COVID-19 Op-ed

U.S Foreign Aid Giving to the Philippines in the time of Pandemic

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Manoj Kumar PanigrahiPh.D
Candidate, National Chengchi University

The COVID-19 pandemic which was first reported from the Wuhan
province of China in December 2019 has so far affected more than 200
countries and has caused over half a million
deaths (Organization, p. 2). In such a situation the health
infrastructure of all the countries has come under tremendous pressure.
Besides health, the COVID pandemic has also put pressure on the economy as
well. But it has not prevented the donor countries in aid giving.In this
article, I will try to assess the foreign aid being received to the
Philippines in this pandemic period by the U.S. The main question this paper
will try to find out is that why the U.S is giving aid to the Philippines
when its economy and health infrastructure is under huge stress. The reason
for choosing the Philippines among many other countries is because it is one
of the countries which have territorial water dispute with China and had
hosted U.S bases before. Very recently, the Philippine government also took
back its decision not to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) signed
with the U.S in 1998. Had it had been made into law, U.S forces and their
military assets were not going to be allowed in the Philippines territory (Weedon,
2020).Foreign aid can be understood as any sort of assistance given by one
country to another. As per the data available in the U.S Agency for
International Development website, which is one of the nodal agencies of the
U.S government in aid giving, since March 2020, U.S has invested more than
Php978 million ($19.5 million) to the Philippines’ COVID-19 response. Since
the past, 20 years U.S has invested nearly Php29.6 billion ($582 million) in
the Philippine health sector and has provided nearly Php228.8 billion ($4.5
billion) in total assistance (USAID,
2020). The share of the total aid received from the U.S to the Philippines
stands around 15
 (Purushothaman, 2017).With such assistance in a
difficult time, what does the U.S aims to gain from the Philippines? First,
is to regain the confidence of the Philippines government that the U.S can be
a reliable partner of the Philippines. Since President Rodrigo Duterte took
over the leadership of the Philippines, the relation between the two
countries has been in shaky water. The U.S under President Obama on its parts
on multiple occasions has raised the human rights violations under the
Duterte leadership (Lema,
2017). With the next U.S President Trump has praised President Duterte for
doing an unbelievable
job on the drug problem
 (Lema, 2017). Such a change in the
mood of Washington can be seen as there is a growing realization among the
U.S policymakers as a need to regain the confidence of the traditional allies
in the Indo/Asia-Pacific region.The U.S aims to bring back the Philippines in
its side by not getting involved in the domestic issues of the Philippines.
The Philippine public has also shown confidence in Trump in handling
international matters. A survey report released by the Pew research center
shows that 77 percent of Filipino people have confidence in Trump. And 80
percent of the Filipino people surveyed showed a favorable
view of the U.S
 (Acosta, 2020) . This survey shows a high
level of trust among common people in the Philippines towards the U.S. This
can be crucial for the leadership of the Philippines to approach the U.S in a
much friendly manner besides having differences.Secondly, the U.S needs its
allies to support in dealing with a rising China in the region. The U.S has
started re-balancing act in the region by increasing conducting military
flights and letting its warships sailing in the disputed South China Sea (Detsch,
2020) . The VFA as it was supposed to get terminated by the end of August
2020, saw a suspension from President Duterte itself. It is going to give a
morale boost to the policymakers both in the Philippines and the U.S who had
advocated in the increasing involvement of the U.S in the region. The reason
for scrapping the earlier decision of ending the VFA can be seen as the
Philippines is facing a more aggressive China since March.Third, U.S policy
of War on Terror (WOT). U.S forces have been a constant partner of the
Philippines armed forces in dealing with the armed groups in the disturbed
Mindanao region, in the southern Philippines. The Marawi siege of 2017 saw a
major security challenge to the Philippines government. Under its WOT policy,
U.S soldiers were present in providing technical assistance to the
Philippines Army
(Morales & Lewis, 2017). Such assistance, during the siege, has
possibly reassured the U.S allies that it is still can be seen as a trusted
partner in critical situations. The COVID-19 situation might have deterred
the ground operations by the Philippines government against the armed groups,
but it has not hampered in procuring the military hardware from the U.S. Such
relation can be seen as a constant effort from both sides to keep the
relationship and partnership going.What lays in the future? By assisting the
Philippines government, it can be seen that the U.S wants a strong and
reliable partner that has a very strategic location in the South China Sea.
The U.S on its part might be looking for opening up its bases in the
Philippines. It is also equally important for both the nation’s leadership to
trust each other and continue the partnership. The Philippines government
under Duterte has rightly recognized the importance of the U.S in the region
as it has not been able to address the growing Chinese aggression in the
region. With the Duterte administration having less than two years in power,
U.S has been trying to gain the lost ground in the Philippines so that the
next leadership will be more acceptable to the U.S policies in the region. It
is to the benefit of both sides to continue the partnership with each other.
The COVID-19 pandemic is very unlikely to be controlled so soon, as nations
across the world are trying to find its vaccination. Such time might see a
greater and long term partnership between the Philippines and the
R. (2020, January 9). Philippines loves Trump the most-
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Detsch, J. (2020, July 9). U.S. Carriers Send a Message to Beijing
Over South China Sea
. Retrieved from Foreign Policy:
Lema, K. (2017, November 8). Philippines’ Duterte to Trump: ‘Lay
off’ human rights when we meet
. Retrieved from Reuters:
Morales, N. J., & Lewis, S. (2017, June 10). U.S. joins
battle as Philippines takes losses in besieged city
. Retrieved
from Reuters:
Organization, W. H. (2020, April 23). Coronavirus disease 2019
(COVID-19) Situation Report-94.
Retrieved July 12, 2020, from
World Health Organization:
Purushothaman, C. (2017, May 25). Why is the Philippines Turning
Away Foreign Aid?
Retrieved from The Diplomat:
USAID. (2020, July 12). United States COVID-19 Assistance To The
. Retrieved from USAID From the American People:
Weedon, A. (2020, July 2). Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte has
backflipped on his divorce plans with the US military-why?

Retrieved July 12, 2020, from ABC: 

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