A pan-Asian foreign policy alternative for Philippines: Inquirer contributor

MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – The Philippines currently projects a Janus-faced foreign policy, acutely marked by a bipolar character as displayed by the country’s top two leaders.

While President Duterte fervently looks west toward China, desiring its primary support, Vice President Leni Robredo ardently gazes eastward to the United States, equally yearning for its principal aid.

Obviously, this dual identity affecting Manila’s global outlook is increasingly being shaped by the intensifying geostrategic competition between Beijing and Washington to attain 21st-century dominance over the immense Asia-Indo-Pacific realm.

But even so, pursuing a close national alignment with either great power will be dangerously harmful to Philippine sovereignty and to our peoples’ well-being in the long run.

Because America and China are both powerful imperialist hegemons whose main worldwide objectives include intensely dominating their own international spheres of influence to aggressively thwart the other, Philippine foreign policy must never become chained to them.

Hence, Manila must instead develop closer relations with a wider range of states from across Asia that can potentially share a common set of international aims and purposes.

In particular, Philippine foreign policy should prospectively try to spearhead a novel and progressively oriented pan-Asian initiative upholding the general principles of worldwide peaceful coexistence, anti-imperialism, internationalist solidarity, universal amity, and people-centered cooperation.

Indeed, such a transregional project can even aim to further the fundamental aspirations earlier advocated at both the 1955 Bandung Conference and the 1966 Tricontinental Conference in a combined and synergised manner.

And in this regard, the Philippines and its partners can even help to effectively create and build an alternative transregional bloc independent of the escalating US-China inter-imperialist rivalry, yet still capable of engaging those powers on principled terms.

Clearly, such a strategic external policy agenda will necessitate a major shift in thinking by the Philippines. But before pivoting our country’s foreign policy onto an alternative path, Manila will have to acknowledge some basic requisites.

Firstly, Philippine foreign policy planners will have to critically situate the country’s emerging post-pandemic global strategic environment within the central parameters and dynamics of the world capitalist system itself.

This means the logic of the current international order remains based on the essential need for the world’s core of imperialist powers to maintain the structures of oppressive and exploitative dominance over the economies of the semi-peripheral and peripheral states via the former’s spheres of influence and domination.

It is for this reason alone that both US imperialism and Chinese social imperialism persistently seek out new puppet states throughout the Asia-Indo-Pacific area, especially from within the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

Secondly, building an Asia-wide trans-regional bloc will include countries from the five regions of Asia: West Asia, Central Asia, East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.

With 48 countries in Asia today, the Philippines will ultimately be challenged to strive for various ways by which to persuade at least a significant number to become the core of Manila’s pan-Asian endeavour.

Likewise, the partner states will all have to collectively conduct diplomatic activities and pursuits guided by a progressive framework of principles – non-aggressive, anti-imperialist, and internationalist – on a cross-regional scale and in a coordinated fashion to counteract Washington’s and Beijing’s manoeuvres within the Asia-Indo-Pacific domain.

Lastly, any alliance of smaller and weaker states can relatively offset the offensive plots and ploys of greater powers in identified zones by using asymmetrical strategies embracing mass-based forces.

And since many of the world’s staunchest anti-imperialist forces spring straight from the progressive mass movements, then they, too, must be directly involved.

A Philippine-influenced transregional bloc that also comprises non-state players can pack formidable might to alter the balance.

Rasti Delizo is an international affairs analyst and a longtime activist in the socialist movement. The Philippine Daily Inquirer is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.

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