President, Philippine Council for Foreign Relations
Whenever an important foreign policy issue surfaces you can be sure that certain groups will comment for or against.
Take the case of the EDCA and the BBL. In the case of the EDCA one is mostly certain that this pro-American administration will go for it against the wishes of the left and nationalist elements who were successful in driving the bases out of this country in 1992.
In the case of the BBL the divide was less predictable but considering the interest of the U.S and allies in the West it stands the reason that the pro-U.S. lobby would be hard at work to have it passed in Congress.. Who are members of these pro-U.S. (you can add the pro-British lobby) and what are their interests?
These are embedded in the Makati Business Club and other Makati-based organizations like the financial executives and the management association which are connected to the MBC through business affiliations. If the directors of the MBC are the top CEOs of multinationals operating in this country, the FINEX and MAP membership are the companies provide the essential services of the MBC companies. All in all, these groups have strong connections with the U.S. economy. The strongest link of the MBC with U.S. business is provided by the SGV group whose pater familias is at home in Washington and New York, the political and economic capital respectively of the U.S.
As one of the founders and first managing director of the MBC, I can attest to the fact that the MBC’s connections in Washington D.C. hastened the fall of Marcos. It was the MBC which provided the forum for U.S. officials to put pressure on the Marcos administration as well as organize the rallies which morphed into EDSA.
This U.S. connection was cemented by Washington SyCip of the SGV group which provides accounting services to most multinational in this country and Hank Greenberg the top honcho of the AIG group whose local subsidiary is the Philamlife. It is not coincidental that these two big hitters in the MBC membership roster have managed to capture two key cabinet positions – the finance and foreign affairs. In the post-EDSA period after elevating a proxy president to the palace, the Makati business elite groups spearheaded the “yellows” which successfully catapulted the son to power. To say that the Aquinos owe a debt of gratitude to the MBC and allied groups is an understatement. This partly explains how a few individuals in this group has succeeded in the regulatory capture of key public utilities and heavy infrastructure projects with ease.
Indeed over time, through skillful and creative diplomacy the Americans who were unable to conquer the country through military might, simply co-opted the “ilustrados” and economic elite who continue to rule this country through their proxies. I anticipate that their economic clout will again determine who will be the next president.
This will mean a continuation of the conservative top down development paradigm and more importantly - a Washington centrist foreign policy!
Earlier we referred to the interests of our so-called ally to which this country is tied through a mutual security arrangement which to many is more mythical than real. Since the U.S. occupation of this country by our erstwhile colonizer U.S. bases in this country has been central to U.S military strategy for Asia given the geophysical and geopolitical importance of this archipelago in the Southeast Asian sub-continent. It’s really all about the control of this part of the world in the Asia-Pacific century!
Indeed pre-positioning U.S. logistics and materiel closest to the Chinese mainland provides the U.S. a distinct strategic advantage. Anticipated by the Chinese eager to protect its southern flank which also happens to be the center of its economic drive, they quickly militarize islands in the South China Sea, thus beating the U.S. to the draw. Indeed Russia did the same thing by beating the U.S. to the draw in Crimea and Syria.
In the face of all these setbacks the U.S. is determined to pursue a strategic stalemate with the Chinese preventing the latter from pushing the envelope further. To do the U.S. feels that EDCA is the answer. Unfortunately many in this country do not want any part of the archipelago to be in the crosshairs of Chinese missile launchers when the pushing becomes a shoving match between China and the U.S. It was not so long ago that Pearl Harbor, where the Seventh U.S fleet was concentrated suffered the first hit in World War II.
As far as the BBL is concerned it is part of the equation in the quest for U.S. basing rights in the Philippines which a U.S. former senator considers inimical to local interest. This explains the undue interest of the U.S. in what is essentially a local matter. After investing heavily in infrastructure and goodwill in Muslim Central Mindanao, the U.S. expects a compliant and cooperative MILF administered region to provide the U.S. with a home away from home for its visiting forces. Expect then the U.S. to get his cheerleaders in the MBC, FINEX and MAP to do their pr job on behalf of Uncle Sam.
The spanner in the works however is the PICC the haven of the Taipans which have invested heavily in Mainland China. It is significant that President XI will be lodged in Century Park Hotel which is owned by a top Taipan. Let’s face it – blood is thicker than water even if money is thicker than blood which the Taipans share both with their ethnic brothers in the mainland.
Incidentally, the comparative advantage of Binondo over Makati is that while the Datu Putis and Castilaloys in Makati are far away from the boondocks and can rely only on their Forbes Park and other village votes, the Chinoys are quite close to the rural areas where they control the distributive trade.
What would be interesting would be to speculate who would be the proxy presidents of both superpowers in the country. For sure America will look for a Makati-anointed candidate while China will choose a Binondo-backed Sinophile candidate. We are sure that both are now preparing a “super pack” for their favorite horses.