By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Progressive lawmakers opposed the proposal for the Philippines to sign a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with Japan, saying that it “further militarizes” the country’s foreign policy, and engenders dependence on other countries.
In his recent Japan visit, President Aquino mentioned the possibility of signing a VFA with Japan to allow the entry and use of Philippine facilities by Japanese military forces. This comes as China continues its aggression in the West Philippines Sea, reclaiming reefs and chasing after Filipino fisherfolk even within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
Bayan Muna partylist solon and senior deputy minority leader Neri Colmenares said ordinary people must instead get together to form a “broad alliance of patriots” to challenge China’s actions.
“China’s actions now are really detestable as well as President Aquino’s further sell out of our sovereignty by suggesting a VFA with Japan,” Colmenares said. “As it is though, there is now an urgent need for Filipinos to get our acts together, and decisively act to exert pressure and counter China’s moves,” he added.
“This would mean a broad alliance of Filipinos and friends here and abroad that would assert Philippine sovereignty from China, the US and any country that would trample our rights. This should be a people’s alliance here and in other countries that would condemn and challenge China’s aggressive actions,” said
Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Luz Ilagan said “China’s bullying should not repeatedly be used as an excuse to allow foreign military presence in the Philippines.”
“Aquino is proving to be a lame-duck president, shamelessly displaying his utter dependence on foreign governments and totally incapable of defending Philippine sovereignty,” she said.
Ilagan said that the Aquino administration should not be pushing for another VFA amid unresolved questions of the constitutionality of VFA and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca).
“The US will not defend us against China, nor will Japan. These are countries with independent foreign policies and dealings with China. It will be wise to rely on our own strength and conduct independent diplomatic dialogues with China in order to defend our territorial waters,” she said.
The Philippines also has a VFA with Australia. Members of the Australian Defense Force were among those who participated in the PH-US Balikatan trainings in April.
“President Aquino is militarizing further our foreign policy by entering in VFA arrangement with Japan,” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said.
The US Navy had been conducting routine patrols in the international waters in the West Philippine Sea.
Colmenares said that the US “is only interested in ensuring its unhindered passage in the West Philippine Sea.” The Bayan Muna solon based his conclusion on the presentation “US Maritime Security Policies and the Philippine Claims” by University of the Philippines law professor and director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and the Law of the Sea.
“As long as the interest of the US is satisfied, it will just mouth motherhood statements on defending the Philippines but will not act to counter China. The US and China connive and compete with one another to impose their dominance over the region,” said Colmenares.
“This situation demands a united and visible response from our people. Ordinary citizens need to be involved in defending our land and seas and in pursuing a truly independent foreign policy that neither bows to China’s bullying nor kowtows to US impositions,” he added.