#SONA coverage | Duterte’s double treason

An effigy of US President Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte made by protesters in 2019. (Photo by Carlo Manalansan / Bulatlat)

Under the guise of ‘freedom of navigation’ and ‘commitment to support regional stability’, China and the US have been taking turns in militarizing our territorial waters and plundering our natural resources.

By MENCHANI TILENDO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Four years into the presidency, a genuine, independent foreign policy is among the major broken promises of Rodrigo Duterte. In his State of the Nation Address (SONA) speech last year, he vowed to prioritize the country’s national honor and territorial integrity. This came with his claim of stopping Chinese fishermen with their intrusion into the country’s exclusive economic zones. He declared to resolve the ongoing territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea through a ‘delicate balancing act’ with China.

“I am not ready or inclined to accept the occurrence of more destruction, more widows and more orphans, should war, even on a limited scale, breaks out. More and better results can be reached in the privacy of a conference room than in a squabble in public,” Duterte said as one of the highlights of his 2019 SONA speech.

The President was suddenly anti-war and an advocate of non-violence when it came to confronting the conflict with China on our territorial waters. However, foreign incursions which also include US military exercises in Mindanao and other regions have continued to result in human rights violations and other heinous crimes against communities. Unfortunately, it seems like Duterte’s waging of wars was reserved not against China nor US, it was against the ordinary Filipino people.

Not a dispute, but a free entry to our territories

Despite series of reported Chinese aggression against Filipino fisherfolk such as the Reed Bank incident last year, Duterte has remained silent about it. He even downplayed it as a mere “maritime incident.” It could be recalled that around midnight of June 9 last year, a Chinese vessel rammed into a Filipino fishing boat Gem-Ver, which abandoned 22 Filipino fishermen floating at sea after their boat sank. Up to this day, not a single perpetrator has been held accountable.

Just this June 28, a Filipino fishing boat called F/V Liberty 5 collided with Hong Kong cargo ship M/V Vienna Wood off the coast of Mindoro island and left 14 of the crew members missing. Until now, they are nowhere to be found and their families have not received any official updates from the government. On the other hand, a United States Navy Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier called USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and US Navy Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG-54) were both reportedly spotted in San Bernardino Strait, Bicol earlier this month. According to reports, the naval ships were conducting military exercises and are heading to the West Philippine Sea.

Under the guise of ‘freedom of navigation’ and ‘commitment to support regional stability’, China and the US have been taking turns in militarizing our territorial waters and plundering our natural resources.

Debt trap and a comprador economy

From the unresolved maritime conflicts in the recent years, the Duterte government did not bat an eyelash even when critics and human rights groups have been consistently demanding for his government to act. He has been consistent in setting aside the welfare of the people as the Philippine economy has gone downhill and millions of Filipinos have remained unemployed.

“The country is currently operating in a comprador economy, with no agricultural and manufacturing capacity that we can’t even manufacture a simple face mask,” stated in the 2020 report of independent research group IBON Foundation.

Research by IBON shows that there is a negative growth in agriculture in the first quarter of 2020, and millions of jobs were lost. This has been the worst economic downfall in the last 30 years, the research group reported. The Philippine economy has heavily relied on the service sector, even with the absence of independent manufacturing. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were already mass layoffs of workers in various corporations including the airlines, hotels, car dealers, transportation and parts, and even banks — almost 30 percent of the workforce have been retired and/or retrenched.

On the other hand, Duterte has announced this March that he will not suspend or shut down Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs) despite the many controversies surrounding it. He claimed that government has earned around P17 billion from the industry, and that this could be used to fund infrastructure projects.

“POGOs only generate minimal income and employment for the country, contrary to the government’s claim that it is an essential sector and should be partially reopened and Duterte’s insistence on reopening POGOs appears to be yet another example of partiality towards China,” IBON added.

Duterte has pledged his allegiance with China in exchange for its funding of the government’s pet infrastructure project “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) program.

IBON reported that the government is seeking as much as US$14.3 billion in official development assistance (ODA) from China to finance 29 BBB projects costing US$16.8 billion. On top of this, we have been caught in China’s debt-trap policy as Duterte has agreed with the continuous loan deals such as the Chico River Irrigation Pump and the Kaliwa Dam project, while containing onerous provisions beyond the scope of Philippine laws. This surrender of our national sovereignty, in effect, has displaced indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands.

Labor export policy, worse than ever

With the lack of real medical solutions and misplaced priorities amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has also worsened the state of Filipino migrants in various parts of the world. This April, OFW remittances dropped to 16.5 percent — the lowest in the last 35 years.

Migrante International reported that over 180,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been repatriated since May.

“Untold thousands of Filipino migrants are stranded overseas as multitudes are left without aid under ‘no-work-no-pay’ schemes while those who have been repatriated remain stuck in holding facilities after spending their most gruesome days in quarantine,” Migrante International said in a statement.

“As if Filipino migrants have not suffered enough, the Duterte regime is itching to extort hundreds of billions from OFWs through his mandatory Philhealth and premium rate hike. If it weren’t for the strong opposition registered by OFWs, even its suspension would have been unimaginable,” Migrante International added.

US dominance has remained

Duterte has attempted to create an impression of pushing for an independent foreign policy when he threatened to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US earlier this year. However, the abrogation of the VFA today proves to be insignificant when all the while, other lopsided military agreements with US have remained in effect. The Philippine government has continued to receive US military assistance under Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines.

“Trump has practically given Duterte the license to form a civilian-military junta called the National Task Force-ELCAC (for “Ending the Local Communist Armed Conflict”) to further militarize his regime, escalate state terrorism in the name of anti-communism and prepare the ground for a full-scale fascist dictatorship,” International League of Peoples’ Struggles Chairperson Emeritus Joma Sison said.

Duterte has also installed a militarized bureaucracy with 73 officials (59 from the military and 14 from the police) who are rabid agents of US imperialism.

“Duterte’s government has monopolized its control over the Congress, Senate, and even the Supreme Court. This is part of the plan of a systematic attack against the Left and other government critics,” IBON said.

State-sponsored terrorism

The inter-imperialist rivalry of the US and China, especially in the recent years, has strengthened Duterte’s hold to power and worsened the attacks against democracy and freedom.

Duterte has placed all hands on deck for funding massive disinformation and trolling campaigns to quell public dissent and discredit resistance movements, while he has ordered to shut down largest media network ABS-CBN which has been a vital source of information for millions of Filipinos.

Even with the skyrocketing number of COVID-19 cases which has reached over 70,000 as of this week, Duterte and his cronies have prioritized the fast-tracking of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 which is really aimed at vilifying vocal government dissenters. For the past four months, the government has deliberately confronted the pandemic with militarized solutions. The cases of COVID-19 have exponentially increased along with the number of warrantless arrests, killings, and harassment of ‘quarantine violators’, and activists.

United in the face of double treason

In his four years of presidency, Rodrigo Duterte has done so much in the name of treason, betraying our national sovereignty, and territorial integrity. In the middle of a global health crisis, the Filipino people have long been abandoned and pushed further into damnation as the US and China continue with their aggression in our country.

The Duterte regime cannot be trusted to protect the welfare of the Filipinos, his four years in office are more than enough proof of that. There is no other way for us to save ourselves but to fight and resist in the face of double treason. ()

References:

Research group IBON says Pogos not an essential sector in PH


https://migranteinternational.org/category/statements/

The shady side of POGOs

On the relations of the Philippines with US and Chinese imperialism

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