The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) appreciates the positive significance of the pronouncement by GRP President Duterte yesterday that he will pursue an independent foreign policy and insist on “sovereign equality, non-interference and commitment to peaceful settlements.”
The Filipino people welcomes Duterte’s avowal to uphold an independent foreign policy which came a few days after denouncing US meddling in the Philippines and recalling the history of US crimes in the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao, during US colonization of the country.
Duterte has the distinction of being the first GRP president to set himself squarely opposed to US and foreign meddling in the internal affairs of the Philippines. While formally stated in the constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, the principle of an independent foreign policy has never been promoted nor practiced by the successive puppet presidents from Roxas to Aquino.
The CPP and all revolutionary forces urge GRP President Duterte to put to concrete practice his declared policy of promoting an independent foreign policy. The CPP sees positive implications if such an avowal is actively pursued and translated into specific and concrete policies.
GRP President Duterte can work together with the patriotic forces to rouse the Filipino people from the stupor of colonial mentality and undo close to a century of US brainwashing. It is fine that he has helped set light on the dark history of US brutalities in the Philippines by recalling the Bud Dajo massacre of 1906, a photograph of which he presented before the ASEAN. He did so to castigate the US for its hypocrisy in using human rights to meddle in Philippine affairs, particularly in his anti-drug war, which has fast become a campaign of police and vigilante killings targeting mostly small users and street peddlers.
Indeed the Filipino people must recall the barbarities that the US unleashed in the 1899-1913 war of aggression and colonization across the entire country. Duterte can help by highlighting as well how US colonial forces carried out massacres, torture, razing of entire barrios and forced concentration of peoples in the “kill and burn” campaign to suppress the Filipino people’s armed and mass resistance.
It is estimated that 1.5 million Filipinos were killed and died in the course of the US war to colonize the Philippines. Not one American official has been made to answer for the numerous heinous war crimes of the US colonial forces, not even Gen. Jacob Smith, who ordered the killing of all male over ten years old in the campaign to turn Samar into a “howling wilderness.” Duterte must raise the demand for the US to return the Balangiga bells, which the US military took as war booty from Samar in 1903.
Duterte can work with the people’s patriotic forces to generate an educational and cultural campaign to bring forth a renaissance of Filipino nationalism, similar to the educational campaign launched by the eminent nationalist Claro M. Recto in the late 1950s.
In line with an independent foreign policy, Duterte must also declare and pursue a policy of non-alignment by ending dependence on US military aid as well as doctrinal affiliation with US counter insurgency ideology. As an advocate of national independence, he can push the Philippine armed forces to undergo progressive and anti imperialist re-education to counter US influence and control, as is being done by the anti-imperialist governments of Bolivia and Venezuela.
He can furthermore take lead in the revival of an international non aligned movement (NAM) akin to that initiated by Indonesia’s Sukarno in the 1960s. As a country hosting US military bases, the Philippines was never part of the NAM countries and would not benefit from it.
Duterte, however, can stand on moral highground and lead such a movement by making the country fully compliant with the principles of non-alignment by: (a) dismantling of all US military facilities; (b) causing the withdrawal of all US troops, warships, jet-fighters, drones and other war materiél stationed in the Philippines; and (c) rescinding the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and other unequal military treaties.
Duterte can serve to restore a bit of national dignity by ordering the transfer of US navy officer Scott Pemberton, convicted of raping and murdering Jennifer Laude, from his detention center in a US controlled compound inside Camp Aguinaldo to a prison under the authority of the Philippine government.
The Duterte government can also initiate a multicountry declaration calling for the pull-out of all US warships and Chinese military vessels in the South China Sea to effect the demilitarization of that international trade route.
An independent foreign policy can also have profound effect in the field of economic policy. The Duterte government can forge economic ties with all countries regardless of their alignments. As a country tied to the US and dependent on US-aligned institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and Asian Development Bank, economic opportunities beyond the US-dominated economic world were long closed to the Philippines.
With an independent foreign policy, the Philippines can assert its national prerogative to forge trade agreements with countries such as Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, Russia, North Korea and China who can offer the country crude oil and other resources at much lower prices, as well as scientific advancements, in mutually beneficial economic agreements.
The Duterte government can also pursue a policy of ending dependence on, without cutting ties with, the IMF and IMF-affiliated banks and financial institututions; and promoting ties with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Thus, the Philippines can put itself in a position where it can take advantage of choosing better terms for capital infusion in the form of loans. Such international standing can be taken advantaged of countries by consolidating themselves in an international non-aligned movement.
By promoting an independent foreign policy and asserting mutuality and equality, the Philippines can further promote its ties with China without becoming its lackey. Fully aware of the oversupply of uninvestable capital and unsold capital goods (such as steel) in China, the Duterte government can offer to open joint infrastructure projects that will allow China to expand its investments but with clear terms protecting Philippine patrimony from unmitigated plunder and oppressive interest rates on loans.
An independent foreign policy must also translate into a clear economic program that promotes economic independence and the capacity of the country to stand on its own legs, while engaging in trade and allowing foreign investments that are necessary, e.g. developing steel and machine building industries, and advantageous, e.g. transfer of technology, to the domestic economy. The Duterte government must reject blind economic liberalization, such as those being pushed by the US through the GATT, WTO, APEC and TPP, as well as by China through the RCEP.
Duterte’s avowal of an independent foreign policy bodes well for peace negotiations with the NDFP. The principle upholding an independent and peaceful foreign policy is among the key items in the 12-point program of the NDFP. Such policy congruence between the Duterte regime and the NDFP program can serve as one of the solid starting points in forging agreements on socio-economic and political reforms.