July 4 of every year used to be celebrated as Philippine Independence Day until Independence Day was moved to June 12. Since then, we celebrate July 4 as Filipino-American friendship day. Under the present dispensation, the day further lost its luster with a pro-China president that hits the United States whenever he can. Filipinos, though, are still overwhelmingly pro-American.
There was a time when our being an American neo colony became obvious in the policies of our government and the rhetoric of its leaders. That changed with the ascendancy of Rodrigo Duterte, a Beijing-backed president. The US Central Intelligence Agency or CIA, said to be the instrument of US interference in our country’s politics, was apparently caught by surprise by China’s effort to influence our politics using the elections.
Other Asian nations were also caught unaware. Malaysian strongman Mahathir Mohamad cut short his retirement from politics after a pro-China president took over his country. China used advances in technology (social media) for its influence peddling initiatives. It probably helped that the US was headed by Donald Trump at that time. A more rational Joe Biden is currently at the helm there.
Duterte, though, could not just throw away decades of “friendship” in favor of a “new kid on the block.” He obviously met some resistance, especially from the military, whose leadership are more pro-US than pro-China. It also became obvious that China is using the Duterte administration’s pro-China stance to advance its goals in the West Philippine Sea. As the next election nears, the voters’ bias against China is becoming obvious.
I am against the imperialist tendencies of the US. But China’s actions are more brazen. And these directly threatened our own interests, notably our territories. That does not include the threat it posed on our sea resources, thus affecting our fishermen, and on our workers, with the entry of unemployed Chinese citizens competing with Filipinos for employment. I would side with the lesser evil on this one.
US-Philippine friendship is not mainly about the economy. It is about our shared values. Many of my relatives are living in the US. This was made possible when my aunt married a Filipino-American soldier who served in the US Army during World War II, when they freed the country, including the Camotes group of islands, from the clutches of the Japanese. Had my mother not refused to be petitioned by his sister to live in the US because that would require her to go ahead of the rest of her family, I would have been a US citizen now.
The attempt by the Duterte administration to embrace China and jettison the US has not paid off. It only made China more brazen in controlling the West Philippine Sea, thinking we have become a vassal state. It also rendered useless our win in the case we filed in an international tribunal regarding our ownership of areas in the West Philippine Sea. It is time to regain the friendship of an old ally.