By BENJIE OLIVEROS
Here are bits of related, albeit diametrically opposite news.
Local dailies reported that Philippine Undersecretary for Defense Affairs Honorio Azcueta said, after meeting with US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, that the US could use their former naval and air facilities in Subic, Zambales and in Clark Field in Pampanga, provided it has been coordinated with the Philippine government.
Azcueta was also quoted as saying that “a shift of US security interest towards the Asia-Pacific region is expected to increase military to military engagements between the two long-time allied states.” This would translate into more US troops being stationed in the country on a semi-permanent basis or an increase in the 1,000 US troops reportedly rotating in the country.
So 21 years after the Philippine Senate, under pressure from the Filipino people, rejected the extension of the US military bases in the country – despite the aggressive campaign of the Corazon Aquino administration – US troops would again occupy its former military bases. Only this time, they could do it for free, no thanks to the administration of Benigno “Noynoy” Cojuangco Aquino III.
On the other side of the globe, Interaksyon.com reported, the governments of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua announced that they are withdrawing from a regional defense treaty with the US dating back to the Cold War.
The Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance of 1947 supposedly provides that members of the Organization of American States would defend each other if attacked by an outside party. It is much like the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 that the Philippines signed with the US.
This treaty was pushed by the US to enable it to influence, nay control, the policies of Latin American states. It also served as basis for the US to train and control the armed forces of OAS members. The infamous School of Americas of the 1980s was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in 2001 after it was exposed that it has been training Latin American troops to use torture, forcible abduction, extrajudicial killings, covert operations such as bombings, among other “dirty war” tactics, as part of its counterinsurgency, counter-terror courses.
In withdrawing from the treaty, Ricardo Patino, Ecuador’s foreign minister, was quoted as saying, “Our countries have made the decision to bury what deserves to be buried, to throw into the trash what is no longer useful.”
Earlier in February 2010, the governments of Latin American countries formed the Community of Latin American and Caribbean states (CELAC). The CELAC was formed by 33 sovereign states, which excluded the US and Canada. It is considered as a move that signals these countries break from the dominance of the US, which hosts the OAS in Washington.
Good for them. So while these countries have been asserting their sovereignty, the Aquino government has been begging the US to become its protectorate. And for what? To defend the country in case of a conflict with China?
As this author has written in previous analysis, the US would not engage in a war with China just to protect the Philippines. For one, China is the biggest holder of US treasury bonds outside the US; it is the sweatshop of all US multinational corporations; and it is the biggest potential market for the US. China has gained more importance for the US as it sought to hinge its economic recovery through increasing trade and investments in the Asia-Pacific region.
The US would always try to intimidate China through its military exercises and the deployment of troops, armaments, warships, and nuclear weapons in the region. But it would not go to war with China for a small country as the Philippines. Doing so would not be to its own interest.
What is the Philippines gaining from this master–underling relationship? Shipyard junk , greater dependency on and control by the US.
What did Latin American countries gain from asserting their sovereignty? The ability to chart their own future, to nationalize its resources for its own people’s benefit, and to come up with pro-people policies.
During the debate regarding the extension or rejection of the US military bases in 1990, some argued that we could not eat sovereignty, referring to the loss of the rent the US pays for the bases and the potential reduction in US aid to the country. Well, Cuba has one of the lowest mortality, morbidity, and malnutrition rates in the world. Venezuela has the cheapest gasoline in the world at $0.18 per gallon because it was able to nationalize its oil industry. Bolivia has nationalized the largest untapped lithium reserve in the world, equivalent to almost half of the world’s known supply, so that earnings from these could benefit the Bolivian people. And they could not have done it if the US continues to exercise control over their domestic policies.