If I were a businessman of any sort in the Philippines, I’d be fuming. In most NORMAL countries, the arrival of shiploads of young, cashed-up, and physically vigorous American military personnel would be greeted with joy and eyes flashing with $$ signs. Not in the Philippines though. The other day, the United States aircraft carrier USS George Washington sailed into Manila Bay for a port call carrying 5,500 American navy personnel. The bad news is that none of them were allowed off the ship and on Manila’s streets to stroke the local fauna and smoke the local flora.
Tinapay na nga, naging bato pa.
Thanks to the fiasco erupting in the aftermath of the killing of Filipino transgender Jeffrey Laude allegedly by US Marine Pfc Joseph Scott Pemberton, we won’t be hearing too many gleeful “boom boom Joe?” calls ringing across Manila’s streets any time soon. There won’t be any cold beers served to partying sailors in Manila’s bars, there won’t be any quaint Filipino souvenir handicrafts packed in trendy paper bags being dispensed over counters at the Mall of Asia, and there won’t be any photos of Manila’s excellent sights being uploaded onto Facebook by the boys either.
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It’s more fun in the Philippines. But not if you are an American soldier. Not anymore, at least.
“It’s a shame. Twenty to 30,000 service people come here for exercises and other events during the course of a year. They want to see the Philippines. They want to meet Filipinos. They want to engage and taste Filipino food and buy things. It would have been better for some of the shopping malls. We didn’t think that it’s good moment for shore liberty just out of respect for sentiment here,” said US Ambassador Philip Goldberg to reporters last Friday.
One wonders. Filipino sex workers are often painted by “activist” groups like GABRIELA as “victims” of Big Bad American Imperialism. But how many of them are really such? Indeed, how many of them now bristle with anger over the now empty quiet streets in Olongapo City, Manila, and any Philippine city where GI Joe once set foot to share Uncle Sam’s wealth with the locals?
The Philippines of the 21st Century is a far far cry from the pompous and cocky persona it exhibited back in the early 1990’s when twelve bozos duly elected by the popular vote (and as such presumably representing the Filipino people’s “will”) voted to boot the American Military out of Philippine shores…
Thanks to the 12 bozos who voted against US military bases in the Philippines in 1991 — Senate President Jovito Salonga, Sens. Wigberto Tanada, Teofisto Guingona, Rene Saguisag, Victor Ziga, Sotero Laurel, Ernesto Maceda, Agapito Aquino, Juan Ponce Enrile, Joseph Estrada, Orlando Mercado, and Aquilino Pimentel — Filipinos have, right in their faces today, a sad lesson twenty years in the making in what it is like to languish outside the American sphere of what is globally relevant.
Thus Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III owes the United States big time. His mother, the late former President Corazon ‘Cory’ Aquino in the 1990s vowed to help the US keep its bases in the Philippines even as Congress successfully rationalised its decision to kick them out on the back of old national insecurities to do with its colonial past. Back then the US military presence in the Philippines pumped billions of dollars into the Philippine economy in the form of aid, employment, and local business. And so it is likely that the Second Aquino Administration is out to make amends to its former colonial master and make up to Aquino’s “bosses” for decades of lost revenue owing to “Pinoy Pride” by continuing his mother’s work.
Indeed, times have changed and the question of the benefits of American military presence in its old colony has become all but a no-brainer. The Philippines today is a humbled nation run by crooks. It sees attracting foreign capital as its biggest “priority” because it utterly lacks any semblance of domestic capability to create and expand capital owing to a pathetic predisposition to squandering its indigenous wealth. This sad aspiration coupled with a bizarre culturally- and religiously-wired mindset to multiply like cockroaches pretty much dooms the Philippines to a future of abject sub-mediocrity.
More importantly, the Philippines faces an enormous military threat from China which, even now, is slowly annexing Philippine territory in the South China Sea with impunity while the Philippine government naively tries to appeal its case with the United Nations and through an approach to “diplomacy” that has long proven to be an ineffective approach to dealing with the Chinese.
If I were an American navy man, I may as well be stationed in Afghanistan or Iraq. The Philippines, once a port call US servicemen look forward to visiting has now become no better than Taliban Town.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.