We publish an unofficial translation of the editorial of the latest edition of Ang Bayan.
In the face of the arrival of thousands of American troops, with their gigantic warships, warplanes, cannons and various weapons, the lack of true independence of the Philippines and the low treatment of the country as a large US military base become even more apparent.
While in the Philippines, American soldiers enjoy extraterritorial rights and special privileges, often beyond those of ordinary Filipinos. It was given to them under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), unfair agreements in favor of the US.
Under the EDCA, the US was granted extensive “agreed locations” within AFP military camps, for exclusive use as military facilities and bases. It is used by the US as a port, airport, crude oil storage, personnel accommodation, storage of weapons, vehicles and other war equipment. This land is being used by the US “without rent or similar compensation.”
The US military has absolute control over these locations until they are “no longer needed by the United States,” meaning however long it wants and needs to use these locations. The Philippines has no sovereignty or authority over US military bases and facilities. It cannot be entered or inspected except by means approved (or authorized) by the US.
The US is also granted the right to use public land and facilities such as roads, ports and airports at any time, especially if they are moving or deploying equipment. Contrary to Philippine laws, the US was also given the right to establish its own telecommunications system and use “all necessary radio spectrum” free of charge, a right that ordinary Filipinos do not have. In addition, under the EDCA, the US was given the privilege to use water, electricity and other utilities at an equivalent charge to the Philippine government, which is lower than the average Filipino’s bill.
The agreement does not obligate the US to pay for any environmental damage that may be caused by the disposal of toxic or hazardous materials. It will be remembered that at the end of 1992, the US left the Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base without cleaning up their waste that poisoned rivers and oceans and the people who live there.
While in the Philippines, American soldiers enjoy special legal status. Unless otherwise requested, they are not subject to the criminal or civil laws of the Philippines during their stay in the country. In the past 25 years, American soldiers who have been involved in criminal cases (murder, rape, beating, shooting, etc.) have not been arrested, charged or brought to court, and have instead been dismissed. Even in the two prominent cases of the Subic Rape Case and the murder of Jennifer Laude, the American soldiers who were found guilty were smuggled out and sent back to the US.
This 2023, at least 500 war games—military exercises that prepare for war—will be conducted by the US in the Philippines. That means, every day of the year, there are American soldiers in the Philippines to provoke and incite war. This includes the Balikatan exercise last April, the largest in history, where 12,600 American troops swarmed northern Luzon to show off China. Flying US jet fighters and helicopters, sailing the oceans, as well as shooting missiles and dropping bombs disrupts peace and destroys nature. “Joint exercises” are used to ensure that it can control the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) (what the US calls “interoperability”) when war breaks out. The “modernization” of the AFP is being pushed to buy tens of billions of pesos in surplus, used or obsolete US weapons.
While trampling and ruling the land, air and sea, the large presence of American soldiers is shown as a sign of the “iron-clad friendship” between the US and the Philippines. It is ridiculous that the US is said to be in the Philippines to defend against the giant China. The truth is, the US is defending its own interests, just as its own interests are the reason why the Philippines was surrounded and occupied for half a century, and was turned into a semi-colony since 1946 ruled by submissive bureaucrats.
The presence of the US in the Philippines is part of its strategy to surround its rival imperialist China and prevent the further growth of its military and economic power. The US is constantly increasing its military forces in East Asia, from Southeast Asia to the Pacific islands, even in India, while inciting and pressuring its military allies (including Japan, Australia, and even the United Kingdom) to join naval operations in the South China Sea under the guise of “freedom of navigation.” For the US and its geopolitical and military strategy, the Philippines is an important base because of its proximity to China. As for China, the presence of US military forces in the Philippines is viewed as a threat to its security and will surely be the target of an armed attack when the US uses its pretext of war against China.
Giving way to a growing presence in the Philippines was used by the US Biden government as a condition for increased loans, investments and military aid that the Marcos regime desperately requested during two visits to the US. In exchange for the outright surrender of territory to the US and permission to use the country as a military base and battlefield for the US, the World Bank simultaneously approved this June four loan packages totaling $1.14 billion, to fill the Marcos regime’s excessive budget deficit. Loans are now being used to push economic policies to further the interests of foreign capitalists and their comprador bourgeois and landlord partners, at the expense of the livelihood of the working masses and ordinary Filipinos.
Under the Marcos puppet regime, the status of the Philippines as a US semi-colonial country with no real independence is getting worse. The more than 125 years of US control and dominance is the root of why the Philippines is in crisis, backward, agrarian, non-industrialized and unable to stand on its own feet. The US is now using its political, economic, military and cultural dominance more firmly to impose its interests on the Philippines and the entire Asian region.
The Filipino people must fight for the scrapping of the EDCA, the VFA, the Mutual Defense Treaty and all other unfair military agreements with the US. The Philippines has no true sovereignty as long as US military power undermines it. The people must fight to free the Philippines from US control and develop the country’s independent ability to defend itself. This can only be achieved if the Philippines has true economic and political independence and full national independence.