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Manila urged to 'disengage' from military alliance with Washington

By PRIME SARMIENTO | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-08-08 22:39

The Taipei 101 skyscraper commands the urban landscape in Taipei, Taiwan. [Photo/Xinhua]

Analysts and experts from a Manila-based think tank are urging the Philippine government to start to "disengage" from its longtime military alliance with the United States, to enable the Southeast Asian nation to craft a real, independent foreign policy.

Representatives of the Asian Century Philippines Strategic Studies Institute attending a hybrid forum on Monday criticized the US for stirring tension in the region and said the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan violated the one-China principle, "a bedrock of international law". They said that the Philippines will have to review and reject the several treaties that it signed with the US to avoid being dragged into a US-led proxy war.

"It is a positive note that as a country, we adhere to the one-China principle, which is one of the foundations of our bilateral relations with China," Anna Malindog-Uy, the institute's vice-president for external affairs, said in a separate weekly news forum organized by Manila-based entrepreneur and news columnist Wilson Lee-Flores.

She said that Taiwan is just "a pawn of the US" and that the Philippine government "must not get involved and should not allow the country to be another pawn or proxy of the US".

She urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr to abrogate military agreements with the US, including the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the Visiting Forces Agreement. She said the three agreements go against "the pursuit of a genuine independent foreign policy".

Malindog-Uy pointed to a statement made earlier by Marcos, who said his administration will pursue an independent foreign policy where the Philippines would be a friend to everyone and an enemy to no one.

Herman Laurel, president of the institute, also cited Marcos' earlier statement declaring China as the Philippines' "strongest partner". He added it's also time for the Philippines to "choose a good friend".

"To achieve this, the Philippines must begin the final disengagement from the warmongering and failing superpower," he said of the US.

The forum was held two days after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Marcos in Manila.

"What is curious is that a few days after the Pelosi fiasco Blinken visited Manila," Paglinawan said, noting that this visit is "ominous" and indicates the US is moving "forward for the next round of provocations".

"One should wonder where the United States is getting all its 'oomph', that in spite of its withdrawal from Afghanistan, recession and an impending defeat in its proxy war in Ukraine, it is still insisting on pivoting to the Asia-Pacific," he said.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs had released a statement, stressing the nation's adherence to the one-China principle and that it recognizes the government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government representing the whole of China.

Lucio Blanco Pitlo III, a research fellow at the Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress, said in an interview with China Daily that Blinken's visit to Manila occurred days after Pelosi's visit so "it's unavoidable that people will suspect that there is some connection, given the timing".

The Philippines "is a longtime US treaty ally and Washington rotates troops in the islands and has access to several Philippine bases under bilateral military pacts," he said. "This may challenge Marcos' attempt to sustain his predecessor's independent foreign policy and keep relations with the US and China, both important partners for the Southeast Asian country".

Austin Ong, a researcher at the Integrated Development Studies Institute, said that as "the world becomes more unstable and complex, the Philippines must evolve its relationships with all traditional and nontraditional partners".

"The challenge will be whether the superpowers will accept the changing multipolar arrangement," he said.

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