Philippines should be vigilant about power bloc confrontation

One of the worrisome consequences of the visit of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr to Japan from Feb 8 to 12, is the strengthening of military and security ties with Japan and the United States and the holding of joint military exercises with the two countries.

Worse, it has been reported that Tokyo and Manila are in the initial stage of discussions over this potential triad defense pact, which would allow the deployment of troops on Philippines’ territory for training and other operations. Tokyo and Manila seem to be eager and looking for the possibility to forge a Visiting Forces Agreement on the pretext of maritime security. No doubt, such an extension of Cold War mentality is another provocation against Beijing.

Apparently, this potential security triad by Japan, the US and the Philippines is in many ways nothing more than a narrower, security-centric effort of the US alongside Japan, while co-opting the Philippines, to isolate and contain China — quite like the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue of the US, Japan, Australia and India, or QUAD, and the alliance of the US, the United Kingdom and Australia known as AUKUS.

This potential triad risks fomenting divisions and even confrontation among Asian countries. It might potentially provoke an arms race among the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the wider Asia-Pacific region, which goes against the idea of an ASEAN region that is a zone of peace, freedom and neutrality.

The Philippines’ move also provokes China to exert greater efforts to enhance and ramp up its military deterrence capabilities. Other countries in the region may also be prompted to do the same.

The formation of a triad between Japan, the US and the Philippines may also risk an armed conflict in the Asia-Pacific region. In many ways, such a scenario would endanger Southeast Asia’s peace and stability and that of the broader Asia-Pacific region.

Therefore, countries like the Philippines do not need this triad, which would further accelerate the growing rivalry between China and the US in the region.

Instead, Asia-Pacific countries must emphasize common interests, strike a middle ground amid conflicting interests and seek greater value in win-win cooperation in maritime affairs, regional connectivity, pandemic response, climate change efforts, economic cooperation and achieving the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

Countries in Asia need to broker a stable balance of power through a combination of multilateralism and bilateralism, and must do away with unilateralism and the creation of “cliques” or groupings with the sole purpose of singling out one country. They should be working to promote peace, stability and prosperity in Asia and the world in general.

Also, the people of the Philippines should be very vigilant and wary about this triad or trilateral defense and military pact between Japan, the US and the Philippines being cooked up targeting China. This is a recipe for disaster.

It would provoke the further militarization of the Philippines, which is now underway because of the full implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the US, alongside the installation of four additional bases facing China’s Taiwan and near the disputed South China Sea, enhanced joint patrols between the US and the Philippines, and deployment of more US troops and military assets on Philippine soil.

This potential trilateral security and military alliance or pact between the Philippines, Japan and the US is a Cold War tactic staged by the US for its hegemony. The Philippine government must study this and should be more prudent. The people of the Philippines must oppose this before it’s too late.

Asians and people of the Philippines, in particular, must remember that peaceful development is the theme of the times. They must be mindful of the fact that peace is an essential precondition to economic progress and development. Without peace, economic progress is not possible.

The international order formed after World War II is facing unprecedented challenges, and the world has entered a dangerous and volatile period. The peace and security of the region are facing a serious threat from this US-orchestrated and sponsored bloc confrontation and Cold War mentality taking a foothold in the Asia-Pacific region these days with the aid of allies like Japan. If this bloc confrontation is left unchecked and unopposed, the world will fall into cliques pitted and set against each other, which may lead to a full-blown military conflict.

Hence, if peace is to be a reality across the globe, the Global South must take center stage in resisting the costly consequences of bloc politics, Cold War mentality and dangerous geopolitical games being played by the US alongside allies the likes of Japan in the Asia-Pacific and across the globe.

Source: China Daily

Prof. Anna Rosario Malindog-Uy

Prof. Anna Rosario Malindog-Uy is a Ph.D. Candidate at the Institute of South-South Cooperation and Development (ISSCAD), Peking University, Beijing, China. She is currently a director and the Vice President for External Affairs of the Asian Century Philippines Strategic Studies Institute (ACPSSI), a think tank based in Manila. She also serves as the political/geopolitical analyst of ACPSSI. Currently, she is a Senior Researcher of the South China Sea Probing Initiative (SCSPI) and a Senior Research Fellow of the Global Governance Institution (GGI). She is also the President of Techperformance Corp, an IT-based company in the Philippines. Prof. Anna Uy taught Political Science, International Relations, Development Studies, European Studies, Southeast Asia, and China Studies. She is a researcher-writer, academic, and consultant on a wide array of issues. She has worked as a consultant with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other local and international NGOs.