The Supreme Court of the Philippines rules that a defense agreement with the U.S. is constitutional, but will it actually help the country push back against China?
From Manila, this is your “World in 2:00.” I’m your host Luke Vargas for Talk Media News.
The Supreme Court of the Philippines has ruled that a 2014 defense agreement inked with the U.S. is constitutional.
The deal allows the U.S. to operate out of eight Filipino military bases – including three that look out over the contested waters of the South China Sea – but it hardly settles concerns about continued Chinese occupation of islands the Philippines consider to be theirs:
“We, the Philippines, will end up paying utility and transportation costs of Americans traversing our soil.”
Richard Heydarian is a professor of political science at De La Salle University in Manila:
“During the Cold War the U.S. was paying us billions of Dollars to use our bases. Now, nothing. They’re not going to pay for anything. And then, more importantly, there is nothing in the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that commits America to come to our rescue in the event of contingency in the South China Sea.”
The U.S. sends Egypt $1.5 billion in annual military aid, and more than $3 billion to Israel. The Philippines, by contrast, a mere $79 million, despite being described by President Obama as a “vital partner.”
Heydarian says the defense deal is like a shotgun wedding; forged out of necessity, but perhaps it could blossom into something more down the road:
“We hope that the American presence will at least force them, in an event of contingency, to help us. Or, even better, to provide a latent deterrent against further Chinese provocation.”
The Philippines has a case against China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, with a historic ruling on the legality of Chinese territorial claims possible by mid-year.
The U.S., meanwhile, is sailing ships within the claimed sovereign waters of China’s new islands, formal challenges to China that could be sited in future arbitration.
All of it, though, seems like no match to Chinese realpolitik — at least for the time being.
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