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15 Years After the Visiting Forces Agreement: EDCA “VFA on Steroids” Expands the U.S.’s License to Bully

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On the heels of the enactment of the new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), BAYAN-USA marks the 15th anniversary of the ratification of the EDCA’s notorious predecessor, the Visiting Forces Agreement, by calling for the termination of both the EDCA and the VFA.  Presidents Obama and Aquino should stop peddling the myth that these military agreements will provide any benefits to the American and Filipino people.
The controversial Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) has served as the basis for US intervention in the Philippines beginning in May 27, 1999.  It paved the way for the indefinite permanent presence of at least 660 U.S. Special Operations Forces in Mindanao, dozens of annual war games with thousands of foreign troops on Philippine soil and in Philippine waters, and unlimited docking and travel of U.S. warships in Philippine ports and through Philippine land and airspace.  

Challenges against the VFA brought by both lawmakers and protesters, fell on the deaf ears of successive regimes: Presidents Estrada, Arroyo and B.S. Aquino allowing U.S. imperialism to use the VFA with ease for 15 years!

With B.S. Aquino deep in the pocket of President Obama, it was all too easy to pass the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement during his quick visit to the Philippines this past April 28th.
The EDCA simply extends the same approach the U.S. has been using for at least 20 years: pursuing total hegemony, while shifting the burden of its military expansion and empire-building to other countries.  The EDCA grants the U.S. the ability and flexibility to station its war materiel, “housekeeping” forces and Special Operations Forces in the Philippines and various countries to wage asymmetrical warfare against anyone opposed to the interests of U.S. imperialism.  Adding insult to injury, the Philippines pays for the presence of U.S. personnel and materiel, since the U.S. military pays no rent for its use of Philippine territory and facilities.

One-sided, No Benefits

Both the VFA and EDCA agreements’ vaguely worded guidelines and indeterminate time frames can not mask the one thing: their one-sidedness.  The VFA, despite the stated intentions of mutual support, has provided absolutely no short-term nor long-term benefits to the people of either the U.S. or the Philippines. The EDCA promises to only worsen the problems:
1. Economy: U.S. Defense Secretary Hagel claims that the EDCA will save the U.S. military millions of dollars.  However, the fundamental economic problem in the U.S. is the overspending on militarization in the first place.  U.S. military spending outstrips the military spending of the next 11 countries combined, and is more than 2-1/2 times as high as China’s and Russia’s combined, spending $682 billion annually and over $4 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving crumbs for health, education, housing and other essential needs of the American people.
2. Peace and stability: Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista claims that building up the U.S. military in the Philippines and Asia Pacific region will maintain peace by deterring war. How could sending more American troops, ships and arms to the Philippines and other countries in the Asia Pacific foster peace and stability in the region? Nothing destabilizes a region more than a massive U.S. military presence and intervention.
3. Diplomacy: President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry made profuse statements about strengthening the longstanding friendship between the U.S. and the Philippines. The EDCA is completely one-sided, with the U.S. military reaping free access to virtually the entire nation while the Filipino people get sexual assault and rape, pollution, and violation of sovereignty in return.  Healthy friendship is based on equality and respect. This is dysfunction, not diplomacy.
Pursue Genuine Peace, Junk the VFA
The Filipino people have protested U.S. military presence in the Philippines over the years, with such victories such as the removal of U.S. Bases: Subic and Clark, by scrapping the Military Bases Agreement in 1991.  Today, we call for the termination of both the VFA and the EDCA agreements which exploit and victimize Filipinos and violate Philippine sovereignty; take millions of dollars out of the pockets of struggling poor and working class Americans; give US imperialism a launching pad for further bullying escapades which sacrifice peace and security for everyone.
Peace in the Philippines only becomes a possibility when national sovereignty is put in practice, not just written on paper, and when foreign domination over our domestic affairs becomes a thing of the past.