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Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

The postponement of President Aquino’s trip to China is just one of the signs foretelling trouble in the China-Philippines relations. If not handled well by both sides, these relations may deteriorate and eventually turn sour.

There are several facets of these relations that collectively describe the entire state of China-Philippine relations. One, there is the historically friendly relations on a people-to-people level.  Two, there is generally productive economic relations. Three, except during the Cold war until the Nixon administration’s “ping-pong diplomacy,” there is the generally friendly and respectful political relations between the respective governments. Four, though there are border incidents due to conflicting territorial claims, there is the openness to accommodate each other’s claim.

In the post-Cold War period, these relations not only flourished but generally grow stronger. Through all the administrations, liberal and conservative, these have not been affected by either the politics or policy decisions of these administrations.

Of course, there are historical irritants–ranging from tendencies of Filipino racism and counterpart local Chinese chauvinism, local Philippine “Maoist” communist movement to conflicting claims over the Spratly Islands archipelago and trade issues. However, these are managed issues secondary to the mainly excellent relations up to the present.

In a few short months, the Aquino administration has significantly weakened these relations. There is a discernible shift from the GMA’s “China card” approach to a more US-aligned position. It is also evident that China, for its part, is not contributing much–and is in fact–applying a calibrated response to the Aquino government’s own China-related policies.

Of course, there were immediate causes for this slight shift. We can cite the Chinese (and Hongkong’s) over-response to the Luneta hostage incidence, the perceived unsympathetic Chinese response to appeals at the highest level for the lives of the three Filipino drug couriers, and the provocations in the Spratlys. Even the recent visit of the Chinese defense minister after a few buzzing incidents in the Spratlys sends a subtle threat signal. The Chinese actions can well be interpreted as an ill-disguised and heavy-handed Chinese pressure diplomatic offensives to test the political will of the new Aquino government.

The US government–for its own national interests–saw the opening and took advantage of it. It strengthened the Obama government  relations to the Aquino government with a new US ambassador, provided a certain naval patrol capability to the Philippine navy, and strengthened the Democratic Party’s ties to the ruling Liberal Party. It thus started a new round of political, diplomatic,  and armed power play not only in the Philippines but in the Southeast Asia as well.

The situation can easily spiral into an arms race or even confrontation. This will not be in the  best interests of the Philippines, the SEA region, or the great powers themselves. Stability and predictable behavior are the current norms of conduct that must be preserved.

The ball is on the Aquino government’s court on this one. How it handles the pressures arising from great power plays in this part of the world will have a bearing not only on its own political future but on the future of the region as well.

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The congressional canvassing for the presidential and vice-presidential positions has just ended. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III won by 5.7 million votes over his nearest opponent. This landslide victory is around 41.7% of the valid votes cast for the 2010 presidential election.

With Noynoy Aquino’s formal proclamation just hours away, the transition from the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo presidency is already starting. The transition may be peaceful–with a few glaring political landmines left behind. However, the nature and substance of the transition may go beyond the formal hand-over of power.

What we have is a clear people’s mandate–bordering on the level of People Power I in 1986–for basic reforms and for strengthening of the post-Marcos democracy. The people have given themselves a second chance; the Aquino government should be seen as nothing but an instrument.

The Aquino government is seen as a stark contrast to the traditional elitist politics hitherto brought to perfection by the Arroyo administration. The focus on eradicating pervasive corruption necessarily will require people’s participation in democratic governance, development of a responsible genuine political party system, rule of law, and cleansing of the entire government bureaucracy. Above all, it will require enormous political will founded on a strong and active support from the reform constituency that brought Aquino to power.

Yet, aside from the traps and challenges that the Arroyo administration has laid for him, Aquino will have to contend with the need to compromise with sectors of the traditional politicians and political dynasties in order to ensure the implementation of his reform agenda–and in the worst-case scenario, his own political survival. After all–even with his landslide victory, he does not enjoy an absolute-majority mandate.

The path to his success lies in broadening support for the reforms. Not only from the traditional politicians in congress and in localities but, more importantly, from the big majority of the electorate who did not vote for him.

His work and those of his reform allies are cut out for them. The elections have been won, but not yet the platform. Good luck and here’s my best wishes for his success!

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The Obama world

Today, Barack Hussein Obama will become the 44th US president. He represents a break with history in many ways. The most obvious, of course, was his being the first colored president, having crossed the monumental divide for the first time. He also represents the post-Cold War generation, the Internet generation, and the vast youthful generation just coming into their own.

A similarly significant Obama characteristic is his unifying theme, yet combined with the determination to redress the wrongs of society that divide and undermine the American vision “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Of course, the rhetorics may not reflect in the reality of an Obama government facing the global recession, two major wars, and a global environmental crisis. At the same time, he has to manage the transition to the brave, new American world–the world where Americans are just equal to everybody else and that America needs the goodwill of the rest of humanity and is a part of it.

However, expectations ran high that his is a government that will think out of the old generation’s box, put intractable problems in new perspectives, and put forward new, workable ideas to solve global problems.

His is a basically non-ideological approach, encompassing the wisdom of all sides. However, his is expected to be a simple and straightline addressing of problems. Ideologues, Right and Left, will have problems with an Obama, yet his popular support and the openness of the American people and most of the other peoples might force them to open to him.

Obama has a historical opportunity to do the right thing not only for America and the world. The world lies at his feet. Whatever he does in his presidency, none can diminish what he has already accomplished today by becoming a president of his nation.

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