fil-am relations: harsh truths, reality check

at last, one who tells it like it is.   in The golden rule in foreign relations business world‘s greg b. macabenta doesn’t mince words re travel advisories, the vfa, philippine tourism, and our “special” relations with the u.s. of a.

What’s the bottom line here?

Will the US retract its advisory? Will tourist traffic be any worse than it now is? Will the VFA be negotiated with more equitable terms, like respecting Philippine jurisdiction over crimes committed by US military personnel?

The harsh truth? None of the above.

Between the noises made in media and the actual discussions backstage, there is always a world of difference. The protests are for the benefit of the masses. But what eventually carries the day is based on the Golden Rule.

He who has the gold, makes the rule. In this case, America. It has the gold. It makes the rules.

Be assured that the VFA will be discussed, but the terms will be no more equitable than the balance of power between the Philippines and America. US interests will come first, and the Philippines will agree.

With a war on its hands in the Middle East, an economic and military juggernaut looming from China, sabre rattling in North Korea, and terrorist threats everywhere it turns, America has to be assured that it is in a position to protect its interests.

No matter what the treaties say, America’s interests come first and foremost. Anything that gets in the way of these interests is either shot down, bought out or given an offer that can’t be refused.

That’s how the VFA “renegotiation” will eventually turn out.

Of course, loud noises will be made by the publicity hounds, but P-Noy and the foreign office will find a way to justify the agreement with appropriate euphemisms about the interests of the Philippines being upheld.

Meanwhile, the travel advisory will not be recalled. There will simply be no follow-up advisory — at least, until there is another need to crack the whip on naughty, uncooperative Philippines.

But, will there be a negative effect on Philippine tourism? I doubt it. In the first place, few people in the Western world think about the Philippines as a tourist destination. There are no promotional activities, no efforts to generate awareness, no campaigns to persuade.

When the US State Department issues a travel advisory on the Philippines, that hardly creates a ripple in US media. Americans don’t hear about it. If they’ve heard about the Philippines, it’s most likely the fact that it is the country of this super boxer named Manny Pacquiao.

Will the travel advisory affect US Pinoys and discourage us from visiting the homeland? Not at all. What else is new, anyway?

In other words, the travel advisory is just a feeble bark with no bite.

But the president of the Philippines would be remiss if he did not protest. So, he dutifully protests.

If there’s anything worth discussing about this continuing drama on US-Philippine relations, it is the fact that this needs a reality check.

Do we really believe that America will protect Philippine interests over its own interests?

Do we really believe that America will give foreign aid without demanding something in return?

Do we really think that cuddling up to China will worry America enough to make it want to give us special concessions?

Do we really think that the US will easily give up its strategic position in our part of the world in the face of international threats, both economic and military?

Do we really think China will treat us better than the US?

Do we really think that the Philippines, at this point in its national life, is in a position to chart its own independent course, whether its Western patrons like it or not?

Do we really believe that our ASEAN allies will come to our aid if either China or America decides to bully us?

Finally, do we, the Filipino people, really think that the Department of Foreign Affairs and President Benigno Aquino III know how to deal with the harsh realities of the Golden Rule?

We all know the answer to that.

Reminds me of what the late former Secretary of Foreign Affairs Raul Manglapus was supposed to have suggested about what to do in case of rape.

“Lie back and enjoy it.”


  1. UP nn grad

    In Yokohama for APEC, Coloma has a suggestion to USA (and UK, Australia, New Zealand) — DO NOT WRITE IN ENGLISH!!! — when writing travel advisories warning of high crime, kidnapping, terrorist attacks and “avoid the MRT and LRT, buses and ferries”.

    Do it like Japan — the Japanese advisory (which was given while Pres “Noy” was in Yokohama) is okay because the text was written in Nippongo, which means only Japanese people can understand it, not Pilipinos in Pilipinas or English-spokening citizens of Australia, UK or USA. “There is no English or international version,” Coloma said. “The travel advisory was written in Japanese.”

  2. UP nn grad

    O, ayan, Noynoy says the two of them talked and then President Obama went on his knees and pleaded with him for understanding.

    Inquirer-dot-net reports this:
    Mr. Aquino said he was able to speak with Obama on the sidelines of the 18th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, which ended Sunday. “We mentioned to President Obama our displeasure with the US travel advisory and he promised that he would look into it and pleaded for understanding,” Mr. Aquino said.

    Ooops, Obama pala did not “went on his knees”, heh heh heh.

  3. nakakaloka, given recent kidnappings in basilan and maguindanao and bomb blast in cotabato. katakot naman talaga. besides, i figure we ARE always a target of america’s terrorist enemies, given our unique “special relations” AND the supposedly anti-terrorist vfa.

  4. several decades ago, some foreign policy experts have defined our “unique special relations with usa” in the Philippines context of economic ties and cultural values on “utang na loob” because of post World War II events. Now, after the post 9/11 event and the Angelo dela Cruz’s exchange of prisoner sacrificing the Coalition of the West in the Middle East war on Terrorism, the reality is that we have never learned that the one-sided unique special treatment we look up to Uncle Sam is still in favor of self-interest the US and not on equal terms since we remain a vassal state to cater to the strategic geo-political priorities of US. There is no way we can escape from being the victim of big power play.

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