“The humanitarian missions are held in conjunction with the military exercises,” Araullo said. “But if you look at it in a deeper way, do we have to surrender sovereignty so that roads may be built? There should be no such trade-off.”
The DFA also states in the fact sheet that the “VFA is essential to RP-US cooperation in the Philippine Defense Reform Program.” It goes on to enumerate the Excess Defense Articles that the Philippines has so far received from the US:
The United States has already provided the AFP with eight helicopters in 2000; 20 of the 30 committed UH-1H (Huey helicopters) in 2007; one cyclone; six fast anti-terrorism boats; 433 M-35 trucks; 30,000 M-16 rifles; one C130; two Point Class navy cutters; night vision goggles; navigation equipment; and protection equipment such as vests and helmets.
In addition to being the Philippines’ largest source of foreign military financing, valued at an average of $30 million annually in grants, the United States has also committed to share in the expenses for the implementation of the Joint Defense Assessment (JDA), costing approximately $400 million over a ten-year period. The US National Defense Authorization Act also allocated $12 million and $16 million to the Coast Watch South Project in 2007 and 2008, respectively, to strengthen security at our borders.
“The Armed Forces of the Philippines believes that by accommodating US forces here, they will be getting surplus equipment from the United States, especially the surplus equipment that the US Army already considers scrap,” Simbulan said. “Instead of throwing it to the junk yard, they ‘donate’ it, as they had done with the scrap that they had during the Vietnam War. Many of the obsolete helicopters that they used in Vietnam were turned over to the (Philippine) Army.”
Excess Defense Articles are defined and described under the US Foreign Assistance Act thus:
…the quantity of defense articles (other than construction equipment, including tractors, scrapers, loaders, graders, bulldozers, dump trucks, generators, and compressors) owned by the United States Government, and not procured in anticipation of military assistance or sales requirements, or pursuant to a military assistance or sales order, which is in excess of the Approved Force Acquisition Objective and Approved Force Retention Stock of all Department of Defense Components at the time such articles are dropped from inventory by the supplying agency for delivery to countries or international organizations under this Act.
The Military Departments determine what is or is not excess, and after surveying requirements by potential recipient countries, recommend an allocation of excess assets to the EDA Coordinating Committee… Equipment which has been transferred from the Military Departments to the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service (DRMS), is also available for transfer through the EDA program if an eligible foreign government makes known its requirements for the equipment.
EDA is offered either at reduced or no cost to eligible foreign recipients on an “as is, where is” basis. The foreign recipients, in most cases, are responsible for the costs of packing, handling, and transportation, as well as any restorative work and follow on support. Foreign recipients may purchase such services from the Department of Defense through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program.
Junking the VFA
Araullo and Simbulan agree that, at this point, there is more than sufficient reason to junk the VFA.
“We have more to lose” by keeping the VFA, Simbulan said. “It is only the United States that benefits from the VFA.”
Ten years after the VFA was ratified, Bayan’s Reyes said, “the Philippines is no better nor safer. What has happened is that our sovereignty has been constantly undermined by the permanent presence of foreign troops. What happened were cases of rape, human rights abuses and even corruption.”
Araullo said that the campaign against the VFA should broaden so that it may be junked. It should broaden “in terms of the population reach and in terms of the number of people who are able to (come) out, to lobbies, to the street, to protests, to join us in the court cases – that is what has to be done,” she said. (Bulatlat.com)