“If President Duterte cannot get support from his officials, we assure him that Filipino workers are willing to back his assertion of our sovereignty against US and other foreign intervention once he has turned it into actual, concrete and written policies.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Various progressive groups expressed support for President Duterte on his consistent criticisms against the US government, but urged him to put his words into action by actually revoking onerous defense agreements with America.
In a rally at the US embassy Oct. 4, groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) marked the 33rd Philippines Amphibious Landing Exercises (Phiblex 33), calling it “the last PH-US war games” as they echoed Duterte’s recent announcement.
Speaking before the Filipino community in Hanoi last week, Duterte said that this year’s Phiblex – the first to be held under his administration — will also be the last. The exercises are conducted on the strength of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
“So I’m serving notice now to the Americans. I will maintain the military alliance, the RP-US pact which our countries signed in the early 50s. But I will establish new alliances for trade and commerce. And you are scheduled to hold war games, which China does not want. I will serve notice to you now that this will be the last military exercise,” a news report quoted Duterte’s speech in Vietnam.
A few days later, Duterte said in a report that he wants a review of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca), signed in 2014 under his predecessor, President Benigno Aquino III. Last month, Duterte said he wants US servicemen out of Mindanao.
Progressive groups that had long called for the scrapping of VFA and Edca had been heartened to hear no less than the President echoing their call.
“The President can immediately junk the Edca as it is a mere executive agreement entered by the previous US lackey Aquino government,” said Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)chairperson Elmer Labog.
“US military exercises foster the myth that our armed forces will modernize under American tutelage. Nothing of the sort has happened since the VFA was ratified in 1999. Our AFP remains backward even after more than a decade of US military exercises,” Bayan said in a statement.
Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment said the “agreed locations” for US military basing under Edca pose hazards to the country’s diverse and abundant ecosystems, and “allow the transit of nuclear weapons and other dangerous war materiel.”
“We support Duterte’s review of the EDCA and we hope the responsible government agencies appraising the executive policy uphold the safeguarding of our people and environment from all forms of foreign militarism,” Bautista said.
Anakpawis party Rep. Ariel Casilao lauded and backed Duterte’s call to review Edca: “We totally support President Duterte’s declarations that the US troops must go. The continuing presence of US troops in the country is a symbol of their colonial remnants, which was started a century ago when the US government first set foot in the Philippines.”
“No previous administration had the guts to take on the US gov’t, not only in terms of questioning its foreign policy relations but also reminded them of their gross atrocities against the Filipino people during their colonial rule, except the currrent President,” Casilao added.
This year’s landing exercises are in Luzon and Palawan, participated in by some 1,400 US servicemen of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade from the American military base in Okinawa, Japan, along with some 500 members of the Philippine Navy and Philippine Marines.
The troops will engage in amphibious landing exercises and live-fire training, involving four US Navy warships Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE-11), Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport USNS Millinocket (T-EPF-3), Pathfinder class oceanographic survey ship USNS Bowditch (T-AGS) and submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS-40).
The US embassy noted the participation of three additional American ships of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (BHR ARG): the USS BHR (LHD-6), the USS Green Bay (LPD-20), and the USS Germantown (LSD-48). Also participating is the Philippine Navy’s new Strategic Sealift Vessel, the BRP Tarlac.
Phiblex began yesterday and will last until Oct. 12.
‘America will use all its powers vs Duterte’s assertion’
The progressives warned that the US government will counter Duterte’s assertion of sovereignty. The groups condemned National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay who they said tried to interpret the President’s pronouncements with their “apologist words” and “shameless revision.”
“It is alarming that some officials in the Duterte administration are singing a different tune from the President. To avoid defiance by pro-US officials in his administration, Duterte should turn his assertion of an independent foreign policy into concrete and written declarations,” Labog said.
“Sec. Yasay should stop his repeated attempts to water down Pres. Duterte’s stance against US interventionism,” said Kalikasan PNE’s Bautista.
“The US will use all its powers to undermine Duterte’s assertion of an independent foreign policy. Pro-US elements are deeply embedded in institutions outside and even within his administration. If Duterte cannot get support from his officials, we assure him that Filipino workers are willing to back his assertion of our sovereignty against US and other foreign intervention once he has turned it into actual, concrete and written policies,” Labog said.
Bayan called on Duterte to remain steadfast in his assertion of an independent foreign policy.
“Opposing US intervention does not make us pro-China. On the contrary, asserting our sovereignty and independence from the US strengthens our position in dealing with China. Duterte is also correct in developing equal relations with other countries outside the US, and make these relations beneficial to the Filipino people,” Bayan said.