[OPINION] How much longer? 1

[OPINION] How much longer?

Edmund Tayao

Posted at Apr 13 2023 11:00 PM

How long have we been waiting, hoping for a great leader? How long have we been fighting each other over competing claims of greatness among our leaders? How long have we been comparing leaders who in reality are more of the same? If we closely look at the policies, especially economic policies put in place by different presidents — which could have differed from the others, if any?

There's nothing wrong with arguing as to who has been a better leader. This in fact is an indication that we as a people have been reflecting on our leaders and therefore on the prevailing situation in the country, whether there has been any change that has taken place good or bad. Of course, there is no other better measure of a leader’s accomplishments other than how the people have been under his/her watch. If there has been any significant change or development, it will surely be credited to the leader; we have seen this to be the case time and time again.

It may be premature for now to assess and evaluate how the leader has performed, especially in terms of the country’s economy. Others of course will likely see differently and would be inclined to judge forthwith. To my mind however, a more objective evaluation is most expedient, for everyone. That way, the policies and programs put in place in the first year should be starting to bear fruit or that some impact can already be felt. Of course, ultimately, the performance of an administration is best determined at the end of its term, but doing so would just be for the purpose of history.

We have to keep an eye on everything the government does every step of the way, not because we are to find fault. The government after all is our government, and our leader our leader, his success is our success and his failure, our failure, worst, it affects our day-to-day lives, our welfare. It is then just right that the government is always made aware of what the people appreciate or chide and in the process make appropriate adjustments while still at the helm, that something can still be done to do things right.

At this juncture, what may be immediately seen as it can be analyzed is foreign relations and or policy. Analyzing it may also provide a way to anticipate how and what will be its impact on the country, to the overall direction of the administration. Thus far it appears that what many thought to have become a China-centric Philippine policy before seem to have been all but set aside. Ever since the Republic has been established, we have always been influenced by the Americans. Those who have been used to it or remain believing that everything about America, and all they have done and given to us are good would likely be celebrating seeing that the previous administration’s approach appear to have been reconfigured. Or is it?

Before we can make any assessment however, we should bear in mind that there are benchmarks or references, what we call “given” in the equation of foreign relations or in any endeavor to contrast. One, whether we like it or not, there is an ascendant China, with the way things are going, it will be likely be so for at least 2 generations more at the very least. If this is the case, and indeed the spate of
things continue in the same direction, we can likewise assume in the way we relate with the whole world, that China may in fact take over as the foremost member of the international community.

Two, however we’d like to think that we have become independent from the United States, we will still be seen as a friend to them by many. More than that, America’s influence to us, not only to many of our political leaders but even to those in important positions both in the public and private sector remains considerable. America is looked up to by many in the whole country. Perhaps this is because of our long history with them. Perhaps its America’s still prevalent “soft power”; everywhere we turn to, from music, to movies to fashion, much remains from the west that many tend to attribute to America.

However China appears to be burgeoning, it remains no match in terms of soft power. It will take more than military might to get things done and have countries submit to its power. The US may no longer be as invincible as it used to be, but its interests, especially in the Pacific is unwavering.

Whatever resources available would likely be used to maintain that presence, in the Pacific and beyond. It has been so when it started its ascent in the 19th century and sustained in the aftermath of the 2nd World War. It remains today, that it is this interest that fuels its presence, to remain as a super power.

China is of course, no doubt, aware of this. The agreement between the US and Japan, entered in San Francisco after the Second World War is opposed by China. It is the one thing that makes US’ presence in the Pacific justified after all. Whether opposing it has any impact or not is of course another story entirely. It was a treaty that capitulated Japan after having been bomb with “the little boy” and “the fat man”. China may be a party indirectly as it is one of the countries besieged by Japan but it is not a party in the treaty it is opposing.

This seem to be consistent with China continuing to refuse to recognize the arbitration award. Seems strange though that it keeps on citing its adherence to UNCLOS, the very basis of the arbitration award. One contradicts the other, that it is puzzling if this stance has been given much thought. All these suggest that while China opposes what it considers imperialistic, it acts the same as it chooses to recognize only those that serves its purpose and repudiates the ones that aren’t consistent with its claims and actions. Beware though, this may be part of a plan after all, playing dumb but doing what it wants just the same. We have seen enough with the infamous gray zone tactics.

One thing is clear with all these, both countries will only act on the basis of their interests that we should also be acting only in our own interests. We may not have the same resources, the same size as China and the US, but we have our own interests just the same. Whether we like it or not though, we will be dealing with them for years to come, and we must think of the best way to relate to them that we are able to get what we need and what we want, i.e. promote our own interests, without necessarily provoking any of them. We cannot just choose one side because that will provoke the other, that in the process can cancel out whatever it is we can gain from the other. There is a third given, and this bolsters the latter argument; China and the US may be adversaries, but they are also friends. Both know that they cannot just go against the other without hurting oneself in the process.

From where I sit, we’re doing a good job. The previous administration did a good job, and the current administration is continuing to do a good job. Contrary to what many thought and remains inclined to think, we didn’t necessarily ingratiate ourselves to China in the past administration. Yes, what is clear is that the US was repudiated, a point that had to be made considering the history of our relationship with them, of being promised with a lot that weren’t honored anyway, even made a fool of us. Getting China’s favor was more a strategy to tell the world we can decide to get out of
America’s shadow if we choose to.

This opened up friendship to many countries and we gained a lot in the process. This time, finally we enjoyed what was always there for many countries, a market we can choose from in getting what we need to achieve a respectable state of defense. Finally the world took notice of the Philippines, and not in the way some would like to think, not because we had a villain of a President, but because we had a leader who showed that making hard choices can be done and should be done. The same is being done now under the new President. Differently of course; they are not the same person after all, different personalities to say the least. More than that, circumstances are different.

Consistently with the previous leader, we are not necessarily going back to a US influenced foreign policy. US will remain influential, this we have explained in the foregoing, why they remain influential, but no longer in a way that we will just follow what we are told or asked. In the first place, the many options that became available to us in the previous dispensation has already opened up our eyes and mind of the benefits of actually making crucial choices and not just limiting ourselves to a friend, however close they have been.

Circumstances are now different as we have said, that however we’d like to or inclined to go back to how it was before the previous administration, it can no longer be done. New partnerships have been established, partnerships that have to be honored or continued. Choices have also been made, the benefits of which far outweigh going back to a situation where there are no choices.

We will continue to make difficult choices, and choose rightly we should. That depends though on being able to play our cards right, that being considered a friend by either one of them is in their interests. This is not only because of our strategic location. Locating US bases have proven that there are other locations that are as strategic as where we are. We have to remain viable, not only as a friend but as a country. That our government is strong, that it cannot be breached as it is a fortress.

Of course, this depends on the leadership. The strength within is also the strength beyond.

Almost a year now. We already have a blueprint, a plan of action that will take us to where we want to be in the next 5 years or so, even to prepare for the following 6 years after. The means to put the blueprint in place however is still very much incomplete, wanting. I can not in any way consider any question to the capacity of the one at the helm, but anyone in that position would need someone to help carry out what needs to be carried out. Someone who can really be trusted to know how best to accomplish difficult tasks, sensitive tasks. There should likewise be a team who will and can help the trusted to accomplish critical tasks.

Make no mistake however, it is a team that is needed, as the government has to act as a team. There has to be someone who will be calling the shots, not to decide what will be done as that is already the mandate of the one at the helm, but to determine how best to put in place what has been decided to be put in place, the questions of “how” so to speak. The team obviously is composed of members.
The members though must know their individual roles, that no one should be inclined to take one over the other. That’s why it is a team, it has to act as a team and not as some rabble. So far, I think, that’s what we are all still waiting to have.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.