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MANILA–The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States became engulfed in controversy among lawmakers in the Philippines, especially after two U.S. military advisers were killed in a land mine explosion in Jolo province last week.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, a staunch advocate for its abrogation, said that “the soldiers weren’t supposed to be there, as their presence in the alleged land mine made the area a war zone.” Cebu Rep. Antonio Cuenco begged to disagree. Cuenco asserted that the Americans play a vital role in countering terrorism. Zamboanga del Sur Rep. Antonion Cerilles argued that the Americans were victims because they were on their way to do humanitarian works and were not in combat.

It is unavoidable for Filipinos to have mixed feelings about having U.S. troops on Philippine soil. The agreement, which was ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999, carries with it special rights and privileges for U.S. soldiers and civil employees of the U.S. Department of Defense.

Source:

http://news.newamericamedia.org/news/view_article.html?article_id=abc2f5ef26f7fad5eaeaf180550420da

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us_troops

MANILA — Amid the depressing devastation caused by typhoon Ondoy, the frantic relief efforts, and the Arroyo government’s disappointing display of its inability to act swiftly and decisively to help save Filipinos in distress as well as mitigate the sufferings of those affected by the storm, the story about another brewing storm hit the headlines. Two American soldiers were killed by a blast from an improvised explosive device as their vehicle, a Humvee, was traversing the road between Kagay and Bato-bato, in Indanan town in Sulu on Sept. 29.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago immediately called for the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). She said this proved that US troops were in a battle area and were taking part in combat operations against separatist insurgents. This was denied by the US embassy, saying that the American soldiers were merely inspecting the area where they plan to build a school.

However, events prior to and after the blast that killed the American soldiers prove otherwise. First, Major General Ben Dolorfino, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, admitted that a 45-minute firefight between government forces and unidentified gunmen occurred in Barangay Bitanag in Panamao, Sulu, before the blast that killed the US soldiers. While Panamao is in another side of the island, Jolo is a small island with a land area of only 894 square kilometers.

Second, at around 11 a.m. of the same day, a mere two and a half hours after the blast that killed the two American soldiers, a small bridge in Sitio Dauyan, Barangay Bunot, also in Indanan town, was bombed. Earlier, Sept. 25, a bridge in Bato-bato, Indanan,
was also bombed. Dolorfino explained that these two bombings were “retaliatory attacks” by the Abu Sayyaf because the AFP had “decided to launch offensive action on Sept. 20.”

A day after the blast that killed the two, more American soldiers arrived supposedly to help in relief efforts in flood-stricken areas, a move that raised suspicions that they might participate later in retaliatory action against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu.

What are the implications of the death of the two American soldiers? Will this result in an escalation of US military intervention in the Philippines much like what happened in Vietnam from 1964 to 1975?

At the minimum, the death of the two American soldiers emphasized the urgency of abrogating the VFA. Clearly, the incident proved that US soldiers are indeed embedded in AFP units conducting combat operations.

There would be retaliatory action from US forces, that’s for sure. However, without precluding the probability of an escalated US military intervention in the future, there seems to be not enough reason yet for the US to pour in troops at the scale it did in Vietnam from 1964-75. The current level of US involvement and positioning in the country, in general, and Mindanao, in particular, is still well within its current defense strategy and policy. It has unlimited access to AFP facilities and has built support infrastructure for its operations. It has command over a surrogate army, the AFP, while practicing its small unit Special Forces operations, as well as joint combat operations. And its interests are well-protected by the Arroyo government.

Actually, the US does not need the death of its soldiers if it wanted to escalate its war of aggression. It just needs to invent a hoax as justification. The supposed stockpile of weapons of mass destruction of former Iraq president Saddam Hussein, which was made the justification by the US to gather support for its plan to attack Iraq, was proven to be nonexistent.

In Vietnam, the Aug. 4, 1964, Gulf of Tonkin incident — where US Navy destroyers Maddox and Turner Joy reported that they were being attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats — was proven to be false. Within hours, then US president Lyndon Johnson ordered air strikes on Hanoi. Although, wrote Edwin Moise in his book Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the War in Vietnam, an actual battle did occur between the Maddox and three North Vietnamese torpedo boats on Aug. 2, no Vietnamese were near the two warships on Aug. 4. By Aug. 7, the US Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave the president the authority to “take all necessary measures.” The resolution was cited by Johnson when he ordered the escalation of the war in 1965.

In 1964, the US had 16,000 military advisers stationed in South Vietnam. By late 1965, the US had increased its troop strength in Vietnam to 180,000. By mid-1966, US troops in the country numbered 350,000. In 1967, US troops in Vietnam reached almost half a million.

The number of US troops and advisers in the Philippines is still far from this, although through the VFA, they have already maintained a continuing presence. But US military intervention could escalate if Washington feels that its interests in the country are being threatened either by an anti-imperialist revolutionary organization or by a government that genuinely prioritizes the interests of its citizens over that of a foreign government.

If the Filipino people want to prevent this from happening, we could start by working for the abrogation of all treaties and agreements that enables US troops to operate in the country, such as the VFA and the Mutual Defense Treaty. We could also declare before the international community that we are for an independent foreign policy that renounces any form of aggression and intervention by one country over another. Only then could we make it politically costly for the US to escalate its intervention in the affairs of the country now and in the future. (Bulatlat.com)

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10 years after, why are US troops still here?

MANILA, Philippines—“Life will go on” in the event the country junks the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said Sunday.

Santiago said in a dzBB radio interview Sunday that she would seek the scrapping of the pact altogether should the US reject proposals to renegotiate the VFA.

Santiago, who chairs the Senate foreign relations committee, said she would have its members sign on Tuesday the committee report containing the findings and recommendations of the just-concluded Senate hearing into the VFA.

She said she would then sponsor a resolution on the floor “expressing the sense of the Senate that the Secretary of Foreign Affairs should seek to renegotiate the VFA with the US, and in case of denial, that we should give notice of its termination.”

“We want Foreign Secretary (Alberto) Romulo to ask the US embassy to discuss the VFA because of questions over whether US troops do engage in combat operations here instead of just training our soldiers,” Santiago said.

According to Santiago, there were also questions as to why after 10 years, US troops were still here when the agreement was only supposed to be a “visiting forces” pact.

“If they don’t want to negotiate with us, then we can give them notice,” she said, pointing out that as provided for in the VFA, the agreement may be abrogated by either party giving six months’ notice.

Pass in plenary

Santiago expressed confidence that members of her committee would support the resolution. She believes all the senators would also approve the resolution.

“I think it will pass (in the plenary) because it’s not calling for the outright termination of the VFA but a renegotiation…If they don’t want to renegotiate, we don’t have a choice but to terminate it,” she said.

The Senate resolution would then be transmitted for the consideration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who has the sole power to terminate the agreement.

Last week, Santiago called for a Senate hearing into the VFA following announcements by US defense officials that they had decided to keep a 600-member US special force in the country indefinitely.

After the hearing, Santiago said she would push for the abrogation of the treaty because it was “very vague” since it seemed to allow US troops to get involved in combat operations against the enemies of the state.

Reports that American forces had engaged in combat operations against the Abu Sayyaf bandit group in Mindanao as early as 2002 should be looked into by the Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement, Malacañang said Saturday.

“These reports should be looked into by the appropriate body, and the appropriate body is the VFA Commission,” said Press Secretary Cerge Remonde over radio dzRB.

Shot by black soldier

Civilian accounts had surfaced as early as 2002 that US soldiers joined Philippine troops in operations against the Abu Sayyaf in the jungles of Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi, according to reports.

Buyung-buyung Isnijal, a farmer, claimed he was shot by a “black” soldier during a July 25, 2002, raid on his home in Tuburan town by elements of the 18th Infantry Battalion. Isnijal was a suspected Abu Sayyaf bandit.

Investigation by the Commission on Human Rights found that an African-American soldier, Sgt. Reggie Lane, had been assigned with the 18th IB in Lamitan, Basilan.

“We have to establish if that’s true. That should be investigated. It’s easy to concoct stories,” Secretary Raul Gonzalez, presidential chief legal counsel, said in a phone interview.

If proven true, Gonzalez said this could be grounds to seek a review of the VFA, which came into force in 1999.

He had earlier said he would ask President Arroyo to convince the US government

to agree to a review, and if possible, a renegotiation.

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imperyalismo-kaaway-ng-mamamayan

Bakit laging tumataas ang presyo ng langis?

Ang pana-panahong akyat-baba ng presyo ay bahagya at bunga ng ispekulasyon. Tumataas ang presyo ng langis sa pandaigdigang pamilihan dahil sa tumitinding desperasyon ng kapitalista upang palakihin ang tubo sa pamamagitan ng ispekulasyon.

Hindi mga artipisyal na pagbabago sa suplay at demand ang nagbubunsod sa pagbabago ng presyo ng langis —- ang mga ito ay nililikha lamang ng mas mapagpasyang kapangyarihan sa industriya ng langis, ang imperyalistang US.

Ang US ang pangunahing imperyalistang bansa na kumukontrol sa pandaigdigang industriya ng langis

Ang nagdidikta ng saligang presyo ng krudong langis sa pandaigdigang pamilihan ay ang kartel ng mga dambuhalang transnasyunal na mga korporasyon. Habang kontrolado nito ang eksplorasyon, repinerya at distribusyon ng produktong petrolyo, tiyak na hindi mahihinto ang pagtaas ng presyo nito.

Bakit tinututulan ng CONDOR-PISTON ang US-RP Balikatan military exercises?

Ang US-RP Balikatan military exercises ang instrumento ng imperyalistang US upang mapanatili ang geopolitical na mga interes nito sa Asia-Pacific region. Sa taunang Balikatan exercises sa bansa, patuloy na nakakapagmantini dito ng presensya ng tropang US kahit wala nang base militar.

Nakasaad sa 1995 East Asia Strategy Report ng US Department of Defense: ang presensya ng pwersang militar ng US sa Asya ay mahigpit na nakaugnay sa pang-ekonomya at iba pang interes ng US sa bahagi ito ng daigdig, ang forward deployment ng tropang US ay absolutong rekisito upang maprotektahan ang mga kontrolado nitong “market” at mga interes nito.

Ang Balikatan military exercises ay instrumento ng imperyalismo upang higit pang dambungin ang yaman ng mga bansa, kabilang na ang Pilipinas. Ito ang nagtitiyak na tuluy-tuloy na nasa kontrol ng US ang global market.

Ang Balikatan military exercises ay panlulupig sa soberanya ng bansa. Ang malakihang pagpasok ng tropang Kano sa bansa ay panghihimasok sa kasarinlan at integridad ng Pilipinas.

Imperyalismong US, Kaaway ng Mamamayan

Pandarambong sa Ekonomya, Tutulan

Panlulupig sa Soberanya ng Bansa, Labanan

US Troops Out Now!

CONDOR-PISTON (Concerned Drivers and Operators for Reforms, Inc.) -Bikol

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News Release
February 14, 2009
Reference: Prof. Jocelyn Bisuña, spokesperson, BAN BALIKATAN

BAN BALIKATAN fully agrees with former SC chief Panganiban
Vows to intensify fight against VFA and Balikatan exercises

The Bikolano Alliance for Nationalism against Balikatan (BAN BALIKATAN) fully agrees with former Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban in his call to junk the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and to treat Smith like any other accused.

According to Prof. Jocelyn Bisuña, spokesperson of BAN BALIKATAN, “We are one with former CJ Panganiban in saying that the VFA violates our Constitution. Panganiban says that it is unconstitutional because the United States does not recognize and honor it as a treaty the way the Philippines does, but we add that aside from this it also tramples on our sovereignty,”

“Through the VFA the US has been conducting Balikatan exercises that have mobilized US troops in our country. They have also conducted surveillance and combat operations which have blatantly interfered with our internal affairs,” added Bisuña.

“Consequently, to hide the true purpose of the Balikatan exercises, the US soldiers along with the Armed Forces of the Philippines conduct so-called “humanitarian missions”. It would be naïve for us to think that the US Special Forces came here to Bicol just to deliver their dole-outs. They have clear strategic military objectives along the lines of securing US political and military interests,” said the patriotic professor.

“Our freedom and sovereignty is definitely worth more than a few token medical and engineering missions and many of our countrymen have died fighting for it. It is our duty then to defend it and intensify the campaign against the VFA and the Balikatan exercises” ended Bisuña. # # #

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News Release
January 20, 2009
References: Tessa Lopez, public information officer, BAYAN-Bikol
John Concepcion, spokesperson, KARAPATAN-Bikol

Bicol militants challenge new US President Obama to Stop Balikatan!

Sets massive rally against Balikatan on Jan. 22

Leaders of people’s organizations comprising the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Bikol (BAYAN-Bikol) gathered in Legazpi City today to issue a challenge to US President-elect Barack Obama on the day of his inaguration to put a stop to the Balikatan exercises in the country, as well as to rescind the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

According to Tessa Lopez, public information officer of BAYAN-Bikol; “As the new president of the sole superpower in the world, we hope that Obama will make a clear foreign policy shift contrary to the war-mongering Bush regime.. In this light, our challenge to him is to stop the Balikatan exercises in the Philippines before it cause more damage to the lives of Filipinos,”

“To show the urgency and seriousness of our call we will lead a massive rally against the Balikatan this coming January 22. All provinces of the region will mobilize on this day and we expect at least 20,000 people to participate. This is a clear manifestation of the Bicolano people’s opposition against the exercises,” added Lopez.

Meanwhile John Concepcion, spokesperson of KARAPATAN-Bikol said, “If the Balikatan is not stopped we fear that the number of human rights violations will spike in the region. This is aside from the fact that the US troops are trampling on our country’s sovereignty and they are also endangering the lives of Bicolanos with their war games,”

“So we are enjoining more Oragons to come and participate in the rally so that early on we can register our opposition to the Balikatan and the VFA. Like Gen. Simeon Ola we must continuously oppose the presence of US troops in our country,” ended Concepcion. # # #

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