Balancing Act

Balancing Act

Caricature courtesy of Wings For Life

Presidents Bongbong Marcos, Joe Biden of the United States, and Xi Jinping of China. (Photo: NBC News/Manila Times/

In a world of complex threats, our security and leadership depend on all elements of our power—including strong and principled diplomacy.

— Former United States President Barack Hussein Obama

(With excerpts from the Daily Tribune)

AMERICAN vaudeville actor William Penn Adair Roger once said, rather humorously but with some erudite advice, “diplomacy is the art of saying ‘nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.”
A funny quotation it may seem but in truth, diplomacy is a subtle driver in nurturing foreign relations that has a bearing on our geo-politicking policies, particularly with two global superpowers—the United States and the People’s Republic of China.

But the Philippines, though minuscule in size and of late considered the ‘sick man of Asia’, still has a vital role in the geopolitical scenario in the Asia-Pacific region so it’s no wonder why Chinese president Xi Jinping and his American counterpart Joe Biden were early well-wishers of newly-installed President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. whom both greeted and welcomed as a friend and ally not only with standard diplomatic courtesy but with enthusiasm to pave the initial step in advancing their competing interests.

Xi congratulated Marcos in a phone call to his Philippine counterpart two days after the national election: “I attach great importance to the development of China-Philippines relations and am willing to establish a good working relationship (with Marcos).”

In his turn, Biden told Marcos that “he looks forward to working with the president-elect to continue strengthening the US-Philippine alliance, while expanding bilateral cooperation on a wide range of issues, including the fight against Covid-19, addressing the climate crisis, promoting broad-based economic growth, and respect for human rights.”

For his part, our new president assured Biden that the Philippines “(will) always hold the United States in high regard as a friend, an ally and a partner.”

US allies also delivered congratulatory messages to Marcos Jr. in the same tune as Washington with Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Joanne Ou congratulating Marcos on his victory, stressing “that Taiwan is looking forward to working with the new administration to further strengthen cooperation.”

Likewise, European Union (EU) high representative for foreign affairs and security policy Josep Borrell Fontelles tweeted: “The EU looks forward to working with the new administration to advance our relations and EU-ASEAN ties.”

China’s ally Russian President Vladimir Putin did not take long to greet Marcos although unlike his congratulation to Biden which came more than a month after the US leader won the presidential election in November 2020: “I expect that your activity as head of state will help further promote the constructive cooperation between Russia and the Philippines in various spheres,” Putin said in his telegram to Marcos on May 12.

“This meets in full the interests of our nations and is in line with the endeavors to strengthen security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region,” Putin added.

Scott Morrison was still Australia’s prime minister when he relayed his congratulations to Marcos in a tweet the following day: “Following the 75th anniversary of Australia-Philippines relations last year, we look forward to continuing to advance our long-standing friendship.” “Israel will continue to work closely with the incoming administration of the Philippines to strengthen the friendly historic ties of our nations and to deepen the existing partnerships in agriculture, food security, water, tourism, innovation and technology, and defense, among others,” Israel’s embassy in Manila said also on May 13.

“I look forward to closing cooperation between our two new governments to further deepen our friendship and partnership,” South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who is also the new leader of his country like Marcos, said in a letter addressed to the latter dated two days later.

Reporting Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s 15-minute phone call to Marcos on 20 May, Japan’s embassy in Manila said he “expressed his resolve to continue cooperation on the economic front such as infrastructure development including railways and Subic Bay development, as well as in the security and coast guard law enforcement fields, through the High-Level Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation and the Foreign and Defense Ministerial Meeting, among others.”

Hinting at Tokyo’s foreign policy, Kishida also expressed his wish for future close coordination with Marcos for the realization of a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” a euphemism for countering China’s aggressive expansion of its notorious nine dash-line in the South China Sea and recruitment of allies in the Pacific Ocean through the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad security alliance of the US, Australia, Japan, and India.

Even without a reported greeting from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, leader of the world’s fifth-largest economy, a remark from his compatriot, Prince Charles, more than made up for the United Kingdom’s missing compliments.

The heir to the British throne was interacting with the public during his visit to Canada on 12 May when a Filipina identified herself from the crowd, Yahoo! News reported.

“I see you elected a new President. Bongbong,” the Prince said referring to Marcos’ nickname, according to Yahoo! News.

The woman replied, “Yes, sir. We love him. Bongbong Marcos,” to which Prince Charles said, “Wonderful name!” the report said.

Amidst all these congratulatory messages, we hope that our new chief executive will polish his skills in foreign policy and country-to-country relations which would benefit the Filipinos even more.

Kudos, Mr. President, and we’re hoping for the best from you!

FOR your comments or suggestions, complaints or requests, just send a message through my email or text me at cellphone numbers 09054292382 for Globe subscribers and 09391252568 for Smart. Thank you and Mabuhay! (ai/mtvn)

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