Did the US abandon the Philippines?

Posted in Manuel Buencamino by uniffors on the May 4th, 2012

A lot of attention and commentary was focused on US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement on the “€œevolving regional security situation”:

    “We both share deep concerns about the developments on the Korean Peninsula and events in the South China Sea, including recent tensions surrounding the Scarborough Shoal. In this context, the United States has been clear and consistent. While we do not take sides on the competing sovereignty claims to land features in the South China Sea, as a Pacific power we have a national interest in freedom of navigation, the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, and the unimpeded, lawful commerce across our sea lanes. The United States supports a collaborative diplomatic process by all those involved for resolving the various disputes that they encounter. We oppose the threat or use of force by any party to advance its claims. And we will remain in close contact with our ally, the Philippines.”

Some analysts highlighted Clinton’s reiteration of US neutrality in the South China Sea (SCS) dispute and interpreted it as unequivocal proof that the US was “abandoning” the Philippines and leaving it to “Beijing’s tender mercies.”

Some even concluded it made the Mutual Defense Treaty a useless scrap of paper and consequently called for its abrogation. That conclusion is un-nuanced and over the top because the US policy of neutrality applies not only to the Philippines but to all the countries with competing claims in the area. Clinton was not singling out the Philippines-China dispute; she was enunciating a universal policy.

The more telling part of Sec. Clinton’s remark and the one that directly affects our dispute with China is the one where she identifies the US “as a Pacific power” that has “a national interest in freedom of navigation, the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, and the unimpeded, lawful commerce across our sea lanes.”

In effect, Clinton is saying that the US will not takes sides in a skirmish over rocks in the sea but it will go to war against anyone who will take control of the sea lanes without its consent. That should give comfort to the Philippines because it straddles sea lanes that the US deems vital to its national interest. Rest assured the Panatag Shoals will remain out of China’s hands because the US will not allow a rival power to exercise exclusive control over such a strategic economic and military area.

Mutuality of interests, sovereignty for us and projection of power for the US, glues the Philippine-US strategic alliance.

Clinton also expressed her support for internationalizing the settlement of the disputes – “a rules-based multilateral, peaceful approach in resolving competing claims in maritime areas within the framework of international law, including UNCLOS” – while implicitly warning China against the use of threats or force to get its way – “We oppose the threat or use of force by any party to advance its claims.” That bit about UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) is not as innocuous as it seems because China has been strongly and consistently against the Philippines bringing the Panatag dispute to UNCLOS. We have to thank Philippine officials for getting the Americans to explicitly side with us on that issue.

Finally, as a parting reminder to China about whose side the US is on, Clinton said, “And we will remain in close contact with our ally, the Philippines.”

The 2+2 meeting is a reaffirmation of the Manila Declaration signed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in November 2011 in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty.

The two secretaries signed the Manila Declaration on board the USS Fitzgerald, a counter-ballistic missile destroyer deployed with the US 7th Fleet. The symbolism cannot be ignored and neither can the declaration that said, “On this historic occasion, we reflect on the rich history of our alliance and the continuing relevance of the treaty for peace, security, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. We also reaffirm the treaty as the foundation of our relationship for the next 60 years and beyond.” So we have at least 60 years to make our defense capabilities strong enough to ward off Chinese mapmakers.

14 Responses to 'Did the US abandon the Philippines?'

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  1. J said,

    on May 6th, 2012 at 4:46 am

    I have similar views. Unfortunately, most local commentators are too parochial. They fail to realize that US interests in this area is more nuanced than the supposed importance it gives to economic relations with China.

    Here’s what I wrote on this issue: http://thenutbox.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/clintonhandsoffdeclaration/

  2. prans said,

    on May 6th, 2012 at 10:35 am

    I agree very much.

    According to related news the US will increase its military assistance to PH, funny thing, most of our defense officials are already rejoicing. Still that increase, if you compare it to Pakistan and other allies of uncle sam, its still a pittance in comparison.

    The US, until it lose its “NATIONAL INTEREST” and as stated, their economic relations with the chingky eyed SOBs will not lift a finger. It is clear as the sun rises, uncle sam can’t do anything about it.

    As I said/written in your previous thread, the only way is to be self-reliant. However, the proceeds in the selling of the former military camps could have been used to upgrade the PHs military hardwares. The question is/are, where did the monies go?

    Going back, uncle sam said they are concerned in the situation in panatag shoal, yes they are, but only for their interest, and that my friends is what you call an “ALLY” and a “FRIEND”.

  3. manuelbuencamino said,

    on May 6th, 2012 at 11:07 pm


    As in politics so too in international relations, there are no permanent friends or enemies only permanent interests. If one wants to play the game wisely then one identifies permanent interests and relies on it more than emotional ties.

  4. manuelbuencamino said,

    on May 6th, 2012 at 11:32 pm


    Thanks for the link to your post. We share similar views. I posted my feedback to your article in your blog.

  5. J said,

    on May 7th, 2012 at 11:45 am

    Hi MB, theres an interesting comment on The Diplomat re- Philippine-US cooperation. Let me quote it:

    “Philippines is not an orphan. That 2+2 with the reporters was just a facade. Obviously Hillary was or her way to China that night and does not want to rile the Chinese before she comes so they release the same things and was well guarded. The following day was different between the defense secretaries. US already had lined up an agenda to make sure they are able to blunt the Chinese even to the next decade when a couple of Chinese carriers are operational already, assuming they have figured out how to launch a bomb loaded J-15 without ski jumps. Even the Italian defense staff was there to make deals with the US and the Philippines. Just watch the next few months how these whole thing will evolve. The Italians, Spaniards, Koreans, Japanese and even the Australians will make a pitch to make sure Philippines will have credible defensive structure even with Chinese carriers. I think China will find out how many friends Philippines has especially once China gets exposed in the ITLOS hearings.”

  6. manuelbuencamino said,

    on May 7th, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Thanks for the info , J

  7. prans said,

    on May 7th, 2012 at 8:39 pm


    If that is true, who needs the american SOBs?I just hope it’s true. From that info you got, you will really know who the PHs friends are.


    Yeah that’s the problem there, no permanent friends nor foe. However, if J’s info are correct, then et’s see what the GI SOBs will do next.


  8. Anna said,

    on May 7th, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    “Diplomatic speak” is what the US is doing at the moment. The US cannot proclaim loud and clear that it will stand by the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal (nor over any of the disputed territories by the West Philippine Sea) because it would do the Philippines no good at all to proclaim at this point that they [the US] might have to come to our defence should our sovereignty be violated by China.

    What we are not seeing is what they are doing through diplomatic channels, i.e., with the DFA through their Embassy in Manila. Moreover, we must see/read between the lines: the US is overtly doing Balikatan exercises with our troops and that is enough signal to send to China and to foreign powers that are thinking of threatening our sovereignty to be careful.

    (Much in the same way when on two occasions the US publicly refused to take sides in the UK-Falklands conflict, i.e., when then Pres Reagan publicly admonished then PM Thatcher to try to reach an accord with Argentina but privately gave the UK full backing including sensitive intel, and recently when Hillary Clinton said in a speech in Buenos Aires that the US cannot take sides in the brewing Falklands conflict but in reality is backing the UK. The US cannot openly say what it is doing. It is in the interest of the US nor that of the Philippines not to be seen as openly taking sides or not to be playing the diplomatic speak.)

    However, there is a caveat, if you like, an important provision in the RP-US Mutual Defence Treaty: The US will act in accordance to the treaty should any of its physical interests in the Philippines is directly hit by a potential foreign aggressor. Otherwise, the US will not lift a finger overtly despite the Treaty. Rest assured that it’s easy enough to go around that caveat should things escalate.

    On a side but important note, China will think twice before it uses heavy force in the region because heavy force, i.e., military, could militarily affect US interests in the area directly and if that happens, China realises full well that the North Atlantic Alliance of which the US is a key member cannot remain neutral.

    Let’s put it this way: If the US “owns” a piece of territory or has direct control of a piece of territory in the area, eg., a military base (which is not the case in Pinas but case in Japan and Korea) and is hit by the Chinese (a kind of domino effect — you never know what can happen when naval assets meet in those waters) or if Chinese actions are seen or interpreted as directly targeting US “interests” in the region, the US could and would possibly invoke Article 5 of the NATO Charter, “an attack on one is an attack on all.” A long shot but not improbable. China is fully aware of the repercussions of “attacking” a major ally of the US in the region. As we speak, there is already a submarine fleet engaged in the Pacific waters watching the movements of China navy.

  9. Anna said,

    on May 7th, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    Strategically, the US cannot abandon the Philippines. Nothing to do with love for Pinas… it is all about geopolitical and military strategy.

  10. Anna said,

    on May 7th, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    Nations have no friends, only interests — Charles de Gaulle

  11. Anna said,

    on May 8th, 2012 at 12:27 am


    Latest news in UK about stuff from China:

    Hospitals and abortion clinics in China reportedly pass the remains onto drugs companies when a baby is stillborn or aborted, the South Korean SBS documentary team reported last year.
    The San Francisco Times reported that tests carried out on the pills confirmed they were made up of 99.7 per cent human remains.
    The tests were successfully able to establish the genders of the babies used.
    There is a huge demand for the pills which are thought to enhance stamina. Microwave-dried placenta is also sought after for its alleged ‘medicinal’ benefits.
    However, in reality the human flesh capsules contain super-bacteria and other harmful ingredients.

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2140702/South-Korea-customs-officials-thousands-pills-filled-powdered-human-baby-flesh.html#ixzz1uCYTsSRq


    In San Francisco news: http://sanfrancisco.ibtimes.com/articles/193371/20110805/china-dead-baby-pill-stamina-booster-cannibal-placenta.htm

  12. J said,

    on May 8th, 2012 at 6:21 am


    Unfortunately, local media practitioners here in Manila can’t decipher diplomatese.

    And oh, long time no see! How have you been?


  13. uniffors said,

    on May 9th, 2012 at 12:13 am


    Remember the movie Soylent Green? This is the chinese version of that movie.

  14. prans said,

    on May 10th, 2012 at 12:23 am


    I do hope your correct in assuming that the Americans are acting covertly. However, the PH should still learn to be self reliant and upgrading the military is one step in telling those chinky-eyed SOB’s we will fight back no matter how small we are, but we will fight back.

    Just right now an idiot anchor in the land of the chinky-eyed SOBs said that the PH is an “INHERENT TERRITORY’ of taiwan, este china pala. See, that’s how stupid their anchor is/are.

    You never know, the PH which located in the West Philippine Sea -”South China Sea”- ay aangkinin na nga nila. It may be booboo on the part of the anchor, but those chinky-eyed SOBs might get serious and claim the PH as an “inherent Territory”. Mga sira-ulo.