STRIKE HOME| Goodbye my friend but not forevermore

DEFENSE  Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has confirmed what we adverted to earlier in this column that the so-called joint military exercises between the United States and the Philippines were an anomaly of sorts.

“It benefitted the United States more than the Philippines,” he told the Senate bicameral committee on appointments the other day.

Lorenzana also added that after the American forces allowed our Filipino soldiers to handle some of the weaponry and gadgetry they brought along, they recalled all these afterwards leaving none for the locals.

The analogy we could think of is that of a boy in a neighborhood where he has the only bike and other toys that his less-fortunate neighbors do not have.

So while he allows some of his peers to ride his bike occasionally, it is on some agreed upon terms. And at the end of the day, he makes sure he gathers his toys and leaves none for his peers to play with. That scene played itself out with the closure of the joint military experiences, leaving our soldiers wondering if and when their government can afford to provide them the same hardware.

In Mainland China, President Duterte railed against the inability of our supposed American allies to provide our planes or helicopters the missiles to take out targets from a distance.

“So it is goodbye, my friend,” he told a Filipino audience, referring to the long-standing ally.

But those familiar with Duterte should take this as a hyperbole “which was meant to strike home a point.” If pressed, I believe the president will clarify that thusly: “yes, it is goodbye my friend but not forevermore.”

This was how he explained himself when one Al Jazeera reporter asked him why he “did not ride a jetski and planted a Filipino flag” at the dispute West Philippine Sea shoal as he promised during the campaign period.

“It was a hyperbole meant to stress a point,” he said.

Duterte later clarified he had no intention to break off with the United States.

It is as it should be. Our relations with the United States may not be in the best of terms, but there is no denying the long-standing relations we as a people have with the people of the US of A, which hosts the largest concentration of Filipinos overseas. Some Filipinos in fact have made it as legislators and judges in several states. And it is rare to find a US warship without an Ilocano or a Cebuano-speaking crewman if not an officer on its deck.

Their refusal to treat us as equals and thus allow our military use of their latest hardware, to my mind, stems from colonial mentality and distrust—distrust that this hardware will fall into the wrong hands.

At the same, there is nothing in that relationship that bars the Philippines as a sovereign nation from firming up friendships with other nationalities and their governments which was exactly what Duterte was doing.

His trip to China was thus a bold gambit not only to test the waters but also to meet friends and to establish goodwill. Above all, it was meant to gain respect, a quality that separates vassal states from truly sovereign nations. (JKL)

Posted in Opinion