Pacific Postcards

US Imperialism: Is the Philippines A Pawn? - Minna Belidhon

US colonialism has started a series of exploitation that makes formerly colonized countries like the Philippines, disadvantaged and indebted so it has become dependent on the United States even up to the present day. Because of this, US imperialism still holds control over the Philippines by sending military foreign aid. The West Philippine Sea dispute between China, the United States, and the Philippines is one primary example of this. The ongoing competition for power between the United States and China puts the Philippines in the middle as a pawn over China and US disputes. The U.S. money and aid means alliance. And this alliance means more power against China.

In an article written by Jairo Bolledo, a journalist from Rappler, one of the main news media in the Philippines, states how the most recent US and Philippine ties are the US military aid to the Philippines to aid the current fight of the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea against China. Rappler is an independent journalism news outlet pioneered by activist journalists like Maria Ressa, Nix Nolledo, and Cheche Lazaro. It has risen in popularity when ABS-CBN, the former Philippines’ largest media and news company, shut down in May of 2020. Although this article, and the whole news website in general, is intended for the citizens of the Philippines, it is significant to note that it is known to criticize and challenge the government’s policies and claims. Maria Ressa, its main founder and executive editor, and Rappler have been targeted by authorities in the Philippines for more than a year. 

The article speaks about what the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) received from the U.S. Military. On June 21, 2021, the AFP “received P138 million ($3.8 million) worth of weapons and equipment from the United States” (Bolledo). Officials from JUSMAG-P, the Joint United States Military Assistance Group-Philippines have delivered the weapons at Clark Air Base, Pampanga. The military gear such as “M3P .50 caliber heavy machine guns and 10 mortar tubes” (Bolledo), were to be used and is “expected to enhance the AFP’s counterterrorism and maritime security capabilities” (Bolledo). 

But why does the United States send money to the Philippines? Is it out of genuine support? Is it for global peace? In the “Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America: Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive Edge,” the plans and reasoning behind the United States’ actions are stated and signed by Jim Mattis, the 26th United States Secretary of Defense. China is seen as “a strategic competitor” of the United States as it “continues to pursue a military modernization program that seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and displacement of the United States to achieve global preeminence in the future” (Mattis, 1). The United States and China have been competing for global power. With China’s rising technology, military, and territorial power, the Philippines is caught in the fight as it also battles against China for the West Philippine Sea or otherwise known as the South China Sea. 

In the defense strategy article, one of the defense objectives mentioned is to “[maintain] favorable regional balances of power in the Indo-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and the Western Hemisphere” (Mattis, 9). As proven by the US military hold in the Philippines, the United States holds power in the Indo-Pacific. Another defense objective is “defending allies from military aggression and bolstering partners against coercion, and fairly sharing responsibilities for the common defense” (Mattis, 9). This checks off why AFP has received such a large amount of money from the United States. The “allies” mentioned are the Philippines. The “military aggression” is China and “fairly sharing responsibilities for common defense” means the P183 million worth of weapons and artillery. The United States wants to continue to expand its Indo-Pacific alliances and partnerships and it is all to benefit the United States itself. The Philippines is a lone country with already a disadvantaged government from all of the colonization and exploitation in labor and resources it has endured, from Spain, Japan, and the United States itself. But by providing aid to the Philippines, the United States gains ranks against China. Its imperialist hands seek out to control aggression, maintain stability, and ensure the United States itself has free territorial access for resources and trade in the Pacific.

These “defense strategies” remain in action in the Philippines today and were also recently reassured. Throughout the decades, the Philippine-US relations have continued over different US presidents. Today, the Biden administration remains resolute with its agreement with the Philippines especially when China holds a continuous presence at Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea. In an article by CNN Philippines, the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken assures that the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty is still ready to go into activation once China triggers an armed attack. The US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty, signed in 1951, has “paved the way for the VFA [Visiting Forces Agreement], which provides a legal framework for the presence of US troops in the Philippines for war games and joint activities” (Bolledo). As quoted, Blinken states, “The United States stands with our ally, the Philippines, in the face of the PRC's [People's Republic of China's] maritime militia amassing at Whitsun Reef. We will always stand by our allies and stand up for the rules-based international order” (CNN Philippines).  Blinken has also warned that Washington and even Tokyo, is prepared to push back when China’s armed forces “[threatens] stability and order in Asia” as China “conducted simultaneous military exercises to the west and east of Taiwan” (CNN Philippines). As mentioned in the article, the US further proves that they truly mean to “Expand its Indo-Pacific Alliances.”

Although the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty and all of the foreign aid and weapons seem helpful when looked at from a rose-colored lens, it still ties the US and the Philippines together. It supposedly gives both nations rights traded with each other but who has the upper hand? If the Philippines is left alone by the US, China would triumph over the West Philippine Sea, winning advantage against the US. And since in the current state of society, capitalist and imperialist countries are constantly in an arms race, it just makes sense to gain alliances and partnerships.

The US foreign aid given to AFP might benefit the military of the Philippines against China but war and disputes affect countries and their people. The money and power given to the Philippines can be and is being abused by the government and the Philippine National Police (PNP). Filipino fishermen's business and lives are also constantly at stake as Beijing’s aggression in the sea heightens. It is a war. With true consequences, problems and lives that affect real citizens. But no matter how much the Philippines fight back, it is impossible for it to stand on its own when the main power isn’t within grasp at all. Although unfortunate, the Philippines is still under US Imperialism. US Imperialism is not just about physical limitation and physical colonization, it goes further than that. It is seen where formerly colonized countries like the Philippines get aid and grants and why they need one in the very first place.



- Bolledo, J. (2021, June 22). AFP receives P183 million worth of weapons from the US military. Rappler. Retrieved November 6, 2021, from



- Mattis, J. (n.d.). Summary of the 2018 national defense strategy. U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved November 21, 2021, from

- Staff, C. N. N. P. (n.d.). Chinese armed attacks in West Ph sea to 'trigger US obligations' in defense treaty – official. cnn. Retrieved November 21, 2021, from


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