Concerns regarding a repeated history in Philippines could have ground
Gina Apostol, a renowned Filipino-born and US-based novelist explained how the US created a nation in its own image and how recent events have increased her concerns.
Gina Apostol, a renowned Filipino-born and US-based writer explained how the US had exploited the Filipinos in the past under the same pretext being used today of Asian security concerns, in a new essay for the New York Times.
Apostol said Filipinos who lived throughout the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos Sr., whose son, Marcos Jr. now rules the Philipines, would understand why the most recent US news expanding Washington's presence in the country would be worrisome.
The novelist considered the continued US presence in the country, throughout the essay, as another "creeping occupation" under the guise of "East Asian security". Her argument is grounded in the fact that three decades ago the Philippine Senate had put an end to the "permanent basing of American forces".
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin argued recently that "China’s growing shadow in the region makes a renewed American presence essential."
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Geographic proximity to China: for the US an opportunity for the Philipines a curse
Apostol explained in the NYT essay that the geographic location of the Philippines offered the US, historically, access to the Chinese consumer market, and thus making it an essential location.
"The 1898 US annexation of the islands from the previous colonizer, Spain, after the Spanish-American War provided a foothold for American goods to get access to the real prize: China’s huge market," she explained.
As Albert Beveridge, a senator from Indiana, put it in 1900, “The Pacific is our ocean …. Where shall we turn for consumers of our surplus? Geography answers the question. China is our natural customer.” He added that the Philippines gave the US a “base at the door of all the East.”
The essay also noted that from 1899 to 1902, the Filipinos were fighting against the US in a war that claimed the lives of 200,000 Filipinos. Despite the loss of life, American historian Stanley Karnow still described the end of that war as a creation of a nation "in our image".
Apostol argued that the US, out of greed and for geopolitical interests, has "entrenched Philippine oligarchy as a matter of policy" to serve its interest in strengthening US influence in the country. She then outlined the US's playbook, which was based on the exploitation of the feudal template that was laid out by the Spanish at the time of colonization of the Philippines.
The US made sure that a few powerful families could prosper in its "neocolonial orbit" which meant they consolidated land, resources, and power throughout the eras of the Cold War, and the early rise of China to the global stage, the NYT report noted.
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The US in the memory of Apostol and Filipinos
In the essay, Apostol described her childhood memories as traumatic scenes of US-Philipines relations "Richard Nixon playing the piano as Imelda Marcos applauded, Ms. Marcos grooving with Gerald Ford, Mr. Marcos Sr. dancing closely with Nancy Reagan. As U.S. leaders waltzed with Mr. Marcos Sr., he imposed martial law from 1972 to 1981."
She explained that Marcos thrived during the Cold War by weaponizing US-funded counterinsurgency campaigns which targeted Communists, as Apostol noted, to consolidate his power.
According to the novelist, Marcos Sr. "imprisoned, tortured or killed thousands and stole an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion until a people’s uprising in 1986 exiled him and his family to Hawaii."
In the conclusion of her NYT essay, Apostol said "the long dance between Washington and Manila continues, to the recurring horror of the Filipino people."
US, Philippines agree on 4 US military bases and enhanced defense
The essay of novelist Apostol referenced renewed US military presence in Manila. Earlier on February 2nd, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin convened with his Filipino counterpart Carlito Galvez Jr. with the aim to fortify ties and enhance defense cooperation.
During a press conference after his meeting in Manila, Galvez said, "Secretary Austin and I have also agreed to deepen bilateral cooperation to support the Philippines' defense capability needs as well as the Philippines-US alliance."
Galvez assured that joint efforts would be strengthened regarding security threats and challenges in the Asia-Pacific region, especially with heightened tensions between the US and China over Taiwan.
Austin expressed in response that he was optimistic about the joint collaborations between both countries, as he stated, "I am confident that we will continue to work together to defend our shared values of freedom, democracy, and human dignity,"
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As part of the tour, Austin got the green light from the Philippines to establish four more military bases, also as part of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). This brings the total number of EDCA sites to nine bases.
Philippines' Marcos pledges to 'strengthen' China ties on Beijing trip
In regard to Marcos Jr., President of the Philipines, he has most recently pledged to strengthen China-Philipines ties in parallel to the establishment of the four new military bases for the US. A decision that Apostol has built a case against.
Marcos made the announcement on January 4 on his first state visit to China since entering office, as the two countries signed a series of agreements, 14, throughout the visit.
Manila considers it "of primary importance to... strengthen the relationship between China and the Philippines," Marcos said in a meeting on Wednesday with top Chinese legislator Li Zhanshu as quoted by AFP.
This is happening at a time when the US is exerting strained efforts to incite conflict in the resource-rich South China Sea region, most notably between China and the Philippines, and is eager to undermine the region's rules-based order, which includes erecting artificial barriers to maritime peacebuilding between Beijing and Manila. Meanwhile, China is responding to US’ escalating strategy by moving closer to its geopolitical neighbors.
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