Territorial and economic independence go hand-in-hand — CPDG

June 12, 2021

The 12th of June is annually celebrated as the Philippine’s declaration of independence from
colonial bondage. Every year, our national flag flies high in public and private buildings, schools
and businesses, from windows of homes, and along streets as we pay tribute to our heroes who
offered their lives in exchange for liberation.

However, “independence” goes beyond symbolic and commemorative acts. The authenticity of
our independence is still a burning issue 123 years after our national flag was waved from the
historic balcony by Emilio Aguinaldo in Kawit, Cavite.

Present-day concerns relate to the government’s relationship with two global superpowers: the
People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the United States of America (US).

President Rodrigo Duterte is condoning Chinese occupation and construction of military facilities
in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) instead of asserting the country’s legitimate claims. This is
widely condemned by Filipinos, especially the fisherfolk who believed the president’s “jet ski”
promise of standing up to China. Yet there is at the same time continued subservience to the US
with a continued military presence, persistence of unequal military agreements, military support
to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and stubborn influence on our economic policies.

The Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) decries the Duterte
government’s empty nationalist rhetoric and absence of a genuinely independent foreign policy.
The nationalist posturing cannot conceal its defeatist and traitorous stance in the WPS, nor the
continuing domination of the US over the country’s political and economic affairs.

“We are not on the path of achieving independence,” says CPDG spokesperson Liza Maza, “and
Pres. Duterte is just putting us between two superpowers wrestling for global dominance without
regard for our national patrimony and the people’s welfare.” Maza pointed out the president’s
empty threats to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US even as he dismisses
the 2016 special arbitral ruling under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
(UNCLOS) that affirmed the Philippines’ sovereign claim over its maritime zones and islands in
the WPS.

Pres. Duterte has in effect become complicit in letting China assert its invalid Nine-Dash line
claims and occupy areas of the WPS at the expense of Filipino fisherfolk and the national interest.
Filipino fishermen have been driven away from their fishing grounds numerous times by Chinese
Coast Guard and maritime militia.

Maza adds: “To give up territorial rights is surrendering sovereign rights. Coming from the President
himself, it is treasonous.”

CPDG is also wary about the government’s current efforts to amend the 1987 Constitution’s provisions
protecting the Philippine economy. The Resolution of Both Houses 2 (RBH 2) seeks to fully open up
Philippine lands, natural resources, and strategic industries to foreign ownership and exploitation.
Decades of neoliberal policies have gutted the national economy and caused domestic agriculture and
industry to decline. “Instead of ‘Economic Cha-Cha,’ the government should consider rights-based and
people-centered alternatives that can fulfil every Filipinos’ aspiration without giving in to foreign
pressure”, adds Maza.

The administration’s economic advisors constantly insist that the problem lies with the constitutional
restrictions on foreign investment and trade. Maza however stressed: “Removing the remaining
economic protections will further deepen our country’s dependence on foreign capital and aggravate
our economic backwardness. The domination of multinationals and foreign business entities in our
economy does not guarantee employment for Filipinos or ensure development. On the contrary it
impedes the organic growth of our local industries,” argues Maza.

An IBON Foundation study belied the foreign direct investment (FDI) narrative promoted by neoliberal
economists. It pointed out that there was a thirty-fold increase in FDI between the 1980-1984 and
2015-2019 periods. Yet agriculture and domestic industry continued to weaken, trade deficits
worsened, and unemployment stayed high. Foreign operations in the country greatly expanded but
local industries were not developed and the dependence on imported technologies, goods and
services, worsened.

“Allowing 100% foreign ownership in any country is tantamount to giving up dominion in its own
territory which is the complete opposite of an independent foreign policy,” Maza pointed out, “and
instead of local development it cements our dependency on developed countries.”

CPDG is one with the Filipino people in calling for the country’s genuine independence over its
territory, governance, and economy. Neither China nor the US should have the power to decide for
our country’s future and welfare. The Philippines is a sovereign nation and the Filipino people should
be the sole entity deciding on its development path.

“The government should reconsider and re-examine its economic and foreign policies if we are to
achieve a truly independent Philippines free from economic, territorial and political bondage to any
foreign superpower,” ends Maza. #