The Philippines: Why it is Choosing US Destruction Over Chinese Construction

July 3, 2024 (NEO - Brian Berletic) - While the ongoing conflict in Ukraine continues to dominate headlines, occasionally news stories surface regarding growing tensions in the Asia-Pacific region as well. Driven primarily by the US, these headlines also include the proxies Washington is using to stir up an Ukraine-style conflict in the region. 

Among these proxies is the Southeast Asian archipelago nation of The Philippines.

The South China Morning Post in a late June 2024 article titled, “China-Philippines ties on ‘brink of total breakdown’: unpacking the collapse,” would claim to provide an explanation as to why once constructive ties between Beijing and Manila have deteriorated into what may possibly become a destructive confrontation.

The article describes how concrete pillars of a rail project being built with China, have since been torn down, and instead, construction in the Philippines now consists of military bases to be used to point missiles at China.

The article claims:

What began as a story of infrastructure cooperation has morphed into an epic tale of betrayal and confrontation, the once-chummy relationship between Manila and Beijing giving way to escalating geopolitical rivalry.

As with many pro-Western accounts of growing Chinese-Philippine tensions, the article omits the political transition from the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte to that of now President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and how the independent foreign policy of President Duterte was overwritten by the pro-Washington policy of President Marcos Jr.

Maritime disputes treated as minor bilateral concerns to be worked out with Beijing under President Duterte, were escalated into a growing conflict under President Marcos Jr. with US backing, meant to serve as the very pretext to cancel and literally tear down joint Chinese-Philippine projects and replace it with the expansion of the US military’s footprint across the Philippines.

Beijing claims growing tensions specifically over the Second Thomas Shoal, a mostly submerged shoal in the South China Sea, followed the breaking of an agreement with China to suspend Filipino resupply missions to a grounded WW2 ship at the shoal during the Duterte administration. Under the Marcos Jr. administration, resupply missions resumed with Manila, claiming no such agreement was ever made.

China has since released audio recordings of the agreement, causing Manila to backpedal and claim the agreement was not official.

The question becomes, why has Manila decided to choose confrontation with Beijing rather than cooperation?

The answer is Manila did not choose between confrontation and cooperation, Washington did. Far from defending Philippine sovereignty from “Chinese aggression,” growing tensions between China and the Philippines is a direct result from the Philippines’ own sovereignty already being stripped from it through its political capture by Washington.

The US, through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED*) and adjacent organizations has invested for decades millions of dollars a year to influence and interfere in the internal political affairs of nations around the globe, including the Philippines, to shift the respective foreign policies of targeted nations from serving their own best interests to serving Washington’s.

US government-funded media outlets in the Philippines like Rappler, founded by Maria Ressa, a dual US-Philippine citizen, former CNN employee, who also works directly for the NED* as well as receiving funding from the NED*, have an entire section on their homepage dedicated to news about what they call the, “West Philippine Sea.” 

The US-funded media platform fits into a wider strategy of manipulating Philippine public perception regarding China, specifically to poison the Philippine public against China.
In this specific instance, Rappler and others aim at convincing the public that China poses a threat to Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity while convincing the Philippine people to allow US military basing on their own territory and to redirect more public funds from development and infrastructure, to be spent instead on military spending including on facilities for US troops to operate out of, and on US weapons sold to the Philippines itself.

Recently, Reuters exposed other instances of the US government deliberately and malicious manipulating the Philippine public with the intent of poisoning them against China.

In its investigative report, “Pentagon ran secret anti-vax campaign to undermine China during pandemic,” it admits:

[The clandestine operation] aimed to sow doubt about the safety and efficacy of vaccines and other life-saving aid that was being supplied by China, a Reuters investigation found. Through phony internet accounts meant to impersonate Filipinos, the military’s propaganda efforts morphed into an anti-vax campaign. Social media posts decried the quality of face masks, test kits and the first vaccine that would become available in the Philippines – China’s Sinovac inoculation.

Reuters, citing US officials and healthcare experts, admitted that the campaign wasn’t based on a “public health perspective,” but simply aimed to “drag China through the mud,” and endangered the lives of the Philippine public in the process.

While Washington has convinced the Philippine public through US government-funded media that China poses a threat to the Philippines, in actuality it is the US government itself demonstrably harming the Philippines and its people through what are admitted are deliberate lies.

Its campaign to poison the Philippines against China, resulting in canceled public infrastructure projects in exchange for a US-backed military build up threatening to drag the country into armed conflict to fight Washington’s adversary on its behalf and at the Philippines’ own expense is only the most recent chapter in a long, sad story of Washington’s abuse and exploitation of the Philippines.

Washington’s History of Manipulating, Abusing the Philippines 

Omitted from pro-Western coverage of the current tensions between the Philippines and China and the supposed threat an “expansionist” China poses to the Philippines, is the fact that it was the US who actually colonized the Philippines from 1899-1946, brutally suppressing a war for independence fought by the Philippine people against American occupation.

The US State Department’s own Office of the Historian admits US forces, “burned villages, implemented civilian reconcentration policies, and employed torture on suspected guerrillas,” resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos.

The US State Department’s Office of the Historian also discussed a “policy of attraction,” which was “designed to win over key elites and other Filipinos.”

Even after the US officially recognized Philippine independence in 1946, through first the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and then the NED*, the US continued a “policy of attraction” meant to manipulate both the Philippine government and its population to serve US interests even at the expense of the nation’s own best interests.

While those in the Philippines, including Rappler, claim that the NED* is not equivalent to the CIA and that the NED* is “promoting democracy” rather than regime change, the Western media itself over the years has admitted that the NED* was created specifically to take over regime change operations previously carried out by the CIA to make such operations more politically acceptable.

A 1997 New York Times article titled, “Political Meddling by Outsiders: Not New for the U.S.,” would discuss the role the NED* plays in US interference around the globe and specifically in regard to China itself.
The article would admit:

Congress routinely appropriates tens of millions of dollars in covert and overt money to use in influencing domestic politics abroad. 

The National Endowment for Democracy*, created 15 years ago to do in the open what the Central Intelligence Agency has done surreptitiously for decades, spends $30 million a year to support things like political parties, labor unions, dissident movements and the news media in dozens of countries, including China.

More recently, The Guardian in 2004 admitted the US NED* and its subsidiaries carried out regime change operations in Serbia, Georgia, Belarus, and Ukraine.

And in 2011, the New York Times would admit the so-called “Arab Spring,” was the result of years of preparations carried out by the NED* in cooperation with US-based tech giants like Google and Facebook preparing opposition groups from North Africa and the Middle East to overthrow their respective governments.

It is not that the NED* has previously engaged in regime change, it’s that the NED* itself is a regime-change organization and those receiving funding from the NED* play a role in undermining a nation’s sovereignty and aiding the US in politically capturing that nation.

It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that US-funded organizations lying about public health or national security threats would also lie about their own funding and their relationship to those in Washington providing it.

Washington’s Anti-China Agenda is Objectively Threatening the Philippines 

It can be objectively concluded that it is not in the Philippines’ best interests to escalate an ordinary maritime dispute with China into a potential conflict involving the US military on Philippine shores and along its coastlines, and ultimately serving Washington’s open ambitions to contain China.

Looking at the Philippines’ trade, according to Harvard University’s Atlas of Economic Complexity, 30% of Philippine exports go to China, while only 14% (less than half) go to the US.

32% of all Philippine imports come from China, with only 6% coming from the United States.

Does starting a war over a grounded WW2 ship on a submerged shoal with its largest trade partner serve the Philippines’ best interests? Or does it serve Washington’s interests at the expense of the Philippines? The SCMP article already illustrated how badly needed public infrastructure has literally been torn down in exchange for escalating tensions with the Philippines’ largest trade partner, China.

One needs not guess where this will lead the Philippines if it continues to serve US interests by escalating tensions with China because the same process is already well underway in Ukraine.

In Ukraine, the US successfully poisoned the population against Russia through likewise US government-funded media and political organizations, installed into power a pro-Washington government, militarized the nation, and aided in precipitating a conflict with neighboring Russia resulting in a self-destructive war Ukraine is irreversibly losing.

The US is repeating this process in the Philippines. It spends money funding organizations like Rappler to convince ordinary people, otherwise looking out for their best interests, to choose war over economic opportunities, real development, infrastructure spending, better healthcare, and better education.

It requires constant effort to convince people that somehow hating and confronting their largest most important economic partner, on behalf of their former colonial master, is somehow in their best interests.

Genuinely Defending Sovereignty 

Nations in the region must secure not only their borders with armies, shores with navies, and airspace with air forces, but also their information space, political space, academic and cultural space, all from foreign infiltration and capture. The price is just as high as when a foreign nation breaches these spaces as when they breach borders, shores, and airspace.

Bills should be passed to prohibit foreign interference, banning NED* and other foreign-funded organizations and political parties. Investments should be made in creating genuine local media outlets. Academia should be made up of qualified professors with real-world skills to teach students how to build up their nation, not divide and destroy it. Culture should be preserved, celebrated, and added to, rather than undermined, defamed, and erased.

A nation that has a military to secure their physical domains but have left all other domains unprotected – even overrun by foreign influence and interference – have failed just as badly as if they failed to stop an outright military invasion.

Ukraine is a living – or more accurately – dying example of what failure to genuinely protect a nation looks like.

While people in the Philippines are meant to believe China is a threat and that fighting against China is in their best interests, the fact that they’ve been turned against China in the first place means they’ve already lost to foreign invasion – not by China – but by their old and now renewed colonial rulers in Washington, and not along their shores, but within their information and political spaces.

*- is banned in Russia


Brian Berletic is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.