On November 6 (November 7 in the Philippines), Americans voted for their president, vice-president, 33 senators, and all of their congressmen.
The whole world awaits the outcome with bated breath, (and U.S. President Barack Obama is already deemed the winner) knowing that the leadership choice in the world’s only superpower will have a major, if not decisive, impact on the rest of the world. The Philippines, with more than enough historical, economic, political and social ties with its former colonizer, is no exception.
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In a personal way and also within the context of state affairs, Filipinos will be affected. For one, there are already at least 3.4 million Filipino-Americans or 1.1 percent of the U.S. population, making them the second largest Asian minority group.
These Fil-Ams also remits to the Philippines a substantial percentage of their income, providing a major source of spending money to their families, and incidentally fuelling a large Philippine service business sector and real estate boom, and cushioning the effects of the global financial crisis.
Other major economic ties are the rapidly developing business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, tourism, electronics, and the other businesses in the Philippines that cater to the US market or trade.
In terms of political ties, the US and Philippine governments have always been close to each other whether a Republican or Democrat is at the helm of the former. Or, for that matter, whoever is at the head of the Philippine government. American support or approval, among the political elite, is still a much-sought-after political capital, though not as strong as four decades ago.
In the present border dispute with China, the U.S. stance of support for an ally and its own power projection in the Southeast Asian region enjoys the popular approval of many Filipinos and is greatly appreciated by the Aquino government. After all, it allows for elbow room for negotiating with China.
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Culturally, many Filipinos consider the country, wistfully it seems, as a special friend of the United States and therefore allow wide latitude for the latter’s behavior in the country. The American Dream is still a relevant aspiration for many Filipinos despite the nationalistic pride that remain at the core of its national identity.
Within the context of a historically bipartisan foreign policy regarding Philippines by the Democrats and the Republicans, there is not much change that the U.S. presidential election outcome will have on the country. The winning president will still pursue American global interests based on its superpower status and its appraisal of its own interests in the country and the Southeast Asia region.
However, there will be changes in the nuances of this policy. An expected major change if the Republicans win is the return to a more aggressive stance akin to the Bush doctrine of preemptive strikes against potential enemies and promoting democratic regime change. The present Obama stress on diplomacy and building coalitions will be put on the back-burner.
The Philippine government and the ordinary Filipino will have to respond to the nuances and act accordingly from the point of view of the country’s interests. Will the Aquino government do it?