By Franco Jose C. Baroña , Moises Cruz , Christian Crow Maghanoy , Red Mendoza and Catherine S. Valente | The Manila Times
THE Philippines needs to strengthen its alliances and partnerships with the United States amid a looming "new world order" following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Saturday.
During the SMNI Presidential Candidates' interview on Saturday, Marcos believed that the Philippines should honor its Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the US if the situation warranted it.
The MDT, signed between the two nations in 1951, calls for both nations to come to each other's defense in case of an armed attack.
"We have a very special relationship with the United States, and it is something that we have had developed over a hundred years, starting from being a colony to a very strong partner here, especially in this part of the world in the region. That, I think, has been a good thing for both countries, both for the United States and for the Philippines. I think we can still depend on that," Marcos said.
In geopolitics today, Marcos said that "we are lucky because we are important strategically, we are unlucky because we are important geopolitically, and we become a bit of a hot potato when it comes to that."
"So, we definitely have to consider what is best for the Philippines and how do we achieve that, with our existing partnerships, alliances, as they stand now with what will be a new world order. Will it be a very big change, will it be a small, slight change, will it be a big change for Russia or a small change for everybody else — there are many moving parts to this thing and it's not something that is easily definable," he said.
"But I think once the peace agreement is made [between Russia and Ukraine], we will study it very, very closely and we will ask our very best experts to determine what is the effect on other countries," Marcos said.
Cut diplomatic ties with China
Presidential candidate Dr. Jose Montemayor Jr. shared Marcos' view, saying the Philippines should honor its MDT and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with its "friend" the US.
He stressed, however, on the need to establish alliances with other countries.
He vowed to personally "shoot point blank" any foreign encroachers in Philippine waters.
When asked about his stand on the West Philippine Sea and China's repeated incursions, Montemayor said he was willing to cut diplomatic ties with the communist country but added that it would only be for "six months."
Policy of negotiation
While Leodegario "Ka Leody" de Guzman shares a similar view with Montemayor in dealing with China, his solution isn't as drastic.
When asked the same question, de Guzman said negotiations with China would only be possible after it has withdrawn its claims to the West Philippine Sea.
"[China] should first withdraw its claims to the West Philippine Sea. After it has pulled back, that's the time that we should agree to sit down and talk about mutually beneficial things," said de Guzman.
"It's hard to negotiate when you have a gun pointed at you," he added.
De Guzman said this can also be the same approach that he will follow when negotiating with two other world powers — Russia and the US.
"Our policy in Russia can be the same: you withdraw from Ukraine first then let's talk about what you want from us and what return the Philippines can get from you. Still, both should be mutually beneficial," he said.
In contrast with Marcos, de Guzman said the country should "sever its military agreements with America before negotiating with them."
He said he was not "comfortable" with the Philippine-US MDT and the joint military training being undertaken "because it's provocative in the current relations between America and China. It can only further inflame the situation."
He said as president he will move to repeal the defense treaty with the US using the people's initiative if this won't be approved by Congress.
The labor leader also said it was only right to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine but the US and the North Atlantic Alliance should not intervene.
"We should tell [the] US and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) not to intervene and provide arms to Ukraine," he said.
De Guzman, however, said Ukraine should have chosen to be independent when it broke away from Russia and to not join NATO, which was a "provocative" move.
Nevertheless, de Guzman said he approves of opening up the Philippines for refugees from Ukraine.
De Guzman identified his foreign policy stance as "internationalist," which means "my foreign policy focuses on peace and cooperation with foreign countries."
PH owns Sabah
Meanwhile, presidential candidate Ernesto Abella reiterated that the Philippines owns Sabah but wants to have discussions with the stakeholders, including the citizens of the island itself.
Abella was responding to a question on whether he was willing to pursue the country's claim to the island which is currently part of Malaysia.
This comes after a French court in March has ordered Malaysia to pay the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu around $14.92 billion as claims for the annexation of Sabah.
"Atin po 'yun, dahil po sa relasyon natin sa Sultan of Sulu at 'yung kanilang claims, so ang utos ko po d'yan is…. ituloy natin ang diplomatikong paguusap para makita natin mamaximize 'yung claims natin sa lugar na 'yun (That is ours because of our relations with the Sultan of Sulu and their claims, so what I will push is to continue the diplomatic discussions where we can maximize our claims in that area)," Abella said.
He also said that he was open to revisit the current Baselines Law, or Republic Act 9522, which includes Sabah as part of Philippine territory by historic right or dominion.
"We need to revisit it, if there is anything where we need to insist on. We need to know what is ours and what is not ours. We need to revisit the claim," said the former spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte.
Abella said he was also open to restructuring the country's foreign posts and adding cultural diplomacy as one of its diplomatic pillars aside from trade and tourism.
"Ang pwede nating gawin kasi…. imaximize natin 'yung entertainment, 'yung ating movie industry…. Pwedeng magkaroon tayo ng tweaking and streamlining (What we can do is to maximize our entertainment, our movie industry; we can tweak and streamline it), " he added.
A first world country
Former Defense secretary Norberto Gonzales on Saturday said he wanted the Philippines to be a first world country and believes that "a government model that is comparable to France's, which is a combination of presidential and parliamentary, but based on what the people desire" can help achieve that target.
Gonzales also said that education plays a big part in attaining first world status.
"All students should receive the same level of education, whether they are in a private or public school. And my advice is to aspire for excellence," Gonzales said.