• Melo Acuna

Political analyst Carlos says PH has no strategic policy

Philippines-China relations uncertain

MANILA – As far as Dr. Clarita Carlos, a political analyst and former president of the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) is concerned, she couldn’t project where Philippines-China relations would go.

In an exclusive virtual interview Wednesday afternoon, she said she doesn’t know because the Duterte administration doesn’t have a strategic policy.

“I’m sure you know he (President Duterte) back-pedaled on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and I don’t know what transpired in the back-channeling but I suspect the hand of (Secretary of State) Pompeo, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue lateral has something to do with it,” she said.

She added she no longer hears statements the government will remove a significant part of the Mutual Defense Treaty.

“Now, we really don’t know, and I believe even China is as confused with what’s going on,” the retired University of the Philippines professor said.

Asked of the possible reasons for the so-called back-pedaling on the Visiting Forces Agreement, she said both Presidents Duterte and Donald Trump are pragmatic leaders and it is very possible that during the phone conversation between the two heads of state, President Trump and Secretary Pompeo could have told the Filipino leader to be cautious of the increasing activities of China in the East China Sea across Japan and the South China Sea.”

“He could have been told the US is strengthening QUAD, the alliance of the United States, Australia, Japan and India, and we will have the plus, plus and you will be part of the additional countries into the security dialogue,” she surmised. She explained because the Philippines is a democratic country, it will be natural for the country to side with the security dialogue because of an existing Mutual Defense Treaty which was signed in 1951, “borne out of our being an American colony for 50 years.”

“However, that said, you cannot exclude China because China is our neighbor, a fixture in the region. Having two superpowers holding our hands would be good for us to combat climate change,” she said.

Professor Carlos acknowledged State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi who said they will convert one of the seven islands they have in the South China Sea into a research station where oceanographers and marine scientists can work together.

Speaking of the Belt and Road Initiative, Professor Carlos said one of the reasons why Chinese investments have not flowed into the Philippines is the due to the disorderly bureaucracy. She added Vietnam had a bigger share of foreign investments because of the significant incentives accorded businessmen.

“Businessmen, regardless of nationalities, require certainty,” she explained.

Asked of the Philippines’ role as Coordinator for the ASEAN-China Dialogue, Professor Carlos said while China earlier viewed ASEAN as an American creation just like the South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), it has prevented armed confrontations in the region.

“We (at ASEAN) are talking and we are not killing each other as other countries have become dialogue partners. The centrality of SEAN is too pronounced,” she said. She explained China is the region’s neighbor where ties have been pronounced for the past centuries and being coastal states, ASEAN can slowly but surely deal with the emerging superpower and convince it to be part of a rules-based system.

Speaking on her thoughts about the US Presidential race, she said Vice President Joe Biden has a lot of anti-Chinese rhetoric. She said incumbent President Trump took the cudgels for the Philippines’ issues on the South China Sea and Japan for the East China Sea and the Philippines’ Sabah claim. (Melo M. Acuña)

Professor Clarita Carlos. (File Photo/Melo M. Acuna)

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