Obama’s Visit to Malaysia and the Philippines: Clean up, not Build -up!

This week President Obama visited Malaysia and the Philippines to promote his military and economic agenda in Asia.  In both nations he was met with protests against the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and an increased U.S. military presence through the military Pivot to Asia.

On Monday, the United States sealed a deal they have long been wanting: a new 10-year agreement with the Philippines, known as the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).  The EDCA is a new Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which will allow American troops permanent access to Philippine military bases for at least the next decade, including for joint training exercises and deployment of combat ships and/or aircraft carriers.  Like the TPPA, the terms of the EDCA were shrouded in secrecy. Drafted by the United States, it was never made public for scrutiny or debate.  

Women for Genuine Security opposes the EDCA, and calls for enduring peace and de-militarization of the region. The EDCA is not about peace or regional security but a re-arrangement of U.S. forces that will make war more likely.  We oppose the return of U.S. military bases to the Philippines, which has a century-long history of U.S. dominance. 

Following the defeat of Spain, the United States purchased the Philippines for $1 million in 1898, and immediately blocked Philippine efforts to attain independence  (Philippine-American War 1899-1902).  The Philippines was a U.S. colony until 1946, and even after so-called independence, housed two of the largest U.S. bases in the world (Clark Air base and Subic Bay Naval base). In 1991, the Philippine Senate rejected a renewal of the base agreement treaty. It argued that U.S. bases are “symbols of colonization, foreign domination and infringement on Philippine sovereignty.”   Nevertheless, the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement has allowed U.S. warships and aircraft to “visit” the country for unlimited amounts of time for refuelling, repairs, and “rest and recreation.”  The U.S. provides significant funding to the Philippine military and conducts regular joint exercises involving all service branches from both countries. Moreover, the U.S. military’s role in providing disaster relief following Typhoon Haiyan last fall appears to have softened acceptance of this new and increased U.S. military access to the Philippines:  disaster militarism at work.

Rather than a new basing agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines we call on the Obama administration to:

1)  Clean up all former U.S. bases in the Philippines, where military contamination and toxics continue to poison local communities.

2) Take responsibility for over 52,000 Amerasian children in the Philippines.  These children, fathered by U.S. troops, have been excluded from rights to U.S. citizenship; many face economic and racial discrimination, making it very difficult for them to thrive. 

3)  Provide protection and legal rights for Philippine women and local citizens against crimes perpetrated by U.S. troops and military contractors.  Time and again the U.S. has intervened to thwart Philippine legal efforts to prosecute U.S. soldiers accused of sexual assault and other crimes.

4) Support the Filipino people’s right to support their families. As part of EDCA, the Philippine government will pay for the upgrading of former U.S. military infrastructure and the building of new bases for the use of U.S. troops– including a pristine site at Oyster Bay, Palawan. The Filipino people will subsidize the presence of U.S. troops in their own country!  The Philippines has been impoverished by a long colonial history and the more recent dominance of multinational corporations.  It is prone to severe storms, most recently Typhoon Haiyan, which wreak havoc on the basics of life: people’s homes, farmland, power and water supplies, and health services. The country’s distorted economy is not structured to  provide for its population, so some 10 percent must migrate to seek jobs as overseas contract workers, supporting their families by the remittances they send home. The Filipino people need resources so that their families can thrive, rather than subsidizing the largest military in the world. 

Women for Genuine Security also strongly opposes the TPPA in the Philippines and in Malaysia.  This will allow so-called free trade with the other 11 partner countries to the agreement. Malaysia’s Parliamentary Opposition party, Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), voiced support for protests against President Obama’s visit and resistance to the TPPA.  While in Malaysia, Obama was unable to get the agreement signed, but he did discuss it with Malaysia’s Minister of International Trade and Industry, Mustapa Mohamed, and has stated that negotiations will continue through the spring.

If the TPPA comes into force, foreign multinational and corporate entities can more easily seize control of land, water, and other resources such as minerals.  The TPPA will allow corporations from anywhere in the bloc to sue governments in secret courts to overturn national or local regulations that limit their operations. This puts the sovereignty of all member nations at risk. 

Virtually all rural Philippine islands, coastal towns and hamlets would be opened to further exploitation by foreign corporate interests.  The TPPA will not benefit the women, children and men who live in these areas, especially those hundreds of thousands still marginalized and struggling from disasters (recently Super Typhoon Haiyan/ Yolanda), or civil conflict (in Mindanao).

Women for Genuine Security stands in solidarity with our Philippine sisters and all those who have protested Obama’s visits, both in Malaysia and the Philippines.  We believe that U.S. national investments and Malaysian and Filipino people’s investments should go towards meeting human needs and environmental sustainability rather than expenditures on militarism.  People in Asia have suffered tremendously from wars.  War only benefits those who profit from it. Asian peoples’ political, economic, social and cultural rights must not be sacrificed to those who seek to profit from the powerful web of the military industrial complex, the arms dealers, and multinational corporate actors and their allies aggressively promoting the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and the Pacific Pivot throughout the region.  

Diana Cabcabin, Gwyn Kirk, Debbie Lee, Taeva Shefler

Women for Genuine Security

For more information on the Philippines:  http://blogs.wsj.com/searealtime/2014/04/28/5-philippine-bases-where-the-u-s-military-will-look-to-gain-a-footing/

WGS is the U.S-based partner organization in the International Women’s Network Against Militarism, a network of individuals and organizations from Guam,Hawai‘i, Japan,Okinawa,Philippines, Puerto Rico,South Korea and the continental United States who are organizing against the harmful effects of U.S. bases, military budgets, and military operations.

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