“The Aquino government is still trying to deceive the people that the US is out to help the Philippines against China. It is playing up ‘the threat of China’ while playing down the history and reality of US military interventions.” – KMU
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — This week’s start of negotiations between US and Filipino officials to hammer out a “Philippines-US Framework Agreement on Increased Rotational Presence (IRP)” was marked by protests at the gates of the Department of National Defense in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. Little of it was reported in the mainstream media. Instead, the reports centered on what the Philippine panel and the spokespersons of the Aquino government had to say about the proposed agreement.
Women’s group Gabriela decried Malacañang’s spin on its “treachery.”
Malacañang has been justifying its activity as an act of pursuing an agreement for expanded access and basing privileges with the US and its close ally Japan because, according to them, the Philippines needs it.
Amid protests of patriotic groups, every “visit” into the Philippines of the US troops has consistently been portrayed by the government as something needed by Filipinos, and so, the government “invites” the foreign troops here. (See More: Adan defends ‘visit’/permanent stay because ‘we invited them here’.)
“Our land has no greater pimp than President Aquino who is practically selling off our national sovereignty, our people’s security and our women and children for the rape and abuse of US military troops to bolster US imperialist presence and control in the Philippines and Asia,” said Joms Salvador, secretary general of GABRIELA. She said Aquino is risking the lives of Filipino women in particular, and the people, in general, by negotiating “a return of US military bases in our country. He and his Cabinet secretaries are committing a shameful act of treason by turning Philippine military bases and facilities into US military outposts.”
The supposed benefits that the country would gain from US troops’ increased presence, as Aquino spokespersons such as Abigail Valte, Defense Secretary Gazmin and Foreign Affairs Secretary del Rosario claim, include some promised US military aid in boosting the country’s “minimum credible defense posture” against “threats” and some aid in relief and rescue operations in times of disasters.
The Philippines is being presented as weak and needful of US as its ally and “treaty partner” against an “encroaching China.” Representative Rodolfo Biazon, co-author of the Visiting Forces Agreement in 1998 when he was a Senator, said in a media forum this week that, “if you’re being bullied and a bigger friend helped you, won’t your morale improve?”
But is the United States a “friend” indeed? And must the Philippines choose between two bullies, assuming these bullies are indeed in a conflict? (See more: Claims that US will aid Philippines against China just ‘fantasy’)
Biazon described the two bullies as “a case of two hegemonies,” where “the US is trying to prevent the expansion of Chinese hegemony.”
He said the US has a policy of containment to protect, defend the interests of the US – and that the “interests of the US and the Philippines vis-à-vis encroachment to our territories dovetail each other.”
But that is “the biggest lie being peddled” now by the Aquino government, that one that says the US will help us in the territorial dispute against China, Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, said in a statement.
“While there is a need to stand up to China’s aggressive and assertive behavior, the US will not really help us,” Reyes said, adding that the US will not go head to head with China nor is it under any obligation to take our side in any territorial dispute.
The Military Defense Treaty had delineated legislative requirements before the US military could go to war for the Philippines in case it is attacked. (See more: After 60 years, US-RP defense pact ‘proved useless, disadvantageous to Philippines’) Aside from that, “The US has a lot of economic interests in China,” Reyes said.
“The US wants to increase its military presence in the Philippines to prop up its military domination of the region, not because it wants the help the Philippines,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares.
Malacañang has admitted in various instances that it is welcoming the US government efforts to re-balance US military power in Asia by repositioning at least 60 percent of its warships and naval capabilities in the region.
US security officials have said before that the ‘rebalancing’ in the Asia-Pacific is meant to put pressure on China, “the white elephant in the room.” According to labor center KMU, the US wants to pressure China into privatizing more state-run enterprises and adopting an electoral and political system similar to that of the US.
“The Aquino government is still trying to deceive the people that the US is out to help the Philippines against China. It is playing up ‘the threat of China’ while playing down the history and reality of US military interventions. The truth is that the US is out to put pressure on China for its own purposes,” Soluta said.
“Diplomacy is the more correct solution to our conflict with China, bringing the matter to the UN, rather than further increasing the military arsenal which would only gobble up a sizeable chunk in the national budget when it is better spent on social services,” said Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan in Filipino.
Bayan blasted as another lie the claim that US presence will lead to the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and to a credible defense posture.
“We’ve had US bases for nearly half a century yet our armed forces still did not modernize. We have a VFA with the US since 1999, as well as several annual military exercises with the US and yet during that period, our armed forces still did not develop. The US has no intention of modernizing the AFP because it wants to keep the Philippines dependent on US ‘aid.’ The more we depend on the US, the more likely we’ll be stuck in a state of perpetual backwardness,” Reyes said.
He added that “PH soldiers are merely being treated to previews of weapons they can never have and methods they will never use.” Historically, the Philippines only get the discarded, nearly obsolete weapons of the US military, and even those came at a price. The latest to come was the World War 2 navy cutter renamed as BRP Alcaraz.
‘US troops as aggressors, not allies, not partners’
Contrary to claims of defenders of US troops within the Philippine government, the US military has long been revealed as an enemy of Filipinos — the exact opposite of ally or treaty partner, according to patriotic groups.
In various protest actions, patriotic groups have pointed as proofs the US military’s genocide of nearly a fifth of Philippine population in 1900s, the US troops’ brutally destructive ‘liberation’ of Manila in 1940s; and after the Philippines became a sovereign nation, the US military’s constant aid to its “puppets” in Malacañang to implement a never ending war of pacification of Filipinos.
The latest version of that war is dubbed as Oplan Bayanihan. According to rights group Karapatan, it is patterned after the US Counterinsurgency Guide and is being implemented by the AFP under the guidance of the US.
“The permanent presence of US troops in the country, the unlimited access to Philippine facilities, including storage of arms, and the use of drones, are direct attacks against Philippine sovereignty and the people’s rights,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.
Add to that, American combat troops “further interfere in local combat operations in order to establish its military might, target local anti-imperialist forces in the guise of ‘fighting terrorism’ and help strengthen the exploitative and oppressive social system,” the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said in a statement.
American troops had figured in local news for participating in various combat operations and in “sharing intelligence” reports with the Armed Forces of the Philippines. But they frequently denied such reports, claiming “humanitarian missions” or the Visiting Forces Agreement as reason for their presence in the Philippines.
Palabay of Karapatan warned that the gruesome tales of violence, forced evacuation, rape and repression of unarmed Filipinos, including children, that have unfortunately become familiar amid an unresolved culture of impunity “will be multiplied all over the country as the US government props up the Armed Forces of the Philippines with more troops, war materiel and training for the final push of Oplan Bayanihan’s last year of its Phase1.”
She urged peace-loving Filipinos to oppose the increased “so-called rotational deployment, including use of drones.” She reminded the public that these constitute “blatant assault to the nation’s sovereignty, violation of the interest of the country and the Filipino people who had already said ‘NO to US Bases.’ ”