Opinion

What Would Happen if the Philippines Left the United Nations?

This is what would happen if the Philippines left the United Nations.
IMAGE PIXABAY
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Last week, Iceland led the United Nations Human Rights Commission in drafting a resolution that calls for concrete actions, which could also include UN investigation, into the alleged drug war in the Philippines.

The move ruffled many feathers, particularly those of Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, who suggested that the Philippines leave the United Nations entirely. According to Sotto, leaving the United Nations would save the Philippines some $8,731,570 annually—the contribution that the country pays to the body as a member.

Sotto has since backtracked on his pronouncement (Here are other outrageous statements he hasn’t retracted). But what if the Philippines really did pull out from the United Nations? Here is what would happen.

1| The Philippines would lose international influence.

If the Philippines leaves the United Nations, the most significant and immediate effect that would have is the Philippines losing power in the international arena. Historically, the Philippines has been an influential voice in the United Nations, not just in its nascent years, but also in very recent years. At the United Nations, countries look up to the Philippines as a vanguard of equality and protector of women and children’s rights. In 2011, the Philippines successfully led a resolution on gender equality and climate change, which was adopted by many countries.

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According to Dr. Dennis Coronacion, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Santo Tomas, leaving the United Nations would have severe repercussions for the Philippines. “The Philippines will be isolated. We’ll never be invited to significant United Nations events. We’ll miss the chance to influence UN policymaking,” said Coronacion.

Part of the advantages of being a member of the UN is keeping the prestige of the position that countries use to project power and influence other states. That’s what the Philippines stands to lose if it leaves.

2| The Philippines would lose international aid.

Aside from losing influence, the Philippines would also lose support from other countries, according to Coronacion. “We might not get as much as assistance as we need from the international community. In case a disaster takes place in our country, it is possible that the only ones who would help are countries with whom we have bilateral ties,” said Coronacion.

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The United Nations plays a central role in rallying its members to donate to disaster-stricken countries. It also tells its members how much aid is needed in a particular country, such as the Philippines. In 2013 after Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated the Philippines, the UN leadership sounded the horns for countries to step up and give aid to the Philippines. According to the Inquirer, P21.8 billion in funds was coursed through the UN and given to the Philippines as aid for the survivors of the super typhoon.

3| The Philippines would lose access to certain international funds.

As a developing country, the Philippines enjoys significant benefits at the United Nations in terms of financial aid, loan applications with relatively low interest, and access to emergency funds whenever calamities occur.

One of these funds is the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), a special humanitarian fund established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005 for countries who experience crises and disasters. The Philippines was one of the countries who campaigned for its creation.

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The Philippines would also lose access to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), a fund created to support people whose lives were ravaged by war. The UNICEF has been very instrumental in supporting the victims and survivors of the Battle of Marawi which happened in 2017.

4| UN organizations would pull out of the Philippines.

If the Philippines leaves the United Nations, then UN organizations working in the Philippines to reduce poverty and improve Filipinos’ lives would also leave the country. These organizations are the United Nations World Food Programme, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO) which is headquarted in Manila, and many more.

5| The Philippines would lose protection against international bullies.

For countries like the Philippines, the United Nations acts as a shield and leverage against powerful countries that attempt to bully it. In international relations, the United Nations is known as the great equalizer among nations because of how the UN as a body treats countries equally and fairly.

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The Philippines used this to its advantage in 2013 when it filed a case against China concerning maritime questions in the West Philippine Sea. The whole world marveled at the Philippines’ victory in 2016, when it successfully convinced the Permanent Court of Arbitration to declare China’s Nine-dash Line as illegal.

Majority of the countries of the world, especially members of the UN, recognize the Court’s decision. That meant that they also recognize that the Philippines has sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea. This support from numerous members of the UN gained for the Philippines very important protection and leverage against China, who is historically hesitant to take drastic action if it risks losing international prestige. For China, acting against the opinion of a majority of UN members is risking losing international prestige and influence.

Leaving the UN is a Great Dishonor on the Philippines’ Legacy

Apart from the things mentioned, leaving the UN would not only lose the Philippines so much benefits, it would also besmirch the great legacy that the Philippines has left with the institution.

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The Philippines was one of the UN’s founding members in 1945. Its name is forever immortalized in the signature it left in the UN Charter.

At the United Nations, we have stood up for children’s rights, we have stood up for women’s rights, and when our rights were being trampled upon, its members stood up for us.

The Philippines also gave the UN its first Asian president—Carlos P. Romulo, “The Great Statesman.” In 1948, after a disagreement during the third UN General Assembly, the Soviet Union (USSR) top diplomat Andrei Vishinsky approached Romulo and belittled him and the Philippines.

“You are just a little man from a little country,” said Vishinsky.

“It is the duty of the little Davids of this world to fling the pebbles of truth in the eyes of the blustering Goliaths and force them to behave!” said Romulo. Vishinsky walked away. Ever since the inception of the United Nations in 1945, the Philippines has been a very vocal, influential, and valuable asset as a member. 

At the United Nations, we have stood up for children’s rights, we have stood up for women’s rights, and when our rights were being trampled upon, its members stood up for us.

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No, it’s not about saving $8,731,570 annually in membership dues, it’s about losing our international prestige, influence, and legacy if we leave the United Nations.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
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