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Myths and Realities in Philippine Foreign Policy

Myths and Realities in Philippine Foreign Policy

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Published by Steve B. Salonga
A lecture on Philippine Foreign Policy in 1964. This contemporary analysis predicts China's rise to Asian leadership in the future.
A lecture on Philippine Foreign Policy in 1964. This contemporary analysis predicts China's rise to Asian leadership in the future.

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Published by: Steve B. Salonga on Aug 28, 2010
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11/08/2012

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Myths and Realities in Philippine Foreign Policy
Jovito R. Salonga
Delivered at the Ateneo de Manila University Seminar of “TheResponsiblities of Freedom” held November 12, 1964.
When the Philippines became independent on July 4, 1946, our country wasin ruins - its agriculture and industry had been wrecked, its principal cities werea nightmarish jungle of twisted steel and shell-shattered concrete and a greatnumber of people were torn between the losses of the war and the hopes of anew day.The memories of the conflict with Japan were still fresh and men debatedbitterly and long about their loyalties. Collaboration was the red-hot issue. To becalled a collaborator, even without proof, was worse than committing murder. Itwas as if one had sold the country to the enemy. Patriots and resistance leadersgrew in number long after peace had descended upon towns and villages. Andso, the issue of collaboration occupied the minds of our people for many monthseven after Manuel Roxas, who had won on the issue, bested his opponent,Sergio Osmena, who was "the untainted one" in the presidential elections of1946. As it turned out, even in the elections of 1949, Elpidio Quirino - whobecame President after the death of Roxas - made much use of thecollaboration issue against his opponent, Jose P. Laurel, the wartime presidentof the Japanese-sponsored Philippine Republic, in an election that was bothbitter and fraught with dangers to the newborn State.But the collaboration issue obscured in some way one crucial fact: that 1946was more than just the year of political independence. The events of that yearshaped the course of the Republic. It was in that year when the foundations ofthe new nation were laid. It was in that year, to be more specific, when theUnited States Congress passed the Philippine Trade Act of 1946, whichcontained the so-called "parity" clause and the 33-year arrangement for theadjustment of free-trade relations between the United States and thePhilippines. It was in that year when the United States Congress, in an effort tofulfill all sorts of promises made by responsible American officials during thewar, passed the Philippine Rehabilitation Act of 1946 which provided that thepayment of war damages to any claimant in excess of US $ 500 (which included
Salonga J.R.,
Land of The Morning 
, Regina Publishing Company, 1967
1
 
roughly 80% of the claimants) would not be made until the Parity Act becameeffective. This meant the Filipinos had to amend their Constitution in order togive citizens of the United States and "all forms of business enterprise owned orcontrolled, directly or indirectly, by citizens of the United States," the same rightswhich Filipinos have in the development of our natural resources and theoperation of public utilities. And amend the Constitution we did.It was also in 1946 that the American Congress passed the MilitaryAssistance Act, to be followed in a year's time by the Military Bases Agreement,under which military bases were established by the United States in thePhilippines.Actually, what happened to us was this: we launched our ship out into theopen, turbulent sea, but what we did launch in 1946 was a vessel that could notsail the way we might have wanted it. To be sure, we asserted our right to befree, to the beating of drums and the blare of trumpets. In internationalconferences, we even pointed with great pride to the glorious record that wasassociated with historic names - Bataan and Corregidor. But while our hearersacknowledged the bravery of our people, they saw through our loud andsonorous protestations. Our offers of leadership were spurned by our co-Asians,Nehru being the best example, and we were described as nothing more than anAmerican puppet by those who had no regard for our finer sensibilities.It needed the unspoilt mind of an outside observer to portray to us theparadox of our condition. A sympathetic American writer, George Taylor, indescribing the launching of the Philippine Republic, puts the situation in veryclear language:"New forms of alien bondage - political, economic and military -were being clamped down on the Filipinos. The United States wastrying to preserve the colonial character of the Philippine economy,perpetuate the economic dependence of the Philippines on Americancapital and transform the Philippines into a permanent auxiliary basefor the American Army and Navy in the Western Pacific..."The most serious shortcomings of the American record becameapparent within a few years of independence when the Bell Missionmade a systematic review of the situation in the Philippines andprepared a detailed report on what had to be done by the Philippinesand the United States if the Republic were to survive in 1950.Although intended mainly as an economic survey, the discussionsand recommendations of the Bell Mission extended to the social andinstitutional changes that were necessary for economic growth. Many
Salonga J.R.,
Land of The Morning 
, Regina Publishing Company, 1967
2
 
of the changes, especially those relating to land tenure andproductivity, could have been brought about during the 50 years ofAmerican occupation... By 1950 it was obvious that when the USCongress was fulfilling the promise of independence in 1946, it wasnot laying the foundations for the development of a strong andindependent Philippines. The Filipinos got off to a very bad start onthe road to independence."Had this rather blunt criticism been aired by a Filipino during the height of theHuk movement, particularly in 1950-1951, he would have been branded aCommunist, here and abroad.But we now can look back with objectivity at the events that transpired sincewe asserted our right to be free.In 1949, the Nationalist Government was driven out of mainland China. In1950, the Korean War broke out. The Huks had been up in arms in many placesin Luzon. And the situation in Indo-China was deteriorating very rapidly. Theattention of the United States was drawn closely to Southeast Asia andparticularly to the Philippines - her most reliable friend in a region of ragingturmoil and conflict.An Economic Survey Mission was sent to the Philippines in 1950 upon therequest of President Quirino. Known as the Bell Mission, named after itsChairman, former Undersecretary of the Treasury, Daniel W. Bell, it rendered acomprehensive report on the economic problems of the Philippines - ourinefficiency in production, the gross inequalities in wealth, the imbalancebetween prices and wages, between government expenditures and taxes,between production and need - and suggested financial and social reforms -including the enactment of the minimum wage law and certain tax measures.The Mission recommended that the United States make loans and grants of US$250 million, on the condition that the Philippine Government took steps to carryout the recommendations of the report. Reluctantly, we did--and the UnitedStates made its point: that financial help can be used as leverage to correctwhat has been described as "the results of 50 years of neglect in thePhilippines." In short, instead of crippling the Republic, as it did in 1946, theUnited States apparently began to help the Filipinos help themselves.In the early 1950's, Ramon Magsaysay, as Quirino's Secretary of NationalDefense, with the help of American arms and propaganda, decimated the Hukmovement and in 1953, defeated Elpidio Quirino in the presidential elections.Whatever may be said about the quality of his administration, Magsaysay
Salonga J.R.,
Land of The Morning 
, Regina Publishing Company, 1967
3

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