I won’t blame people ganging up on Sen. Robin Padilla, who has been critical of the effort of President Bongbong Marcos to forge closer ties with the United States in the wake of China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea. Padilla became senator by toeing the line of the previous administration that sidled close to China, thinking that the policy would slow down its efforts to own the South China Sea, including the seas that belong to the Philippines. China instead became aggressive and reclaimed some of the shoals in the West Philippine Sea for military purposes.
While Duterte sidled close to China, Marcos on the other hand solicited American help to defend the West Philippine Sea. He expanded the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or Edca to ensure that China’s expansionist efforts would be halted. The US possesses the military might China has but which the Philippines doesn’t have. Besides, despite its imperialist designs, the US has been the country’s long-time ally.
I really don’t know why Padilla is trying to alienate himself from his constituents. While many Filipinos support Duterte, they are mostly anti-China. We can see this in the criticisms netizens have hurled Padilla’s way. A pro-China stance simply does not work. Just look at the amount of criticism Vice President Sara Duterte has been getting after she recently showed love for Chinese leaders.
Padilla has been boasting about having visited the West Philippine Sea during a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre, a military ship intentionally run aground to boost Philippine claims to the Spratlys. Recent missions have gotten difficult because of attempts by the Chinese coast guard to block it. A recent resupply mission got a little bit of help from the US, which sent a helicopter to monitor the effort. Padilla blamed China’s hardline stance to the said US presence.
Padilla makes it sound like the Duterte administration’s foreign policy is better than that of President Marcos. He has been portraying the previous six years as heaven in terms of foreign policy compared with what Marcos is doing now. He has been romanticizing the Duterte years in Senate hearings that discussed the West Philippine Sea problem. But Filipinos have enough of being pro-China considering how China reneged on many of its promises to Duterte.
But China can still influence the direction of the next presidential elections if the people lower their guard. The vice president is expected to make a presidential run and has so far shown signs of toeing the line her father laid down for her. She is pro-China and could change in a jiffy Marcos’ foreign policy. And she could become this country’s next president.
China and the US know how crucial the next election for Philippine president is to their interest. l am neither pro-China nor pro-US but I do think that the US is the lesser of the two evils. US imperialism is real but the US has long been our ally. But Chinese expansionism is real as well. It is just sad that the Philippines is China’s neighbor and is now feeling the pinch of Chinese expansionism in the Pacific.