“Although Philippine military capacity overall remains limited, RP capability at the individual and small unit level following years of close bilateral cooperation and interaction. This situation offers an opportunity to broaden the scope of the alliance over time. Humanitarian assistance/disaster relief exercises are a good start. The United States should continue to pursue the Philippine Defense Reform Program and remain patient about the pace of progress. In addition to continued US capacity-building work, the United States should continue to provide assistance in updating selected hardware as affordable to Manila, offering excess defense articles and International Military Education and Training (IMET) program aid, continue exercises and training to enhance individual and unit operational capability, and improve the Philippines’ military infrastructure. The short-term goal should be to assist the Philippines to help itself internally. The long-term goal should be to help it eventually to assist the United States in collective defense, a task not anathema to Manila’s leaders or to the average Filipino in principle.”
The same report describes the civil engineering and “humanitarian assistance” programs that US troops conduct in the Philippines as “linked to the counterterrorism mission.” The CPP and the NPA are included in the US Department of State’s list of “foreign terrorist organizations”.
The Balikatan military exercises, which have been held every year since 2002, are made possible by the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which was ratified by the Philippine Senate and signed in 1999 by then-President Joseph Estrada – who is also vying for the presidential seat in the 2010 elections. The VFA grants extraterritorial and extrajudicial “rights” to US servicemen visiting the Philippines.
The Constitution forbids foreign military on Philippine soil, “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.”
The US government does not recognize the VFA as a treaty, but merely considers it an “executive agreement”.
Balikatan 2010 is reported to have the support of Ilocos Sur’s two district representatives, Ronald V. Singson of the first district and Eric D. Singson of the second district. (Bulatlat.com)