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Return of US Military Bases to the Philippines Violates Sovereignty, Reaps No Benefits for Filipinos

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BAYAN-USA condemns the outcomes of the latest round of negotiations on increased US military presence in the Philippines.  The provision allowing the US to build its own military facilities within existing Philippine bases signals a de facto return of US military bases to the country, in direct violation of the Philippine Constitution.  If this new military agreement with the US is enacted, the Philippines will reap absolutely no benefits.  Instead, the Philippines will reap the exact opposite: numerous losses. This agreement will guarantee the loss of human rights, environmental integrity, economic independence, and ultimately the country’s sovereignty.

Moreover, the agreement does not serve the interests of the American people—except the 1% who will profit from the billions of dollars generated by militarization and war.  Claims of building a leaner and more nimble military force to help propel America’s “Pacific Century” by shifting 60% of its military to the Asia Pacific can not disguise the fact that there is no real shift in US imperialism’s priorities of war over the socio-economic needs of the American people. The US will continue to devote nearly $600 billion to the military this year, dwarfing the minuscule amounts left for spending on much needed social services for the people such as education, health, housing, and energy among others. Adding insult to injury, the Pentagon’s assertion that increased military spending helps build the US economy by growing jobs is essentially a lie.

According to a 2011 study conducted by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, for every 100 jobs created by military spending, the same investment would create 251 jobs in education, 169 jobs in healthcare, or 147 jobs in clean energy.

BAYAN-USA also condemns the Aquino administration’s attempt to whitewash the agreement as something mutually beneficial by changing of the agreement’s title from Framework Agreement on “Increased Rotational Presence” to “Enhanced Defense Cooperation.”  Comments by Undersecretary of Defense Pio Lorenzo Batino are laughable and not based on reality claiming, “We also believe Enhanced Defense Cooperation captures the essence of the agreement which is to elevate robust cooperation with us to a higher level owing to the shared history between the two militaries and conduct of training activities under the VFA (Visiting forces Agreement) for 15 years.”  What history is he referring to? The reality is, only the Philippines’ ruling comprador families, the big American military corporations and the multi-national agribusiness, mining and oil corporations that the military protect experienced robust cooperation and profits, however 99% of the Filipino people only experienced increased repression, a growing number of human rights violations, continued destruction and pollution of natural resources, and increased insecurity.

Further exposing the Aquino regime’s capitulation to US interests, representatives of the negotiating panel celebrated what they considered an American concession to Philippine concerns about access: “As a concept, access is assured, being within Philippine military bases, and also the right of the base commander to have access to specific areas shared with them has already been agreed in principle by both panels,” said Ambassador Eduardo Malaya, a member of the Philippine panel.

How can this be considered a victory of any sort when the US should not have military facilities on Philippine territory in the first place?

History shows that the US has never and will never allow Philippine access let alone control or decision-making authority in regard to the American facilities on Philippine soil.  A review of the handling of Philippine-US relations from the 1950s to the early 1990s or even as recent as last year’s destruction of the Philippines’ Tubbataha Reef by the US Navy shows that the US will block Philippine efforts to exercise its sovereignty no matter what provisions are stated in treaties between the two countries or stated in international laws.  To feel secure about agreements made “in concept” and “in principle” is naïve at best.

BAYAN-USA will continue our staunch opposition to the US-Philippine access agreement. Following our successful teach-in earlier this month on US military and economic intervention in the Asia Pacific, during which hundreds of attendees declared their commitment to opposing US imperialism’s strategies to dominate the region via the military pivot and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, BAYAN-USA pledges to mobilize people throughout the US to expose the mutual harm this agreement will deliver to both the Filipino and American people.  We reiterate our calls for the rejection of any military deal between the U.S. and the Philippines, the expulsion of U.S. troops from the Philippines, compensation for the destruction of 2,000 square meters of the Tubbataha reef by a U.S. warship, and the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement.  We call on the spineless Aquino administration to start standing up for the sovereignty of the country by ending these military negotiations now.