Bolstering the Philippines

THE viability of what must be regarded as a fledgling democracy in the Philippines depends, above all, on the new government's success in restoring economic growth and improving standards of living in both urban and rural areas. Many desperately poor Filipinos will be loyal to whatever government offers the best prospect of a decent livelihood. The United States certainly wants to help the new government and the Philippine people, but our means are limited. There is another developed country whose stake in the Philippines is equal to or greater than that of the US; this is Japan.

Japan and the Philippines are among the very few democratic nations in Asia. Japan is the Philippines' second largest trading partner. Economic progress, the evolution of democratic institutions, and political stability in the Philippines will make a major contribution to the East and Southeast Asian political, economic, and security environment so important to Japan's own security and growth.

Many in the Japanese government recognize their country's stake in the success of President Corazon Aquino's government, and Japan is providing more foreign economic assistance to the Philippines than does the US. But private foundation activities, markets for Philippine manufactured goods, new Japanese investments, and educational opportunities for Filipine students in Japan are not well developed.

Japan's role in the Philippines should be regarded as an important test of Japan's ability to assume increased international responsibilities and contribute to the comprehensive security of free countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The Japanese have long argued that they can best assist free world security through economic means.

Japan should regard the Philippines as a priority country in its foreign policy and develop a comprehensive strategy of help in aid, trade, investment, technical assistance, and education.

It seems to me that it makes a lot of sense if that strategy evolves in close collaboration and consultation with not only the Philippines but also with the US.

A triangular dialogue will not only give the Japanese more confidence but also provide a continuing source of political pressure for the development of a forthcoming and broad policy development. Some Americans may be skeptical of a triangular approach, fearing that it would be cumbersome and slow down assistance programs.

I believe, however, that if we want our allies to share burdens as we say we do, we need to develop stronger habits of meaningful consultations and complementary policy arrangements. I also believe that a tripartite program involving Japan as a key actor and the chief financier would provide a stronger basis of political support for the US program toward the Philippines.

The US and Japan want the Aquino government to succeed. Japan has a golden opportunity to help the Philippines and, in so doing, contribute to regional security and a stronger relationship with the US. I hope Japan will join with us.

Excerpts from a speech by Sen. William V. Roth Jr. (R) of Delaware; chairman, Committee on Governmental Affairs.

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