After more than 100 years of subservience to the US, the Philippines is now taking the bold move of asking the US forces to leave their islands indefinitely. Such a decision would have been unthinkable ten or fifteen years ago with a country militarily helpless to stand up to Uncle Sam, despite the on-going and growing threat of a military build-up by neighboring China. In a very unpredictable move that is going to reshape the geopolitics in South/South East Asia – the Philippines has extended the hand and embraced China as an ally at the expense of the USA.
America’s presence in the area has always been justified by the narrative of keeping China at bay and maintaining the balance of power in the area as well as protecting the freedom to navigate in international waters. But the Philippines’ location is of more strategic and military and economic value than anyone could think. This group of islands in the South Pacific is central to the passage of goods from China, and with the Philippines pivoting to China, it is giving the Chinese exclusive access to drive their Belt and Road Initiative that will genuinely cement China as the Economic Superpower to beat.
The Philippines is not the only falling domino from the US hegemony. Across the Atlantic, Kyrgyzstan has ended the foreign operations, which mostly used their airports. Iraq, which was essentially built by the US, is now campaigning to kick out American forces after the assassination of Iranian General Soleimani. Even the Japanese are currently protesting against the US bases again due to alleged abuse of locals by American service members.
The presence of American forces in countries like the Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, and Iraq gives little or no value to the host countries, considering that the Cold War is over. Whatever the United States once offered by way of capitalist opportunities are more than matched by offerings from the Chinese or even the Russians – more with less onerous and intrusive terms.
The Philippines wants the US out, and they are not alone. Thru its Belt and Road Initiative, the Chinese offer more economic breaks than the US – as evidenced by the countries in Africa selling out to Beijing. The US, on the other hand, has its own internal political squabbling that distracts the current leadership.
Manila should be given a reason to hold on to that Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that would continue to allow US forces to enter Philippine territory for military purposes. The Philippines is a small country that should be managed efficiently to maintain US Interest in the area. If Washington gives up the Philippines with no justification offered for its presence, then the US loses its foothold as the only global superpower. Of course, the eventual price for this capitulation maybe the sacrificing and annexation of Taiwan by China. The Philippines could well end up having the worst of both worlds should the theatre of War ever develop in the region.