Bases for America: What’s in it for the BBM camp

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BEFORE the headline topic, a couple of important digressions. First, a call for Catholics nationwide to pray between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on November 27, feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, as dozens of devotees, including members of the police and military, gathered at Palawan’s Pakpak Lawin beach and sailing the West Philippine Sea, offer Sunday Mass, seaside procession and marine regatta with the Blessed Sacrament and the Virgin Mary’s images.

May this Eucharistic Marian prayer event bring graces, peace, protection and succor to our nation sorely needed in these tense times (https://fb.watch/h1gReHMXFA/).

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Second, a rejoinder to retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio’s claim that Chinese attack is deterred by American forces set to move into our country en masse under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) forged by the Aquino 3rd administration and rolling out under the Marcos Jr. or BBM government.

No right-thinking general or defense analyst would agree. Take think-tank RAND Corp. Its 2016 report “War With China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable,” funded by the United States Army, said “aircraft carriers and regional air bases” used by the US in Asia are prime targets of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) before and during conflict.

And in Taiwan war games of the Center for New American Security (CNAS), Uncle Sam’s warplanes would attack from Philippine bases, prompting the PLA to retaliate against us, as seen in maps shown 6 minutes, 45 seconds and 10 minutes into the “Meet The Press” TV news feature on the center (https://youtu.be/qYfvm-JLhPQ).

Only nations hosting American forces are attacked in the CNAS scenario. Other countries are spared by the PLA, even one-time war adversary Vietnam.

But don’t fault Carpio; he’s a retired justice, not a retired general. Just heed what then-president Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. said in 1975 about US bases exposing us to attack (“Stop EDCA before it weaponizes and wrecks us” https://www.manilatimes.net/2022/10/30/opinion/columns/stop-edca-before-it-weaponizes-and-wrecks-us/1864306):

“If the purpose of American military bases is to strengthen American military posture in the Pacific, or in the Indian Ocean and throughout the world, does this not expose the Philippines to the animosities, suspicions and the conflicts arising out of this American military build-up — animosities and conflicts that we have no participation in making, and do not these bases endanger the safety of the Filipinos and the Philippines not only from conventional armed attack, but from possible nuclear attack?”

Backing Marcos Jr. to cement EDCA

Which brings us to the headline topic: What would make President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. set aside his own father’s warning and go full speed ahead with letting America use no fewer than 10 bases under the EDCA, as recently disclosed by incoming Defense Secretary Jose Faustino Jr.? Answer: Politics.

Whether he or his camp intend it, granting Washington’s plea to speedily implement the agreement makes the West and US allies Japan, South Korea and most especially Taiwan spare no expense and effort to ensure that Marcos succeeds and his faction stays in power to speed up and solidify EDCA, not put it at risk if, say, another Duterte takes power.

Expect the US and its allies in Asia and Europe to shower Marcos with massive aid, trade, investment and global media adulation, so he becomes hugely popular like predecessor Rodrigo Duterte and gets his chosen successor elected to perpetuate EDCA.

This will cement our country as America’s frontline military platform in Asia, supporting its top global priority, spelled out in the 2022 National Security Strategy from the White House in October: “Out-Competing China and Constraining Russia.”

Will this scheme work? Well, combine Marcos’ majority mandate with unprecedented Western and allied political, economic and media support to make him even more popular, and that sounds unbeatable. Just imagine if American support for then-vice president Maria Eleonor Robredo had gone to him in the elections.

Add to that the enthusiastic backing of our military and police pumped up with Western aid, exercises and training. These forces would also wow at advanced American and other allied naval, air and ground weaponry gushing into the country. And with Uncle Sam again doing the heavy lifting on our external defense, we can scrimp on military spending just when we need to pay mammoth pandemic debt.

Meanwhile, much of Asia would be immensely thankful to Marcos. Japan, Korea and Taiwan quietly cheer our willingness to be bombed or even nuked to help America defend them. And save the rest of Southeast Asia from US badgering to host its forces, including intermediate range missiles it wants to deploy against the PLA.

Plus: boosting Chinese investment in ports, airports, road and rail links across the region, so needed goods can be unloaded in Yangon, Bangkok and Singapore, then carried by pipeline, plane, truck and train to China, avoiding seas targeted by US forces in and around the Philippines.

What can go wrong

The big caveat in this scheme to ramp up EDCA is war. There could be one over Taiwan in five years, as some analysts fear. Chinese President Xi Jinping could fulfill fears that he would seek to regain Taiwan within his unprecedented third and possibly final five-year term as general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), ending 2027.

Or if Beijing’s real rulers, the CPC Central Military Commission and the PLA, don’t wait till Washington fully weaponizes our country before taking Taiwan, especially if America faces a major European war.

What’s worse, implementing EDCA gives China cause to take control of the Philippines. If we stayed neutral, as Duterte rightly sought, it would have given Beijing reason to think that we need not be invaded so we won’t become a strategic threat.

Now, Marcos Jr. has to convince Xi otherwise when they meet again in January, having shown how much and how quickly a threat we can become with just one election, even after the pro-American, anti-China candidate was soundly defeated.

Bottom line: If EDCA gets us devastated or invaded, the second Marcos regime may be seen in a far worse light than the first.

Source: Manila Times