‘Enhanced security arrangement’ with U.S. can lead to war

March 20, 2014


The UP-based think tank, Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), on March 17, 2014 said the Aquino administration’s proposal to finalize an “enhanced security arrangement”   with the U.S. in response to Chinese aggressiveness in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) “is shortsighted and counterproductive.”

Dr. Temario C. Rivera, CenPEG Senior Fellow, said not only does the proposed bases access accord militarize an already tense situation in the West Philippine Sea but “also further limits the country’s viable options in addressing the conflict.”

“Reliance on military means to address the crisis can easily lead to dangerous miscalculations that can lead to armed conflict in the disputed areas,” Rivera, who used to chair the UP Diliman’s political science department, said.

The CenPEG senior Fellow called for exhausting all peaceful means in dealing with the maritime and territorial disputes with China including bilateral approaches. “Instead of solely tying down our options to the American strategy of containing the perceived Chinese threat, the Philippines must vigorously pursue an ASEAN-rooted solution while opening up bilateral negotiations with China,” he said.

On March 4, CenPEG submitted a position paper to the lower House’s committee on foreign affairs criticizing the Aquino government’s short-sighted and counter-productive approaches in dealing with the maritime and territorial feud with China.

In its March 4 position paper, CenPEG told the House committee: “We must not lose sight of the fact that Chinese aggressiveness in asserting its claims over the disputed islands has been provoked by what it sees as an American containment policy toward the rise of China as a major power in the region. This Chinese perception of American strategic interests in the region cannot but be strengthened by the Philippine government’s move to further deepen its long-established military alliance with the U.S. such as the expansion of the so-called rotational presence of American troops and their increasingly uninhibited access to Philippine military facilities and resources.”

Today, Rivera added: “Rather than take comfort in the illusory security umbrella promised by the U.S., we must maximize all possible peaceful channels in addressing the conflict including the use of Track 2 (government-people) and Track 3 (people to people) diplomatic processes.

“We believe that a decisive shift to a bilateral mode of addressing the conflict at the highest levels of decision-making is the most promising means of breaking the impasse in the West Philippine Sea crisis,” Rivera said.
Bobby M. Tuazon, CenPEG’s Director for Policy Studies, said that both the Aquino and Obama governments are using the Chinese assertiveness in the West Philippine Sea to fast track what is actually a long-term agenda of the U.S. to maintain its hegemony in the South China Sea and the whole Asia Pacific region.

“Long before tensions surfaced over competing claims by some countries in South China Sea including Vietnam, Malaysia, and other claimant-countries,” Tuazon said, “the U.S. had already a strategic plan to restore its military facilities in the Philippines which were dismantled in 1992 due to a strong anti-bases movement whose call against bases renewal was heeded to by the Senate.”

The growing tensions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) are now used as a pretext to expand U.S. armed projection in the SCS beyond what is contemplated in the 1999 VFA, Tuazon said. The new bases access accord will allow the U.S. to boost its containment strategy on China, ensure its sea supremacy in the entire Asia Pacific, and deter the rise of China as an economic power in the region. 

“It will tighten the screws on China to go slow on its economic expansion to the detriment of the U.S. whose economy is experiencing a relative decline all over the world,” he added.

“This new military strategy will undermine whatever peaceful options remain in settling maritime and territorial row in the SCS especially because hardliners at the foreign affairs department and the President himself have the upperhand in pushing for a hawkish position,” Tuazon added.

CenPEG is a multi-disciplinary, non-state policy study institution looking into issues of governance, electoral reform and political parties, foreign policy and national security, and other concerns.

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