Duterte can be greatest President yet – Joma Sison
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte could be the Philippines’ greatest president if he indeed asserts national sovereignty and territorial integrity in tandem with economic and social reforms the communist movement has demanded over the past 50 years.
This was the unsolicited advice of the octogenarian Jose Maria “Joma” Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), when asked about the the country’s announced withdrawal from its Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.
“There would be lasting peace with the revolutionary movement,” Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), said in an online interview from his base in Utrecht in The Netherlands.
Sison stressed that ending the military pacts with the US “must be complemented by national industrialization and genuine land reform in order to ensure the support of the Filipino people and their revolutionary movement”.
If President Duterte can assert national sovereignty against the US, Sison said, “he should also be able to assert the same against Chinese imperialism.”
He urged the President to demand that China withdraw from the artificial and militarized islands built in the country’s exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea and that Beijing comply with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and International Arbitral Tribunal decision in favor of the Philippines.
Duterte can then strengthen the country’s alliance with member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) that have been “aggrieved by the aggressive extraterritorial claims of China and with the overwhelming majority of states in the world, including the US, without going into unequal treaties with it”.
“If Duterte can do everything that I have said, then I will salute him as the president fundamentally different from and superior to all his predecessors in terms of patriotism and progressiveness,” Sison said.
But that is not necessarily so, said Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the Senate national defense and security committee.
“No man is an island. It’s bravado to say we will stand on our own two feet alone. No country is like that,” Lacson said over dwIZ, stressing that anti-Americanism would undermine the benefits the country receives, like technical assistance and intelligence sharing, from the United States.
Lacson said all countries rely on alliances with other countries, and smaller and underdeveloped nations, like the Philippines, need the help of allies, particularly those with whom the country shares strategic interests.
“The US also needs the Philippines, not for anything but for our strategic location since commerce passes through us, along with their drug interdiction, and they have interest in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said. “The Philippines is too strategic for them to disregard.”
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said he believes the Philippines would be able to adapt even without a VFA.
The last military pact the country forged with the United States was the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) of 2014, which remains in force. Both the VFA and Edca are subsidiary to the 69-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, the country’s only mutual defense pact.
But Gatchalian also said it would be a good time to consider better and fairer military and security agreements with other countries.
“We must not forget the lessons that we have learned from our past negotiations with a foreign state,” he added.
The country also has a Status of Visiting Forces Agreement with Australia, signed in 2007, that has been praised as a much better VFA that the one with the United States.
The Philippines also has a border patrol agreement with Indonesia and Malaysia, signed in 2017, that also has features of a visiting forces agreement.
The trilateral border patrol was a first of its kind military agreement for the country and allows Malaysian and Indonesian troops to pursue suspected terrorists who are in process of fleeing their respective countries.
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