Background and Analysis of the Issue
Sources: BAYAN presentation “Increased Deployment of US Troops to the Philippines: Violation of Sovereignty, Threat to Peace;” “What’s Behind TPPA: US Imperialist Agenda in the Region.”
In January 2012, the US announced its new military strategy of “rebalancing” its forces from the Middle East to the Asia Pacific. Since then, new rounds of negotiations between the US and the Philippines have been underway to deploy and station additional US troops to the Philippines, and conduct more military exercises and more frequent landings of US warships in the country.
Why is US imperialism advancing this “new” strategy?
According to Obama, the US “U.S. economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities. Accordingly, while the U.S. military will continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region…Over the long term, China’s emergence as a regional power will have the potential to affect the U.S. economy and our security in a variety of ways.” In the context of the worsening crisis in the US economy, the US sees a need to control trade and resources of the world and project US military power. The objectives of the US are to surround China (a rising economic competitor), pressure North Korea because it does not follow the dictates of the US, and reassert US hegemony in the Asia Pacific.
How will the US implement this strategy?
Stronger US military “presence operations” in the country through:
- “Rotational” deployments which make troop presence essentially permanent (as they are doing in Mindanao)
- Bilateral and multilateral training exercises (e.g., Balikatan)
- Port calls of warships
Flexible: Even without formal military bases, the US is using the Visiting Forces Agreement and access arrangements to set up what resemble bases in the country, even using the existing facilities of the Philippines.The US and Aquino regimes cite the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement as foundations for the new access agreement being negotiated. The US is using the dispute about the Spratlys as a reason for intervention in the region and to control the flow of trade in the South China Sea. This only adds to the tension and conflict in the region.
What is Aquino doing to uphold and protect Philippine interests?
Nothing. In fact, the opposite is true: Aquino is making excuses to justify the increased presence of the US military. The US’s pledge of additional military aid this year—up to $50 million from $30 million last year—is like a reward for Aquino’s subservience in previous years and current capitulation to the new military access agreement. Aquino and his various cabinet ministers have pointed to the US military’s so-called assistance in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan as further “proof” that US military presence and prepositioning is helpful and positive for the Filipino people. It also serves as cover for Aquino’s own sorry shortcomings in preparing for and responding adequately to disasters such as typhoons.
The call of the AFP and Malacanang that the addition of US troops will help modernize the AFP is a fallacy. The Mutual Defense Treaty has existed for 60 years and the VFA for 13, but the AFP has still not been modernized. Being overly dependent on the US is the main reason why the AFP has not modernized.
What is the relationship between the US military pivot and the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement?
Alongside increasing its military presence in the region, US imperialism will use the TPPA to secure its economic and foreign policy interests in the Asia Pacific. The Transpacific Partnership Agreement, (TPPA) is a FTA between 9 countries in the region, namely USA, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam, Peru and Chile. Japan, Canada, Mexico, Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan have expressed their interest to join TPPA.
The TPPA aims to achieve economic integration and seamless commercial transactions in the Asia Pacific for the benefit of American and multi-national corporations. Like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the TPPA will open all sectors of Asia-Pacific economies to foreign investment, remove barriers and tariffs restricting trade, and grant foreign investors and corporations the right to sue governments if their investments are threatened by the latter’s policies.
The TPPA is US imperialism’s strategy to stop the growth of Asian regionalism and counter the expanding influence of China, thereby, securing US imperialist influence in the region.
It is a move by US imperialism to bypass the slow-moving negotiations of the WTO and create a platform for a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP).
The Asia Pacific region, where 40% of the global population resides, is the world’s largest market for US exports; it receives two-thirds of US agricultural exports. Troubled by the current global crisis, the US looks towards Asia’s growing economies in the hope of tapping their markets to save its own economy. However, the growing influence of China in the region and beyond is considered a threat to US hegemony.
The liberalization and deregulation of economies can cause industries to migrate to countries where production costs are much lower due to cheap labor, raw material inputs, and more lax environmental and labor protection laws. This induces the de-industrialization of origin countries and a negative kind of industrial development in the recipient countries. Such industrial shifts will not automatically be from advantage for the workers of the countries where the manufacturing businesses migrate.
Aside from granting access to all economic sectors, the TPPA will elevate the status of investors to equal not only local businesses but also governments of the countries. This deal grants vast powers to investors by giving foreign corporations the right to sue governments when their investment interests are being threatened, and to demand that they be consulted before any law is passed that might affect their investments. The effects of the attack on national sovereignty will be immediately felt by the citizens of the participating nations, as their governments are obliged to reformulate policies that will affect local economies, job security and social protection of workers, public services, and the environment. The TPPA may even require governments to change their constitutions.
The liberalized economies and greater investor rights allow corporations, particularly the large extractive industries, to enjoy unbridled environmental plunder of their host countries. This deprives the people in host countries of their right to use their own natural resources for economic development and renders their communities more vulnerable to environmental disasters.
- US Out of the Philippines and all Asia Pacific
- Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement
- Junk VFA and New Military Access Agreements
- End the Aquino regime’s puppetry to US imperialism
- Uphold Philippines sovereignty
- Build international solidarity against US intervention, militarization and aggression