New Internationalist

Winner takes all – Obama gets his way in the Philippines

Presidents Aquino and Obama [Related Image]
Presidents Aquino and Obama at an earlier meeting, in 2011. by Official Gazette of the Philippines under Wikimedia Commons

It’s as if time stopped in Manila as President Barack Obama ended his four-Asian-nation swing here in the Philippines.

Obama arrived in Manila on 28 April. He stayed in a $7,000-a-night hotel suite for his less-than-24-hour visit. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III prepared a state dinner of lobster, baby sprouts and fiddle fern with lemon jam; smoked mussels and smoked mussels; and sweet banana in rich tomato and coriander sauce.

For dessert, there was coconut lychee ice cream for Manila’s guest of honour.

Yet, after all the festivities, Obama left without any specific commitment on the part of the United States to help the Philippines, which is now caught in geopolitical tensions with China.

‘Will the US defend the Philippines if the territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea or the South China Sea becomes an armed conflict?’ asked a local journalist during a briefing with Obama, but the US President’s answer side-stepped the question.

‘We do not have claims in this area territorially. Our primary interest is the peaceful resolution of conflict, freedom of navigation that allows for continued progress and prosperity… We don’t take specific positions on the disputes between nations,’ Obama replied.

Yet, as pointed out by journalist Raissa Robles, he took a different stance in Japan, when he said that the disputed Senkaku Isles belong to Tokyo and that Beijing should respect this.

On the other hand, President Aquino gave a hefty gift to the US: the controversial Enhance Defense Co-operative Agreement (EDCA).

The agreement, which drew flak from militant lawmakers and those who voted to expel the US base from the Philippines in 1991, had been signed just hours before Obama arrived in Manila.

Essentially, in the words of newspaper columnist and political analyst Jarius Bondoc, the agreement gives the US navy and airforce ports and facilities from which to launch ships, fighters and spy drones.

‘In exchange, Filipino troops are to get help in disaster rescue, some warfare training, and be given old equipment that the Americans might discard. As if to highlight the lopsidedness, Obama hesitated about having his same visiting forces defend the Philippines against Chinese aggression. The feeling among thinking Filipinos is that P-Noy [President Aquino] gave away everything for nothing,’ Bondoc said.

Philippine government officials insist that the controversial agreement does not return US military camps in the Philippines.

Yet, the agreement would allow US troops to use Philippine facilities.

What exactly the Philippines will get from the agreement remains to be seen. 

Comments on Winner takes all – Obama gets his way in the Philippines

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  1. #1 Roger Owen 15 May 14

    I will start by making reference to real life experiences as an American ExPat living in the central Luzon (Metro Manila) area. The level of Hatred, Racism and Selfishness in this area towards Americans is off the charts. Based on my firsthand experience, I feel President Obama should Not have visited the Philippines. To follow is a little background on myself.

    I ran for US Congress in east Texas (TX-01) in 2006 (the Democratic Nominee) and 2008 (as an Independent) against Louie Gohmert. One of several endorsements was the Libertarian Party in east Texas. After that lose, I moved to the Philippines Jan., 2009.

    I also took the liberty to make a 45 minute video which I uploaded onto You Tube: ( explaining why President Obama should not visit the Philippines in April. Within the video, I took the liberty to make reference to a lot of US issues ( Immigration, Education, the National Debt, Trade Deficit, Filipino Dual Citizenship, the US Embassy in Manila, etc.) which media sources in the US would find of interest if I had of defeated Louie Gohmert.

    Taking the above into consideration, I do not see it in the best interest of the American people to defend countries like the Philippines where the people often use anti-American rhetoric in the central Luzon (Manila) area. When compared to countries like China who has displayed enormous economic progress and a willingness to join the global community, the Philippines has a long way to go.

    My position is President Obama should not have wasted the American Taxpayer's Money (or tarnished the image of Washington DC) on countries like the Philippines until their government and their people display a more civilized nature. And also extend the SAME opportunities to all ExPats in their country that Filipino immigrants enjoy in the US..

    To summarize, Manila didn't even deserve what Obama gave. The American got scammed again.

  2. #2 Iris 20 May 14

    Dear Roger,

    Thanks for your comment. I respect your opinion.

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About the author

Iris Gonzales a New Internationalist contributor

Iris Cecilia Gonzales is a Filipino journalist and blogger. At present, she covers economic news for a Manila broadsheet, but she also writes other stories here and there. She has been blogging since 2004 on various issues including women and children and human rights. She is among the winners in the TH!NK 3 global blogging competition organized by the Netherlands-based European Journalism Centre.

You may email her at [email protected]

Read more by Iris Gonzales

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