Recently, Obama secretly deployed new special operations forces (SOFs) to the Philippines and 69 other countries. The deployment is in line with the NSS and the new COIN which essentially continues U.S. counter-insurgency programs in as many countries especially in “failed (or weak) states” and in partnership with host governments and their armies. COIN, however, gives equal emphasis on the use of civilian components such as humanitarian missions; engaging NGOs, civil society, and diaspora communities; and an increasing role of the USAID and other agencies to promote “governance, transparency, the rule of law, and anti-corruption”. Not that both papers believe in democracy per se but they see the imperative of maintaining political stability and the elimination of “rogue enemies” as vital to U.S. imperial global interests.
Under Arroyo, the U.S. succeeded in inserting its forces and military outposts in the Philippines particularly in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Zamboanga. The U.S. claims that the Philippines, particularly Mindanao, is part of the “arch of instability” in Southeast Asia and the rest of East Asia where America’s strategic oil and other commodities pass through the South China Sea. China’s irredentist claim over the sea is now being contested by the U.S. which considers it as an “open territory”.
There is no question that Aquino III will remain consistent with the traditional support for U.S. military presence in the country and the whole region. Likewise, he has made it clear that he supports the controversial Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and has continued the Mrs. Arroyo’s U.S.-backed counter-insurgency campaign despite the fact that it has led to the killing of activists and other atrocities.
Influential rightist think tanks in the U.S., particularly the Heritage Foundation, are pressing Obama to continue supporting the AFP’s modernization program with bigger funds. The modernization assistance is being geared toward upgrading the Philippines’ territorial defense especially over the Spratly islands which are claimed by China and other countries.
An increased defense alliance with the U.S. leading to a quiet escalation of its military presence will make the Philippines a pawn in the Pentagon’s plan of containment and encirclement of China. If Aquino III makes the mistake of succumbing to this pressure, he runs the risk of antagonizing Beijing’s trade ties with Manila and its growing investments in mining, electronics, and other industries. It could provoke retaliation from China in the disputed Spratly islands.
The U.S. government’s strategic military operations in the Philippines in the guise of fighting terrorism are driven by America’s war industries that are supported by big defense spending in the midst of recession. In the U.S. recession the only prospects of recovery and employment are provided by Boeing, and other corporations involved in the war industry. The presence of U.S. forces in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world has been profitable to engineering, construction, electronics, aircraft, shipping, and other war manufacturing corporations in the U.S. Globally, U.S. forces and installations along with wars of intervention that are raging in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other flashpoints help sustain the powerful military-industrial complex in the U.S.
When Aquino III goes to Washington, DC his commitment of support for continued U.S. military operations in the Philippines will also be a tacit promotion of the war industries that market weapons of mass destruction and wars of intervention in the world. Such pledge of support is expected to reap financial and military assistance for the new administration but it will also bind Aquino III – like past Philippine presidents – to a master-slave relationship.
The Philippine government’s exclusivist ties with America have continually jeopardized not only potentially productive ties with other countries but also deepened the country’s neo-colonial, superior-subordinate bondage to its former colonial master. In fact, the continued U.S. influence in the Philippine presidency has deprived the Filipino people of their sovereign right to self-determination, to non-intervention by a foreign country, while bitter economic pills are imposed by U.S.-influenced multilateral agencies. This relationship also helps sustain U.S. meddling in counter-insurgency operations turning the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) into a surrogate army of the Pentagon and a power broker of sorts insofar as the Philippine presidency is concerned.
Aquino III the presidential contender had promised change in the system of governance. What is unfolding as far as dealing with the U.S. is concerned may exactly be the opposite.
There is thus a compelling reason for patriotic forces in the Philippines, including progressive elements in Congress, to call for the abrogation of the VFA and other onerous agreements with the U.S. and an end to U.S. military presence. The overarching imperative is to work for an independent Philippine foreign policy as an important element of governance. (Bulatlat.com)