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US President Obama Visit in Manila

The small window of opportunity to forge an independent foreign policy that the Philippines gained with the expulsion of the US bases in 1992 will disappear with the impending signing of the Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation with the US.
Obama Visit, Not in our People's Interest!

By Party of the Laboring Masses (PLM)

The Party of the Laboring Masses (PLM), a political party of the marginalized sectors, protests the upcoming visit to Manila by US President Barack Obama. The visit is designed to strengthen US hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region both in the economic and the military arenas.

In the economic arena, the intention is to seal the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) with 11 other countries including the Philippines. TPPA aims to enhance the interests of the US corporations over Asian capital. The Agreement seeks to extend medicine patents, strengthen intellectual property rights for the benefit of US corporations, tear down all protectionist policies of the developing countries, and allow corporations to sue sovereign states and trample on labor and environmental safeguards.

In the military arena, the Obama visit is in line with the US military "pivot" (now called "rebalancing") to Asia. The rebalancing is designed to advance US economic and geopolitical interests in the region and to encircle and contain its potential economic rivals in the region, especially China.

The "pivot" plan is aimed at moving at least 60% of US warships from anywhere in the world to patrol Asia. It entails increasing US military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, the construction of new US bases in Japan, South Korea and Guam, and the deployment of increasing number of 'rotational troops' and war materials in Australia and the Philippines. This year, the US is deploying 1,150 troops in Australia, which is expected to increase to 2,500 by 2016.

The Obama visit is also designed to fast track a new bilateral pact disguised as "Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement" which gives a de facto military basing right to the United States military in the Philippines. The agreement allows the US armed forces to station their troops and munitions and set up their own exclusive facilities within the AFP camp in the Philippines.

It is no wonder that the visit also coincides with Congress attempts to effect a "cha-cha" or a charter change (amendments to the Philippine constitution) in order to remove all restrictions to foreign investment. It paves the way for the Philippines to join the one-sided TPPA agreement.

While the US is playing up the territorial disputes in the Spratlys and other islands in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) by favouring the Philippines and other Asian countries against China, the US is merely interested in gaining control of the sea lanes for economic and military hegemony. And while media has been focusing on the developing tensions between US and China, both countries are increasing their economic and military relations. US investment in China totaled more than 70 billion dollars, while Chinese investment in US totaled about 10 billion dollars today. The US alone has some 1.28 trillion-dollar debt to China. The two countries have also agreed to continue to stage military exercises in disaster relief, fighting piracy and maritime rescue in the coming years.

The Party of the Laboring Masses calls on the people to protest President Obama's visit. It is not in the Filipino people's interest to welcome him. He is coming to Manila with evil wishes and evil plans. Let us frustrate these.

Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM)



AEDC binds Philippines to Obama's 'Pivot Asia' expansionist agenda

By Labor Party - Philippines

With no clear independent foreign policy to speak of, the Philippines, in hastily concurring with the Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation (AEDC), tied itself unconditionally to Obama's hegemonic agenda called "pivot to Asia," according to Partido ng Manggagawa (PM).

The labor group believed it was the US that aggressively sought PH's approval of the AEDC as it tries to assemble its military power in the region as quickly as possible to counter China's rapid rise as a regional and global power. The Aquino administration on its part instantly acceded to this new partnership with the US in the face of increasing territorial transgressions by China on Philippine waters.

Obama's "Pivot Asia" program, the group said during the Scrap VFA Movement rally held Monday in Mendiola in time for the scheduled visit by US President Barack Obama, "involves a major shift in projecting US military from the Middle East to Asia, along with aggressive trade expansion in the region to revive the ailing US economy."

"Militarily 'pivot Asia' establishes strategic military alliances in the region through permanent and temporary basing arrangements with regional allies. Economically trade expansion will be done through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreements, a US-led trading platform that represent about 40% of world trade," said PM spokesperson Wilson Fortaleza.

Drumbeating for war

Reacting to Barack Obama's four-nation Asian tour, Fortaleza said "drumbeating for war" is clearly the main message of the US President, citing for example the assurances he gave to Japan, Korea and the Philippines that in case hostilities break out between them and China, they are assured that the US will go to war with its allies.

"That is expected since his "pivot to Asia" essentially has war logic," said Fortaleza. This war logic, he added, is clearly understood by China.

Thus, for the anti-war movement, the increasing assertiveness of China and the provocative and imposing presence of US forces in the region constitute the biggest threat to peace and stability in the region.

To avoid that senseless armed confrontation, PM and the Scrap VFA Movement are demanding the demilitarization of Asia, and disputed territories be declared as regional commons and war-free zones.

Furthermore for PM the signing of the AEDC on Monday capped Obama's successful Asian tour, with the Philippines and other allies willing to play host to the US' political and economic agenda in the region.

"Obama was able to project himself as redeemer and a man of peace when in truth he is a war monger, while back home, he is considered a failure by the American working class," the group concluded.

Partido ng Manggagawa (PM).
Labor Party - Philippines



US-Philippines Enhanced Defense: A cheap and lopsided military agreement

By Akbayan (Citizens Action Party)

We express our extreme disappointment with the Aquino administration's signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States in time for the visit of President Barack Obama. The Aquino government missed a golden opportunity to secure our country's sovereignty and national interest from the superpower games between the United States and the People's Republic of China. Instead of standing firmly on our own by developing and implementing a foreign and security policy that is truly independent and progressive, especially in the context of the territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea, the government willfully capitulated to the dynamics of global superpowers. We believe that, with the signing of this agreement, the very sovereignty that the government hopes to secure from our regional adversary was surrendered to an old and more scheming global power. This agreement also severely undermined Philippine territorial integrity beyond the West Philippine Sea

The Aquino government's decision to bank on a US-led militarized response to the conflicts in the West Philippine Sea is exceptionally foolish. The argument against this is very simple: The US has explicitly stated that the Mutual Defense Treaty does not cover the protection of our Spratlys possessions and the Panatag shoal. They are in no way obligated to come to our defense on the disputes in the West Philippine Sea. Even the much-touted "Asia Pivot" strategy that the EDCA will represent in the Philippines does not guarantee that the US will defend us from China's bullying in the region.

From "pivot" to "rebalancing"

Truth is, the US military's "Asia pivot" is starting to lose its steam. To begin with, the "Asia pivot" lacked the needed resources to deliver on its rhetoric. The "pivot" is increasingly exposed as an attempt to cover the US government's reduced military engagement in the Middle East and Europe, which has been the result of mixed, if not dreary, outcome of their military interventions. Moreover, the US has to contend with enduring problems such as the persistence of its terrorism debacle as well as regional challenges posed by countries such as Iran.

That the US now prefers to use the term "re-balancing strategy" for Asia rather than "pivot" already implies an admission on the part of the US that the forceful turn of events, which they themselves had a hand in creating, has left them flatfooted. Part of the strategy requires the relocation of some of its military infrastructure from other regions to Asia, re-balancing military assets within the Asia-Pacific region, and reducing the heavy concentration of their forces in the other parts of Asia to achieve a more even presence throughout the region. The US knows the region's growing political and economic importance in the world. It also grudgingly accepts that it needs a "managed" China to advance its trade and security interests, among others. More than anything else, the US needs to maintain the perception that it remains the dominant political force in Asia.

Cheapskate, lopsided agreement

The US is pursuing this by "re-balancing on the cheap," or by pushing for cheapskate basing agreements such as the recently-signed EDCA with the Philippines. Aside from being non-transparent, this agreement is an extremely lopsided basing agreement merely to hoist the American flag in our country at 'bargain basement price' - the US will not pay rent, and will instead exchange antiquated defense articles for the freedom to use any part of our country to pursue its military objectives. And all this comes with a heavy price to our nation. The agreement presents a triple-threat to our national interest: 1) It marginalizes the settlement of the territorial disputes in the Spratlys, 2) It turns the Philippines into a frontline state like Afghanistan and Pakistan from which the US will operate, and 3) It brings us away from a collective security arrangement that is superior to the balance of power arrangement that favors the US.

China's "17th century mindset"

However, our opposition to the EDCA doesn't mean we accede that China must be given the free reign over the West Philippine Sea. Akbayan reiterates its strong condemnation of China's continuing infringement of Philippine sovereignty and their merciless harassment of Filipinos in the region. We must not bend to China's 17th century view of the region. Their increasing aggression over the West Philippine Sea robs ordinary Filipinos the right over our natural and marine resources, and it robs the nation of the opportunity to go a step higher on the socio-economic development ladder by preventing us to fully develop our integral territories.

One of the best weapons: Philippine case before Arbritral Tribunal

Thus, we call on the Filipino people to unite in supporting the arbitration case we filed before the International Tribunal on the Laws of the Seas (ITLOS) concerning our the dispute with China. The legal case is one of our most powerful weapons in fortifying our territorial claims against China.

We also call on the Aquino government to elevate the diplomatic resolution of the territorial disputes to the level of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), prepare to lodge a Crimea-type resolution at the UN General Assembly, and revive the push for a Collective Security Agreement that would include ASEAN, North and South Korea, Japan and China. In this respect, it is high time that the Philippines threw its weight towards the creation and strengthening of international laws and regional norms for diplomacy and dispute settlement, something that both the United States and China have held with much disrespect.

Wasted opportunity

Now more than ever, the country needed to move toward an independent and progressive foreign policy position. National foreign policy must be founded on the principles of human rights and solidarity, and must have at its heart the right of people to a life with dignity. An independent foreign policy position must make a commitment against superpower realpolitik; the people should never be made pawns in the race of nations to accumulate power and might against each other.

Sadly, the signing of the EDCA indicates the Aquino government's failure to protect the very same sovereignty it wants to secure from China. Instead of repudiating the narrow superpower dynamics, President Aquino squandered the opportunity to create an independent and progressive foreign policy that will contribute to creating a global order that is just, fair, and humane to all peoples across all borders.