Makabayan bloc blasts bid to expand US access to more military bases in PH

Groups gather on Thursday, February 2, 2023 to oppose the move to expand the United States’ access to military bases in the Philippines through additional Edca sites in the country. (Photo from Gabriela Women’s Party)

MANILA, Philippines — The Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives has slammed the agreement to add four new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) sites in the country as it argued that the move further pushes the Philippines into the middle of the tension between the United States and China.

Rep. Arlene Brosas of the Gabriela Women’s Party said Friday that the expansion of US access to Philippine military bases, which brings the total Edca bases from five to nine, “practically [allows] increased US military rotational presence across the country.”

READ: US gets access to more PH bases

“This is an alarming flashpoint in America’s military expansionism in Southeast Asia, which brings the country and whole Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region closer to instability and further places the Philippines deeper in the midst of US-China tensions,” she said in a statement.

Brosas then called out the “exceptionally warm reception” of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III in the country which “further [surrenders] our country’s sovereignty to support US geopolitical interest in exchange for loans, foreign aid and military financing.”

Meanwhile, Rep. France Castro of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers Party earlier said that the country was only being used as a “launching pad” in case a war ensues between China and the US.

“Nasa gitna tayo ng dalawang parang nag-uumpugang bato at ang mamamayang Pilipino ang talagang magiging apektado rito…Kapag nagkaroon ng girian ang China at US, tayo po ang kawawa,” she said in a news conference.

(We are in the middle of two countries in conflict, and the Filipino people will be affected by this…When the tension between China and the US further escalates, we will stand to suffer the most.)

Rep. Raoul Manuel of the Kabataan Party, for his part, blasted the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for putting the country in a difficult position through this move.

“Imbis na tiyakin na hindi maipit ang Pilipinas sa girian ng dalawang imperyalistang bansa, parang hinahanapan ng Marcos Jr. na maging war zone ang ating kapuluan. Lalong binibitag niya ang mga kabataan sa bingit ng digma,” he said in a new conference.

(Instead of ensuring that the Philippines is not stuck between the war between the two imperialist countries, Marcos Jr. seems to be finding a way for our country to be used as a war zone. He is bringing the Filipino youth even closer to the brink of a war.)

Manuel pointed out that the strengthened US-Philippine military ties would only be used to augment the government’s counter terrorism efforts which, he said, often targets Filipinos who are merely critical of the government.

“We appeal to the conscience of US lawmakers to work towards stopping US government support in cooperation with counter terrorism skims of the Philippine government,” he said.

The lawmakers also vowed to file a House resolution that would call for a congressional inquiry into the Edca, Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and Mutual Defense Treaty.

READ: US has ‘many requests’ on Edca, Bongbong Marcos says

Remembering Laude

Aside from citing possible consequences in view of the US-China tensions, Brosas emphasized that increasing the number of US troops and military assets in the country would need more frequent and expansive joint military drills and an increase in foreign military financing for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Citing the detrimental impact of US military presence, she said, it “has been implicated in gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”

“Worse, more Filipino women and members of the LGBTQIA+ would be vulnerable to sexual violence by US soldiers, taking into account the case of Jennifer Laude,” she said.

Laude, a 26-year-old transgender woman, was found dead in an Olongapo City lodge in 2014. She was killed by Marine Lance Cpol. Joseph Pemberton, who was then among the 3,500 US military personnel taking part in war exercises in the country under the VFA.

In 2015, Pemberton admitted in court that he had choked and killed Laude after finding out that his sex partner that night was a “man.”

He was later convicted of homicide but in 2020, then President Rodrigo Duterte granted the beleaguered military officer an absolute pardon, a move widely condemned by many lawmakers and human rights defenders.


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