US Troops in Philippines: America Pursues Expansionism, Protects Economic Interests

Art. XVIII, Sec. 25 of the Philippine Constitution provides that:

“After the expiration in 1991 of the Agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America concerning military bases, foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.”

Government officials supporting the continued stay of US troops in the Philippines have claimed that the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) allows their prolonged presence in the country. The VFA, however, is not recognized by the US government as a treaty.

Economic Interests

Zamboanga City, the largest city of Zamboanga del Sur, is “home” to the Zamboanga Freeport Authority, where US corporations like Multi-Products Distribution and International Power Distributor are among the investors. Zamboanga del Sur is also a major mining area in Mindanao, aside from being rich in marine and aquaculture resources.

The nearby Maguindanao is one of the provinces straddled by Liguasan Marsh, together with North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat. Covering 288,000 hectares, Liguasan Marsh is rich in oil and natural gas reserves. Former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Nur Misuari, citing estimates by American oil engineers, has said total earnings from the natural gas reserves of Liguasan Marsh could amount to $580 billion.

As if to underscore the importance of control of the marsh, it had been the site of numerous clashes between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a separatist group whose avowed objective is to ensure that the rich natural resources in Moro areas should be enjoyed first by the Moro people.

Sulu is currently the site of oil exploration operations involving several foreign companies, including a US corporation. In 2005, the Department of Energy (DoE) awarded Service Contract 56 to Australia’s BHP Billiton Petroleum PTY Ltd., Amerada Hess Ltd., Unocal Sulu Ltd., and Sandakan Oil II LCC. Amerada Hess Ltd. is a unit of Hess Ltd., a US-based oil and gas exploration company. Based on a 2005 news item published by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Service Contract 56 covers some 8,620 hectares offshore Sulu Sea, an area described as “one of the most prospective areas for oil and gas exploration as indicated by the previous drilling activities conducted in the area.”

Basilan and Sulu are both part of what is known as the Sulu Archipelago, together with Tawi-Tawi.

The economic agenda behind US military presence in the Philippines, however, is not limited to the Philippines.

“By and large, the most important value (of the Philippines for the US) is its strategic location: we are at a critical area where north of the Philippines and south of the Philippines you have the critical flow of sea lanes for US (and) Japanese vessels – both military and commercial – coming from the Middle East, bringing in oil supplies and other raw materials all the way from Africa to the Pacific Ocean,” said Roland Simbulan, a professor of development studies at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Manila and an expert on US foreign policy.

“Of course, anyone who controls this area, this gateway where the Philippines is located, will control the flow of trade in this area. And next to that, of course, is the location of the Philippines facing China, because in the medium-term and long-term basis, the United States still looks at China as a potential rival within the next 15 years, (if) its military prowess (catches) up with the economic power that it has right now,” Simbulan told Bulatlat in a recent interview.

Rey Claro Casambre, who heads the Philippine chapter of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS-Philippines), affirmed this in a separate interview. “The Philippines is strategically located on the Strait of Malacca, the trade route through which half of world trade passes,” Casambre said. “The US earns several billions of dollars from trade there. And a lot of oil… is transported (there) on oil tankers. Anyone who controls that area controls trade.”

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