[Right-Up] The Philippines and Russia: On Independent Foreign Policy | by Jose Mario De Vega

The Philippines and Russia: On Independent Foreign Policy

A per report of Yahoo! News, “During the presidential election campaign, Marcos initially maintained a neutral position on the Russia-Ukraine war. However, he later issued a statement that he is united with the rest of world in calling for Russia “to respect Ukraine’s freedom and its citizens’ democratic way of life.” (Russia ready to help Philippines with oil, gas needs: Russian envoy, Nicholas Young, Jun 14).

It was at this period also that the Philippine government during the UN General Assembly voted together with 141 out of 193 member countries to denounced Russia’s aggression against Ukraine (U.N. General Assembly in historic vote denounces Russia over Ukraine invasion, Reuters, March 3rd).

Though, the said Resolution is non-binding, it is my firm view that the decision undertaken by Malacanan and DFA on this critical world issue is undeniably wrong. The Russian Federation may consider that idiotic decision as an act of an unfriendly country. (Putin issues decree requesting ‘unfriendly’ countries pay for gas in roubles, The Financial Times, April 1st).

During the SMNI debate, retired UP Professor Clarita Carlos clashed with Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM) Attorney Luke Espiritu on the contentious question of independent foreign policy specifically on the issue of non-alignment and neutrality.

I certainly believe that that evening the good professor (the future National Security Adviser) is wrong in her tack and the line of her questioning on the issue is traditional or even dated. Is it perhaps, she is deliberately testing our bet’s resolve or she is merely enjoying her usual recitation? Be that as it may, let it be noted that the said debate is utterly important for what is at stake is the welfare and future of the country. In a word: our independent stance on global issues. Issues that gravely affects the ordinary Filipino people.

Nonetheless, on June 10th, as reported by ANC Digital, Prof Carlos speaking as the incoming NSA stated the following remarkable pronouncement:
“We will take a neutral stance. That is what we did from the beginning, and we have a robust relationship with Russia, and Russia might be able to supply us with much needed oil and gas. Russia is there and they are also pivoting to our area. We should take advantage of that.”

This truly makes me happy and hopeful that perhaps finally we have reached that point or juncture in our history that we shall pivot away from the so-called West and forge a true blue independent foreign policy as envisioned by the late great Senator Claro M. Recto.

Then, a couple of day later, after that “historic” statement from the incoming NSA, the Russian envoy, Ambassador Marat Pavlov paid a courtesy visit to the President-Elect to convey various messages such as the congratulations from President Putin and his countries’ readiness “to increase our collaboration. And as far as I understand, the president-elect has also confirmed the same intention of the Philippine side (and he) would like to continue his independent (foreign) policy and to cooperate with the Russian Federation.”

Further, it was also reported that, “during the meeting, we discussed these areas of cooperation and we found out that in this turbulent period of our life, the Russian Federation could extend its hand to help the Philippines in much needed oil, gas and other sources of energy.”

As and academic and a close student of global politics, I overwhelmingly welcome these development in our external relations. The global pandemic and the war in Ukraine have shown that we cannot rely from our so-called allies when it comes to the supply of oil and gas.

The US themselves and almost all of the European Union have a problem with regard to their energy resources and Saudi Arabia (who we are helping since the early 70’s through our labor and manpower-human export) instead of giving us a sort of preferential treatment and discounted oil had announced that they will increased further their prices. This is a shame.

This is unlike Russia with regard to their treatment of India. Not only that the former gave the latter discounted oil but they also agreed to open up new trade routes to further their exchange of goods and relations.

The time has now come for the Philippines to do the same.

Jose Mario D. De Vega
PhD student, Asian Center, University of the Philippines-Diliman
Lecturer, Social Science Department, College of Liberal Arts and Communication, De La Salle University-Damarinas

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