Scaffolding a declining US imperial interest
By Rod P. Kapunan
The Visiting Forces Agreement is the only agreement of its kind where the host country is more concerned in wanting to please our supposed visiting guest than in prioritizing its national interest. Noynoy Aquino and his cabal of fawning lapdogs knew the agreement was not in pursuit of our interest but an extension cord of the US to bolster its declining imperial dominion. He concurred to all the suppositions of the US that the VFA is not a treaty but an executive agreement that need not go through the process of Senate ratification.
To place its seal of constitutionality, our invertebrate Supreme Court rendered its questionable justification based on the discredited Cold War premise to get away with the requirement of Section 4, Article XVIII of the Constitution. Unfortunately, Noynoy failed to anticipate that President Duterte could also use the same power to abrogate the VFA and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement by mere presidential order. The BS Aquino government was trapped in its own con game.
This was followed by the EDCA which the country provided five access points to the US Armed Forces, all facing the South China Sea. These are the Antonio Bautista air base in Palawan, Basa airbase in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Lumbia air base in Cagayan de Oro and Benito Ebuen in Mactan. The bases were not only meant to support the “Pivot to Asia” policy of a lameduck President, but would from thereon allow the US to conduct regular naval patrol in the South China Sea in the guise of ensuring the “freedom of navigation.”
Thus, the deployment of US forces in our territory increased the certainty of being dragged in a proxy war with China, and the country bearing the brunt of the fighting. In that, the country will be defending the US’ geo-strategic interest in the Asia-Pacific rim. This is a complete reversal to the original purpose why the country opted to enter into a military alliance, which is for the US to “protect” their implanted freedom and democracy.
Taking advantage of the collaborating mentality of the BS Aquino government, the US stood pat to its position that the reintroduction of the US military bases is for our own interest. That in turn justified their demand that we shoulder, in part or in whole, expenses related to the maintenance and operations of their bases in the Philippines. We allowed them to use the facilities we built for our soldiers, use our existing airfields, install sophisticated communications equipment inside the bases, and to operate drones and use them as staging points to violate the territory of other countries.
Nothing about the rental for the use of the bases and the issue of jurisdiction was discussed. In other words, everything was handed to the US on a silver platter.
First, when the country approved the EDCA, it became apparent that anytime, we could be entangled in a proxy war with China. EDCA was validated by the Supreme Court on the basis that it is merely an elaboration of the VFA.
Second, the US intentionally instigated the BS Aquino government to pursue our claim culminating in the country’s unilateral filing of our claim before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). The government knew beforehand that China would never recognize the arbitration court or much more accept its decision, notwithstanding that the US refuse to give us an assurance of support us to break the expected impasse. China even learned that the BS Aquino exerted efforts to influence the decision which all the more made our cause embarrassing.
Third, our signing of EDCA was used by the US as its own leverage to invite Japan to join them in patrolling the South China Sea even if EDCA is outside the scope of our alliance under the Mutual Defense Agreement the country signed in 1947. As one observed, it was the US that violated the agreement when it over extended our hospitality of inviting Japan to join in it containing China.
Fourth, the US is already engaged in provocative surveillance against China, and often is carried out without our knowledge and consent. Reconnaissance flights of drones to spy on our military on operation against the secessionist rebels and on China’s alleged military build-up in the Spratlys constitute dangerous provocations.
Nobody knows whether the classified information the US collects from its aerial surveillance is passed on to the rebels. These are worrying signs that has turned the Philippine archipelago into a tinder box.
Fifth, during the time of President Marcos, he insisted on payment of compensation for the bases. Even if the US refused to acknowledge rental, it was nonetheless committed to come up with an amount often referred to as “economic assistance.” This was to emphasize our ownership and jurisdiction over the bases.
The RP-US Military Bases Agreement during his time was meticulous that it even detailed the rights and benefits of Filipinos working inside the bases, and the taxes US military personnel would pay for items they brought in and sold outside the base. However, the BS Aquino government scrapped them, blindly accepting that as host country we should be the one to shoulder the burden of sustaining the imperialistic hegemony of the US.
The VFA and EDCA marked the lowest ebb in Philippine-US relations. The US no longer treats us as an ally but a modern-day vassal state. This is why President Duterte reacted when the US withheld the release of the $433 million assistance by the Millennium Challenge Fund. The President suspected it was the handiwork of the opposition to blackmail him for alleged human rights violations claiming that allegedly more than 5,000 drug pushers have been liquidated through extrajudicial killing.
This prompted the President to sarcastically say, “You can eat all your dollars” (kainin nyo ang dolyar nyo), and that “Filipinos will not starve to death” (hindi kami patay gutom). On the contrary he called the amount puny compared to the $50 billion economic and developmental assistance offered by China. All he asks is for the US not to treat us like dirt or in the vernacular, “huwag naman tayong babuyin ng ganun.”