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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Understanding Nation Building (Part 11)

On International Relations


We continue our analysis of Blueprints for a Viable Philippines. We aim to give an understanding of our Foreign Relations and how best to translate it.


This is how blueprints sees it:

The Situation: Our country’s external relations have not served our long-term national development goals. Effective external policies can play a vital role in promoting the country’s economic, political, security, and socio-cultural interests. They can open up markets for Philippine products and services and help create an environment of peace and security conducive to human development.


BLUEPRINT Analysis: The present political leadership has not manifested a reliable understanding of the complex global changes that affect the national community. It has failed to identify the country’s fundamental interests and to strategize those interests in the complex global setting. Lacking in longterm vision and direction, the Philippines has been at the receiving end of strategies alien to the interests of the national community. Issues requiring urgent review are the following: (1) the definition of Philippine territory which poses security and environmental problems for the country; (2) economic migration and the broader phenomenon of globalization which have a powerful impact on the economy; and (3) Philippine participation in the US-led global war on terrorism policy, which poses important problems for national security and RP-US relations.


BLUEPRINT Recommendations: The Philippine government will prioritize effective governance over its territory and people by developing the capability to defend and maintain control over its territory. The Department of National Defense (DND) shall define its policies, plans, and programs in a conscious bid to free itself from the singular influence of any foreign country. The push toward regionalism, especially within ASEAN, and the ASEAN Plus 3 countries — China, Japan, and South Korea — will be pursued. Regionalism will strengthen Philippine leverage in economic and security negotiations. The Philippines shall develop closer ties with South countries and engage in more South-South cooperative ventures and initiatives. It will also deepen its participation in global initiatives on the environment, women, population, HIV-AIDS, and social development.


Big Mango:


The world is a vastly different one from five years ago. The dynamic forces that are shaping our World Order is being driven by changes unparalleled in all of history and I'm not talking about Terrorism but the shrinking of National Borders by the Internet, by the flexibility to travel, by the ability of men, women and children to be instantaneously be available despite being separated by Oceans and Time Zones. Yet as these things are happening on the ground--- the age old challenges of Governments and Countries exist--- getting along in a Global Village.


Let us first talk about the Ordinary challenges of the world: Trade/Commercial Relations, Diplomacy and Spying (on friends and allies as well as enemies)--- these are the daily business of Embassies throughout the world. They happen everyday, all the time. That said, another function of Embassies throughout the world is as a safety net people look to when they're in trouble.


Blueprints does give a good understanding of the present situation--- that we have not completely taken advantage of the commercial interests abroad though our network of contacts are excellent. In a way we have not been able to execute much abroad in terms of broad commercial assistance beyond of course our successful plays in various Financial Markets. Part of the reason perhaps is our inability to provide adequate industries here, to take advantage of those assets.


While it is disagreeable that we are mere recipients of “alien strategies”--- we have come to accept them simply because it is in someone's interest to do so. Perhaps if they identified these “alien strategies” it can best be understood.


That said, the Philippines is not lacking in Diplomatic Muscle. For example, what good is the ability to place assets in place at the United Nations Security Council if we can't make anything out of that? While such ability is a clear example of our Country's capability to play a wide diplomatic role, such capability is clearly wasted because some elements here are not in place.


In its analysis, one of the “issues requiring urgent review” blueprints says is “the definition of Philippine territory which poses security and environmental problems for the country”. While this is not such “an urget” problem--- the fact of the matter is that our Territory is clearly defined in our Charter. The Philippine Consitution clearly states the extent of our national territory. What perhaps Blueprints wishes to address is our inability to exercise our claims on that territory. Perhaps they are thinking of certain international problems on islands being claimed by the Philippines which are likewise being claimed by other nations.


Our National Territory is so vast that we need to clearly address it. One Role is to expand the capability of our Coast Guard, Navy and Marine Corps. It is such a vast ocean that guarding it is a problem. We seriously need to expand the ships under our command--- ships that have muscle to back them. We need to provide submarines to study our oceans as much as to provide additional security. We need a rapid deployment force that can seriously address breaches in our national territory and the Marine Corps--- a private army for the Navy can do this.


But the Philippines has to seriously address this need. We need to expand our Military Capability. What good are words and power in Diplomacy if they can not be backed up by muscle? The world after all has not changed all that much, at least in that regard.



Another issue that has been raised by Blueprints is “economic migration and the broader phenomenon of globalization which have a powerful impact on the economy”. Perhaps they do not have a clear understanding of these forces. Come to think of it, no one really does have a clear understanding of it.


Perhaps what they are saying about “economic migration” is the fact that our people are flying in doves out of the country and into more lands of opportunity. People are doing this all over the world. Talent goes where the money is.


With regard to globalization, the fact of the matter is that--- national borders are disappearing as fast as the Internet is growing. Thats the catalyst in all of this (as much as the ability to travel and to communicate with one another no matter where one is in the world) and it is such an amazing phenomena that touches everything we humans do. Its not limited to commerce and trade--- it extends to music, to information, to healthcare, to politics and to every facet of existence. In a nutshell the idea that we are one big Global Village isn't far fetched and that the human race is understanding that our perceived differences, we many not be all that different is such an unprecedented and unparalleled thing.


That said, our people has this inferiority complex thats this so huge, we can not even begin to step out of our own shadow. The only way to correct this is we begin to interact with our fellow global villagers in a more engaging way--- as equals in the world stage. We must accept the fact that human nature is evident in all we meet irregardless of their race or nationality. An Indian national is equally likely to be a good or bad person as much as a Korean or an American or a Filipino. We can not hold out for universal acceptance--- there will always be those who will look down on the Filipino (because of the jobs they see us doing, as domestic help or as lowly workmen) but it is how we carry ourselves, how we respect ourselves thats important.


Another issue Blueprints is looking into is: “Philippine participation in the US-led global war on terrorism policy, which poses important problems for national security and RP-US relations.”


International Relations is just like any other relationship, we help our friends. We can not turn our back on the friendship this country has had with the United States for over 50 years. We shed blood together in War countless of times and though it is hard for many of our people to understand this kind of honor, it is something we must do.


On one hand, Terrorism is an act of violence. Where is the honor in killing innocent civilians for the sheer hell of cursing a country for their well to do life? Where is the honor in fighting when people in your own backyard is suffering and instead of putting money into bombs, why can't they come out with ways to help those kids grow up to be better persons.


Does our country stand with People--- with madmen who destroy lives? People with families with lives that have no quarrel with them? Is it their fault that they want to party in a beach? Is it their fault that they have money to party on a beach in Bali? And when Terrorists bomb resorts, who will lose jobs and businesses, aren't they Muslims as well?


When terrorists bomb buses, it is not officials who suffer, its the ordinary man in the street who take the blunt of it. When terrorists crash airplanes on buildings--- they wreck lives. Terrorists are fanatics and their way is not justice and Blueprint is clearly wrong in that we shouldn't stand up to that kind of way of life.


Yet clearly, there are ways in which we fight terror without tightening up security, without firing a bullet or imprisoning anyone. We can not do anything about those other countries--- Indonesia, Iraq, Afghanistan, others have that covered but we can fight terror by uplifting those lives in the far flung villages our country--- in Mindanao.


In the last twenty years, we have given autonomy to many provinces in Mindanao--- short of independence, mind you. Yet their leaders themselves have squandered this opportunity. And we see others who are still fighting it out, with grievances and agendas of their own. On one hand, not all of those provinces in Mindanao decided on autonomy and they are better today because of it.


What reforms can we do for Mindanao? The better answer is get them educated to elect better leaders. Find men and women who are willing to build lives, rather than destroy it. Find men and women who are willing to do something for their people and work for it. After all should our country become a Federal one, they will need to govern themselves and a lot rides on leadership.


Looking at the recommendation of Blueprints: “The Philippine government will prioritize effective governance over its territory and people by developing the capability to defend and maintain control over its territory. The Department of National Defense (DND) shall define its policies, plans, and programs in a conscious bid to free itself from the singular influence of any foreign country.” Well, we really do need beef up our Military so that they can better address external threats but we are not a “subjugated people” as to need to “free itself from the singular influence of any foreign country”. And to be so isolationist as to not be “influenced” by anyone is a road that must not be taken because to be isolated means, no business, no free flow of ideas, no friends and makes for a dumb Filipino.


Then blueprints goes on to say we must: “push toward regionalism, especially within ASEAN, and the ASEAN Plus 3 countries — China, Japan, and South Korea — will be pursued. Regionalism will strengthen Philippine leverage in economic and security negotiations. The Philippines shall develop closer ties with South countries and engage in more South-South cooperative ventures and initiatives. It will also deepen its participation in global initiatives on the environment, women, population, HIV-AIDS, and social development.


Perhaps they forget that we are already active participants in ASEAN and our ties with China, Japan and South Korea have never been stronger and are improving (but at the rate the UP Law Center is going, our Chinese friends may be gone tomorrow).


For example, Japanese, South Korean trade is very active in the Philippines. They give money, but in exchange their products/services must be used in those projects. The Chinese NorthRail Project is also an excellent example of Trade Agreements the Philippine government is pursuing to the benefit of the people, much to the mindless, shortsightedness of some people.

We might also like to pursue greater military cooperation in terms of building military infrastructure from Chinese, Japanese, Israeli, Russian sources and those things wouldn't be so bad would it?


The Philippines is very committed already to initiatives on environment, on AIDS, on women and great issues in the International Stage. We have WHO based in Manila for that. We are the current chair of the Security Council, we are an active member of the United Nations.


The Philippines' International Relationship is a work in progress. Much work needs to be done sure but once again, the Blueprint for a Viable Philippines is sorely lacking in its understanding of the key issues that a Nation needs today, such shame really.

4 comments:

Greg said...

I have made one post prior to this one and I must say that I have to agree with you again on this one.

The lines you wrote that particularly struck me were these: "The only way to correct this is (if) we begin to interact with our fellow global villagers in a more engaging way--- as equals in the world stage. We must accept the fact that human nature is evident in all we meet irregardless (sic) of their race or nationality."

The sad thing about Philippine psyche is that we color foreign actions with evil intent. We never seem to have gotten over the stigma of colonial rule. What we fail to realize is that nations/foreigners interact with us because they see engagement with the Philippines as beneficial. This is similar to human interaction - we would continue to engage in a relationship if somehow, we see the relationship as having some kind of benefit (whatever form that may be) to us. Particular actions are dictated by interests. Just because a nation is acting in a way that promotes its interests doesn't mean they're evil. In fact, if we are to believe in game theory, often, zero-sum games generally would not work for anyone's interests. In the long term, to work for one's interests to the detriment of another will in fact not serve the former’s interests.

To say however that relationships must always yield benefits equally (50%-50%) for it to be a just relationship is a different matter. We often seem to think that if one gets more benefit in a relationship, that the other one is being victimized. This is false. And this seems to be the feeling of many Filipinos when articulating Philippine relationships with foreigners. Let's face it - -WHILE NATIONS MUST COOPERATE, THEY MUST ALSO COMPETE - - the so-called "coopetition" strategy. Like most individuals, most nations will seek to maximize their benefits. Nonetheless, as I mentioned earlier, it is unlikely that nations will try to maximize benefits to the disadvantage of the other because they know that would destroy relationships. Often, they will ensure that the other party feels that he has also "won" in the relationship. In this whole process, all is fair and no one has the right to cry foul.

What is the relevance of this to us? Well, its relevance is this: rather than have a policy of anti-Americanism or being anti-foreign, we must realize that nations act like individuals who will want to engage but also compete. If we are to be respected and taken seriously, we must also be a nation who knows how to cooperate and compete in one elegant dance. If we are to maximize benefits, we must articulate our interests, know our weaknesses/strengths, and plot our strategies/tactics accordingly.

In doing so, we will begin to act like a mature individual who knows who he is and where he stands – one who would not at all feel insecure if he adopts someone's counsel or feel the need to prove himself by disagreeing with a stated position. As it stands, we seem to be a country who seems to feel that agreeing with a foreign policy (particularly US policy) is tantamount to being a puppet and that the ultimate expression of nationalism is the ability to say "no" to foreigners and to Uncle Sam. To me, this shows immaturity. Imagine a person who will always disagree with you because he hates you, regardless of whether you are right or wrong. That certainly is an immature person who is unable to separate issues from personalities. Likewise, a country that believes that every time we say "no" to a foreign power is the ultimate expression of nationalism is a fool.

What the Philippines instead should be is a level-headed, mature state that acts based on its interests. If its interests dictate that we should agree with the Americans/foreigners on a certain matter, then let's agree. Otherwise, let us disagree and try to promote our own viewpoint. If the views diverge, then, if it's in the nations' interests to negotiate, then let us negotiate - -but in negotiating, we should bear in mind that zero-sum games aren't beneficial and that we should always try to get the most out of the situation.

In the end, rather that always feel we're a victim in this global village, let's have a clearer mind and say that other nations are merely behaving like any other individual would behave (one who promotes their own interests). If we are to be respected and taken seriously, let's also act like a mature individual who takes responsibility for his actions rather than acting like a victim and blaming the other as the oppressor.

cocoy said...

exactly!

the idea of game theory kept coming up whenever i read through blueprints because it really isn't a mature environment, everything is so backward and i was figuring out how to translate it properly.

and you did.

you hit it off exactly when you said that "the sad thing about Philippine psyche is that we color foreign actions with evil intent, we never seem to have gotten over the stigma of colonial rule".

nations like individuals compete and cooperate at the same time. and yes, the philippines should act like any right minded person--- that we take responsibility for our actions and stop playing the victim and blame the oppressor.

Jon Limjap said...

Cocoy,

"That said, our people has this inferiority complex thats this so huge, we can not even begin to step out of our own shadow."

I absolutely agree with this, and I could say that this is the single biggest hurdle we face.

Tama na na sabihin natin na "ang mga Pilipino kasi kapag ganito.." Itapon na natin sa basurahan yung katagang "only in da Pilipens".

We're not progressing because we as a people are creating the reality - a self-fulfilling prophecy if you may - our own self-judgment na "wala nang pag-asa ang Pilipinas."

Kung naniniwala tayong wala nang pag-asa ang Pilipinas, hindi malayong isabuhay natin ang kawalan ng pag-asa na iyon.

Blue Cross of California said...

Great blog on understand the nation and I hope we can work to improve our healthcare system. Health insurance is a major aspect to many.

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