the South China Sea and East China Sea on the freedom of navigation and territorial claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, and others.

However, international order and Asia’s future will be threatened if conflict worsens and Asian leaders are worried and wary that they cannot automatically take US support for granted.

For President Duterte’s overt dalliance with China, he obviously believes in Winston Churchill’s adage that “to jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war” in his foreign policy vis-à-vis China.

On the other hand, the United States will stand pat on protecting the vital waterway that is the South China Sea which China has claimed as belonging to it with the Philippines increasingly becoming a bystander and may lose by fault.

Hence, there are cogent reasons why President Rodrigo Roa Duterte should not place all his eggs in one basket and should assume a more sophisticated, insightful and flexible foreign policy.

After all, foreign powers are only interested in their own national interest and all else are secondary.

Thus, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte should calibrate and review his foreign policy every now and then.

You be the judge.