Over the past few weeks I have mentioned the Philippines on several different occasions. I have suggested both moral and substantive (financial) support is in order as they try to face down a regional bully.
My very personal assessment is that of the three Asian middle powers, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, the Philippines is the one most likely to benefit from the sorts of important but “invisible exports” that Canada can send its way. When I look at the three (and I have visited all three in recent years) I see distinctly different histories. The British, as early as the 1920s, began to understand the need for and even, in the late 1920s, to plan for the eventual independence of India and of all the remaining colonies. It, Indian self rule, was why Winston Churchill was “in the political wilderness” in the early 1930s; he opposed it. But farsighted British politicians were considering it and, eventually, ‘self rule’ for Malaya and all the other Asian and African colonies, too, and they began to “plant” the institutions which would make (largely) successful statehood possible. The Dutch, on the other hand, liberals though were socially and politically, saw their Indonesian colonies as, essentially, commercial ventures rather than as potential countries. The Americans, the colonial masters of the Philippines, were in the middle: they wanted to grant the Philippines independence but they did not “plant” especially strong institutions. My (personal) sense is that Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines all have very, very similar indigenous cultures but quite different institutions ranging from strong in Malaysia to weak in Indonesia.
It seems to me that the Philippines, especially given its often difficult relationship with the USA (which many Canadians understand very well), is likely to benefit from stronger socio-economic and political ties with Canada.
There is another politically important factor shown on this spreadsheet: Immigrants 2. The Philippines is now the third largest source of immigrants to Canada, and Filipinos are proving to be excellent citizens. About 30,000 people from the Philippines have been arriving each year and they are proving to be just the sorts of immigrants we want: hard working, entrepreneurial, moderately conservative in their values and willing (and able) to adapt to our social structures. They, the hundreds of thousands of new Canadians of Philippines origin, have, of course, connections ~ business and familial ~ in the Philippines and they are ready to help make further, strionger and deeper connections.
How can we help?
First: we should take positive measures to increase immigration from the Philippines. We don’t need to change any rules, just move some (not all, not even most) immigration officers from places that produce few and less than ideal immigrants (e.g. from the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, for example) to places (like China, India and the Philippines) that produce “better quality” new Canadians so that we can process more applications and process them more quickly;
Second: we should encourage more, better and stronger trade and commercial ties ~ making better use of the talents and connections of new Canadians of Philippines origin; and
Third: we should undertake both some immediate and some longer term military aid to and cooperations with the Philippines.
As a start, we should transfer two of our Kingston class coastal defence vessels (which, as I understand it, we cannot operate ourselves due to crew shortages) to the Philippines navy. We should also announce that when, not if, we build a new minor war vessel to replace the Kingston class ships, we should offer to build two for the Philippines Navy, too. In the meantime we should send a frigate and a long range patrol (CP-140) aircraft to the Philippines every year, beginning soon, in late 2016, to conduct combined training with the Philippines armed forces and to work with them to help them patrol the Philippines’ territorial waters. When, not if, we buy new unmanned aerial vehicles we should offer one set to be based, with Canadian operators, in the Philippines, for regional reconnaissance, over and above our other requirements.
These are costly endeavours, but they will pay HUGE dividends in influence: far out of proportion to their dollar values. They will send messages to all the Pacific nations, including America, Australia and China, that Canada is engaged as a full member of the Trans Pacific community. It will not weaken our influence with China; they will understand that we are supporting a friend, even if we act to help check China’s expansion into the parts of the South China Seas that are, rightfully, Philippines’ territory. In fact China might even respect us more for taking a stand.