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Fil-Ams to Washington: Stay Out of the Spratlys

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For Immediate Release
Reference: Bernadette Ellorin, Chairperson, BAYAN-USA

Fil-Ams to Washington: Stay Out of Spratlys Dispute, Stop Provoking War with China!

Filipino-Americans across the US, under the banner of BAYAN-USA, condemn the pending 11-day joint naval exercises to be conducted between the US and Philippine military in the South China Sea beginning this Tuesday amidst escalating tensions in the region.

“Washington is jockeying to take advantage of the territorial dispute over the Spratly Islands to bolster its super-cop status and widen its influence in the region,” states BAYAN-USA Secretary-General Rhonda Ramiro. “While scolding China for its aggressive actions in the region, in the same breath the US is fomenting conflict with its super-rival by way of arming and conducting bilateral naval exercises with the Philippine military right in the heart of the disputed region.”

Tensions have risen in the South China Sea over China’s recent aggressive territorial claim over the Spratly Islands, a cluster of over 750 reefs, islets, atolls, cays and islands in the region known for rich deposits of natural gas and oil, as well as a broad array of marine life used in commercial fishing industries. A historical and ongoing dispute between countries including China, Vietnam, Brunei, and the Philippines over the ownership of the islands have intensified considerably due to maritime skirmishes between Chinese shipping vessels with Vietnamese and Philippine vessels.

Earlier this month, two US Senators– Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Jim Webb (D-VA)– of the Senate Foreign Relations East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, introduced and passed a resolution condemning China and calling for a multilateral resolution to the escalating regional dispute. In a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) last year, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton announced, “The United States, like every nation, has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime comments, and respect for international law in the South China Sea.”

However, while American officials condemn aggressive gestures made by China, US naval deployments into the region reveal their own militaristic agenda.

Three US Navy warships have already dropped anchor in the Philippine island province of Palawan. Two of them– the USS Chung-Hoon (DDG-93) and USS Howard (DDG-83)– are missile-guided destroyers while the third– the USNS Safegurd (T-ARS 50)– is a diving and salvage ship. Aboard the ships, some 800 US sailors will be conducting joint war games with Philippine Naval forces under the framework of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises, stipulated to help modernize and train the maritime security capabilities of the Philippine military.

In addition to the Philippines, the CARAT series will also extend to Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.

The Profitability of US-Foreign Military Exercises, Financing

The Obama administration has already earmarked over $1 trillion in public funds for the US military spending through 2012. This includes military agreements with countries overseas such as the Philippines wherein joint military exercises and financing are framed.

“In addition to all-out war, the US military-industrial complex includes arms sales to countries abroad, and training, advising, and counter-insurgency operations,” Ramiro continues. “No wonder the US government is seeking every opportunity to increase arms and military production because the lucrative investments from US defense contractors have made it one of the most profitable industries for US big business. The worsening economic crisis that is also being felt in the US is clearly prompting the Obama administration to warmonger in the Middle East, North Africa, and now in Southeast Asia. The Spratlys dispute provides a convenient pretext for US military exercises in the region.”

Aquino As Washington’s Yes-Man

The Filipino-American alliance also slammed Philippine President Benigno “PNoy” Aquino III for its subservient position to the will of the US government, and cited the failed character of the 60-year old Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the US and Philippine governments.

“After one year in office, Aquino has driven the Philippine economy deeper into crisis, including greater dependence on foreign investment, particularly US corporate investment. This includes the Philippine military’s role as a proxy army for the US to secure its agenda in the region,” Ramiro concluded. “Aquino is falling right in line with Arroyo and other previous administrations.”

BAYAN-USA supports a peaceful diplomatic resolution to the Spratly Islands dispute, without intervention by the US or other foreign powers.