by Aileen S.P. Baviera/APPFI.PH
In the run-up to the May presidential elections, candidates will be held to close scrutiny by the thinking members of the electorate. How well have they thought out the major problems of the country and the potential solutions that can best serve the long-term interests of the Filipino people, instead of the expedient solutions or promises that can merely help get them elected?
Among the myriad issues that will demand attention – perhaps not necessarily the one closest to the needs of Juan dela Cruz but nonetheless of vital strategic importance – is the question of how to handle relations with China. China is a major power with still growing regional and global influence, whether on questions of global financial stability, international security, energy, climate change, and more. It also happens to be a key protagonist and our major adversary in the single most challenging external security concern of the country at present – the territorial and maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea. Thus far, the disputes have not led to armed confrontation, but the trends point toward increased militarization, expansion of occupation and presence, and the hardening of positions of the various states concerned. Finding a political solution based on law and diplomacy will be no easy task. The alternative – not finding one – could be tragic. How will the next president deal with this matter?
On the other hand, managing our relations with the United States and updating the defense alliance in response to a changing regional environment will be equally challenging. This comes at a sensitive crossroads in US history, when it is economically weak, with its internal politics in disarray, and when it is arguably losing its claim to leadership even over some traditional allies and friends. The U.S. remains the most formidable military force on the planet indeed, and it is still believed to be the most credible guarantor of regional stability in our part of the world. But it is grappling with the right approach to simultaneous challenges – including domestic ones, the Islamic State, a resurgent Russia, and an ambitious and assertive China. What role we want the U.S. to play in our own region and with respect to our own national aspirations, is something the next President would do well to consider. Read more…