US pledges failed to stop Sino moves in WPS – Bayan
Members of progressive organizations on Thursday protested against a military agreement between the Philippines and the United States that allows American troops to use Filipino military camps and called for its outright abolition.
The rally, attended by hundreds of protesters, outside Camp Aguinaldo, the national defense and Armed Forces headquarters, was timed for the visit of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III, who held separate talks with President Marcos and acting Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.
The two defense departments on Thursday jointly announced that American troops would be granted access to four Philippine military camps in addition to the five that they already had been allowed to use.
Allowing US military access to now nine camps is part of the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) between Manila and Washington, which the protesters want to be abolished.
The agreement allows US troops to rotate through these bases, including those close to the West Philippine Sea, where Chinese forces have increased their incursions.
It also allows the US military to preposition defense equipment and supplies in these bases, including those supposed to be deployed for disaster and humanitarian assistance.
The Philippines and US security alliance was sealed by the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). After the Senate booted out the US military bases in 1991, the two countries agreed in 1998 to continue to allow US troops into the country for joint exercises under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
‘Foolish to believe’
Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), said that despite the MDT and the VFA, and Washington’s promise that the presence of US military forces in the country “helps our cause,” the United States did not stop China’s aggressive acts in the West Philippine Sea.
“The matter of asserting Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights rests with the Filipinos, not any foreign power. It would be foolish to believe that the United States, with its own geopolitical interests, is here to help us in asserting our sovereignty,” Reyes said.
Ivan Sucgang, chair of the League of Filipino Students, warned that the youth would be the “foot soldiers of the military” if war were to break out between the Philippines and China over the West Philippine Sea.
The women’s group Gabriela and the LGBTQ group Lakapati said that with access to an increasing number of bases across the country, more Filipino women and transgenders would be open to abuse and harassment by US troops deployed to the Philippines as had happened in the past.
De facto base
Under Edca, the United States could set up military facilities inside Philippine bases rent- and tax-free.
Reyes said that the United States can also have access to any part of the country, turning the Philippines into a de-facto base for US troops.