The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement allows the US to increase troops and build military bases in the Philippines.
By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Edited version on April 28, 2014 in http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/04/us-philippines-how-strategic-pa-201442871034598657.html
(April 24, 2014) Hyped as a major advance in the strategic partnership of the US and Philippines, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) highlights the meeting of US President Obama and Philippine President Aquino in Manila on April 28-29.
EDCA circumvents the ban on foreign military bases and troops by the Philippine constitution and allows the US to increase the so-called rotational presence of its troops and build military bases under the guise of authorized temporary facilities in areas of the Philippine armed forces.
The Filipino people’s patriotic sentiments against EDCA are rising high. Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) and other organizations have issued statements denouncing it as violation of Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity. They have called for mass protest actions against Obama and the Aquino regime.
The Filipino people are averse to US military bases. These are reminders of the brutal US conquest of the Philippines. More than 10% or 700,000 of the Philippine population were killed in the Filipino-American War starting in 1899 and formally ending in 1902. The carnage continued until 1913, bringing the total of Filipino death casualties to 1.5 million.
In more recent history, the Filipino people’s hatred for the US military bases intensified when they perceived these as main reason for US support of the Marcos fascist dictatorship from 1972 to 1986. Thus, the framers of the 1987 Philippine constitution decided to ban foreign military bases, troops and nuclear weapons from Philippine territory.
However, the 1947 US-RP Military Assistance Agreement and 1951 US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty have remained intact. The US military bases were dismantled in 1992 after the Philippine Senate passed the 1991 resolution ending leases for the US military bases. Since then, the US has maneuvered to circumvent the ban and obtain the US-RP Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in 1998 to cover the annual joint US-RP military exercises.
The VFA allows the the rotational presence of US military forces and their operations anywhere in the Philippines for any length of time to train and inter-operate with the Philippine armed forces and use their facilities; and retain jurisdiction over criminal cases, including capital offenses, involving US troops.
EDCA is now widely considered far worse than the VFA as it allows not only unlimited increase in the rotational presence of US military forces but also the building of US military bases and stations in areas of the Philippine armed forces, thus reducing Filipino troops to mere perimeter guards at Philippine expense.
The US requires the Philippines to upgrade certain AFP camps and reservations in Palawan and Rizal for accommodating US military bases. It is spending P1 billion to improve naval facilities in Ulugan Bay and Oyster Bay in Palawan to accommodate and service the growing traffic of US warships, planes and combat troops.
The Filipino people are further outraged by the Aquino regime’s promise to the US to amend the Philippine constitution in order to allow foreign investors unlimited ownership of land and businesses. The regime also intends to impress Obama with the capture of alleged leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines as proof of success of Oplan Bayanihan, a military plan aligned with the US Counter-Insurgency Guide.
The Aquino regime decks out EDCA as major contribution to the continuing US-directed war against “terrorism” and to the US pivot to East Asia, which aims to deploy 60% of US naval forces and 50% of US ground and air forces in the region. Both US and Philippine authorities tout EDCA as part of US military rebalancing to restrain China from threatening neighboring countries and keep the South China Sea open to international navigation and commerce.
The US presents itself as protector of the Philippines from China’s bullying and has thus emboldened the Aquino regime to oppose China’s 9-dash line claim to almost the entire South China Sea. The exaggerated image of China as threat to the security of other countries is used as justification for further entrenchment of US military power in the Philippines and US military expansion in the Asia-Pacific region.
In this regard, China itself has not helped to allay fears by actually claiming about 90% of the South China Sea, including the high seas, and threatening to grab Philippine exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf to the extent of 90% and 100% , respectively, in violation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Aquino regime supports the US scheme to pressure China economically by participating actively in the US-instigated Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), a mega-free trade agreement which pointedly excludes China, and offering the US and its closest allies 100% ownership of land and businesses in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the US maintains a dual policy of cooperation and contention towards China. The US and China maintain close bilateral economic and trade relations under the policy of neoliberal globalization. Their economic and political relations far outweigh those between the US and the Philippines. The Aquino regime deludes itself by imagining that the US values more its relations with the Philippines than those with China.
The US military pivot to East Asia is not meant to provoke a war with China soon but is calculated to encourage so-called political liberalization within China, discourage ultranationalist outbursts of the Chinese political leaders and blockade the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The TPPA seeks to pressure China to privatize state-owned enterprises completely and further liberalize the economy in favor of foreign investors.
Servility to the US in economic and security matters will not save the Aquino regime from its growing disrepute for exploitativeness, incompetence, corruption and repression. The Philippines continues to reel from the ever worsening and deepening crisis of global capitalism and the domestic ruling system.
Social discontent is widespread and about to explode in massive protest actions. Meanwhile, the people’s armed movement for national and social liberation is conspicuously advancing with the nationwide guerrilla offensives of the New People’s Army.###
Prof. Jose Maria Sison.
Past: He was born in the Philippines in 1939. He taught English literature and social science in Philippine universities in the 1960s. He was founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines in 1968. He was arrested in 1977, tortured and imprisoned until 1986 by the Marcos fascist dictatorship.
Current: He is a professor in political science, poet and author of books on Philippine and global issues. He is Chairperson of the International League of People’s Struggle and Chief Political Consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in peace negotiations with the Manila government. For further details, Cf. Resumes in www.josemariasison.org