Category: BAYAN Philippines

EDSA at 30: The Unfinished Struggle for Change

For Immediate Release

February 25, 2016

Reference: Berna Ellorin, BAYAN USA, chair@bayanusa.org

 

23edsa

30 years ago today, approximately two million Filipinos poured into the streets of Manila and converged onto Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) for 4 consecutive days of civil disobedience to block pending hostilities between warring factions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and demand an end to the tyranny of Martial Law under Ferdinand Marcos. The demonstrators represented a broad united front of politicians, nuns, priests, professionals, health workers, teachers, students, workers, and urban poor.  As a newly-formed alliance, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN, factored significantly the year prior in spearheading pro-democracy demonstrations all over the country that provided the crucial momentum for the financial and media center of Manila to follow suit in 1986. The overwhelming cry for change and an end to 14 years of Martial Law culminated into the toppling of the fascist dictator Marcos from Malacanang and the rise of Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, widow of slain Marcos oppositionist Benigno Aquino Jr., into the presidency.

As an alliance of Filipino organizations in the US, BAYAN USA believes fundamental change in the Philippines has yet to be realized. Thus the legacy of EDSA remains relevant, and the people’s struggle for change must continue. More than ever, the Philippines is in the throes of falling back to neocolonial fascist rule. Setting the stage for this is the return of US military facilities under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

 

The Real Role of US Bases

American author and academic Noam Chomsky explains in his book “The Washington Connection and Third marcosesWorld Fascism” how US military bases in developing countries are the convergence points between US strategic economic and military interests, and in particular how US military bases serve as hubs for local fascist regimes in countries of interest to US corporations. As hubs, US military bases ensure these interests are met by providing training, weapons, surveillance technology, communications from the CIA and Pentagon, and aid for local police, paramilitaries, and military juntas to suppress dissent and the emergence of popular movements against the corporate takeover of Philippine land and sea territories and public assets for super-profits.

The findings of the last year’s International People’s Tribunal on the Philippines included evidence that the US government has directly intervened and dictated Philippine economic policy-making since the Philippines was granted nominal independence in 1946, mainly through Washington’s Bretton Woods institutions– the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization. Washington officials drafted policies that Marcos implemented, opening the Philippine economy to neoliberal globalization, which included the privatization of healthcare, education, and other public assets; deregulated rate hikes for power and public transportation, labor contractualization and depression of wages, the non-development of local industries that could provide employment for the domestic population, and the non-development of the agricultural production, keeping Philippine farming and agricultural lands pre-industrial, backwards, dominated by a ruling landlord elite, and open for land-grabbing by foreign mining and corporate agribusiness.

As a result, US economic policy-making has destroyed the Philippine domestic economy, creating massive abject impoverishment (the wealth of the 25 richest Filipinos is equivalent to the combined income of the country’s 76 million poorest); aggressive out-migration of Filipinos in search of jobs (approximately 6,000 people leave daily); and a pervasive culture of gross government corruption and fascism.

 

US Bases Supported the Marcos Dictatorship

Former permanent US military bases Subic Naval and Clark Air Force were key in supporting 14 years of US-DN-SN-85-06965backed martial law under Marcos. They were key in designing, coordinating, and facilitating state repression by the mercenary Philippine military, including bloody counterinsurgency campaigns, while Marcos was transforming the country into a “client state” to neoliberal globalization by implementing US-drafted structural adjustment programs on the Philippine economy.

It is no wonder how, even after the shutdown of Subic and Clark as a result of a popular people’s movement, the US has sought to maintain an unconstitutional military presence in the Philippines through various one-sided military agreements, such as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Now with the so-called US “pivot to Asia”, the US is once again increasing its military operations in the Philippines through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

 

EDCA Will Support a Resurgence of Fascist Rule

The EDCA is being purported as a mutually beneficial defense pact between the US and the Philippines, with the main claim that the weak Philippine military needs support from the military giant US to protect the Philippines from China’s incursions on Philippine territory.

Obama NavyThe Obama administration has categorically announced it will not come to the defense of the Philippines should there be an outbreak of hostilities with China. Despite this, the Philippine ruling class continues to force the narrative that the country needs US military support.

Perhaps the Philippine ruling class has something to gain from US economic domination over the country and hegemony over the Asia-Pacific region. Perhaps, like Marcos, the Philippine ruling class will profit considerably from selling the country off piece by piece to big multinational corporations led by the US financial elite.

Perhaps, like Marcos, they will need to unleash more suppression of the people’s demand for equity, curtail civil liberties and democratic rights, and will rely on support from US military installations under EDCA. History provides us several clues on how this will play out.

While US military bases play an integral role in neocolonial fascist rule, the lessons of “People Power” offer us a glimpse into the possibilities for change when the Filipino people are united and take collective action. It is clear ousting a dictator, or any president for that matter, is not enough.

We must unite to change the whole rotten system, starting with repealing EDCA.

 

US OUT OF THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION! NO TO THE US “PIVOT” TO ASIA!

US OUT OF THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION! NO TO THE US “PIVOT” TO ASIA!

Statement of US-based Asian-Pacific Islanders and Supporters of Peace
BAYAN USA, Nodutdol, CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities

Contact: aspacnot4sale@gmail.com

April 21, 2014

We, Asian and Pacific Islanders and peace-loving people in the US, denounce the US government’s strategic plan to increase economic, political, and military intervention in the Asia-Pacific region, as part of the so-called “US Pivot to Asia”. The said pivot aims to expand and consolidate long-running US hegemony over the region, as well as quell peoples struggles for social and national liberation across the Asia-Pacific region that have historically frustrated the interests of US empire.

We call for protests in April 2014, when US President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines to further consolidate key allies in the region in line with its strategic economic and geopolitical agenda.

We stand with the peoples of the Asia-Pacific region who for decades have been struggling for self-determination and for genuine sovereignty amidst decades of US-led neoliberal economic policies in the region.

Speaking to a gathering of Pacific Islander leaders in the Cook Islands earlier in 2012, State Secretary Hillary Clinton reaffirmed U.S. resolve to intensify its presence in the Asia and Pacific region – “This is a vast and dynamic region – a key driver of global economics and politics. That’s why I have said that the 21stcentury will be ‘America’s Pacific century.’” (August 31, 2012) This was echoed by Defense Secretary Panetta on his tour of the region the following week – “The United States recognizes that the Asia-Pacific region is becoming more important in our economic and diplomatic and security interests.”

U.S. determination to increase its projection of power in Asia is also reflected in the Defense Department’s 2012 Strategic Guidance, which outlines plans to distribute flexible, rotational troop deployments throughout the Asia and Pacific region to ensure U.S. naval control of trade routes from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific. The White House, the Defense Department, and the State Department have all pledged to protect its capacity for power projection in Asia from any future budget cuts.

Why the supposed pivot to Asia? Asia is the U.S.’ largest source of imports and the second largest export market after North America. Desperate to revive its ailing economy, the U.S. is scrambling to ensure its hegemonic power in the region. It is also wary of the growing regional influence of China – the world’s second largest economy and the largest trading partner of most of its neighboring countries. As Asian countries move towards greater regional economic integration – through bilateral trade agreements and regional institutions such as ASEAN – the U.S. wants to make sure that it, not China, is at the helm.

What does an increased U.S. presence mean for the region? We have already experienced decades of U.S. military presence in Asia and the Pacific with wars through Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia, and the U.S. are currently still engaged in wars with the Middle East. Now, Pentagon chief Panetta has pledged to shift the majority of U.S. forces (60%) to the Asia and Pacific region, and commit new advanced weapons, including 11 aircraft carriers, fast attack submarines, new cruise missiles, Aegis radar-equipped destroyers, Littoral Combat Ship, and space and cyberspace warfare capabilities. The U.S. has revived bases from the Vietnam War period throughout the region, while negotiating for new ones. In 2012 alone, it conducted over 20 joint military exercises and war games in the region.

Such concentration of military presence renews dangerous war threats in an already volatile region. On the Korean peninsula, the Obama administration has stopped all engagement and dialogue with North Korea. Instead, it regularly conducts US-ROK joint war games with tens of thousands U.S. troops and hundreds of thousands of South Korean troops, simulating the invasion and occupation of North Korea. The United States government is pressuring the South Korean government to pay more to host U.S. troops in Korea and South Korean taxpayers, already burdened with growing job insecurity and stagnant wages, have to pay the price. And on Jeju Island, the construction of a naval base designed to house U.S. aegis destroyers has cut off local fisher folk from the sea and is destroying sacred volcanic rocks and pristine coral reefs.

In the Philippines, once the site of the largest US permanent bases outside the mainland, the US has maintained a military presence in the country despite the historic Filipino people’s movement that led to the 1991 Philippine Senate’s rejection of the US bases treaty renewal. The US government has been able to maintain rotational, virtually-permanent military presence through the Mutual Defense Treaty, the Visiting Forces Agreement, and the annual Balikatan Joint Military exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The US government has also used Supertyphoon Haiyan tragedy as a pretext for increasing US military presence in the Philippines through disaster militarism. On his trip to the Philippines in April, Obama hopes to seal a new security deal with the Aquino government that would in effect convert all Philippine military bases into de facto US military bases.

The US government is also exploiting and intervening in regional territorial disputes in the South China Sea as well as in Northeast Asia, fanning strong anti-China sentiment to establish a pretext for greater military presence and deploy more warships.

To carve out its sphere of influence and ensure that economic integration in the region is modeled after its own rules and neoliberal framework, the U.S. is aggressively pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Billed “NAFTA on steroids” by some, the TPPA is the largest trade agreement in history and so far involves the United States, Malaysia, Peru, Australia, Vietnam, Singapore, Chile, New Zealand, Brunei; Canada and Mexico have begun consultations to join the negotiations.

As with NAFTA, the TPPA will privatize public resources (including water) and social services; relax trade restrictions in favor of corporations; create mass unemployment, lower wages, and leave people with no choice but to migrate in search of work; and eliminate regulations that protect the environment and public health in order to protect corporate profits. Although the TPPA is called a “free trade” agreement, what it really does is secure rights for private corporations of developed nations; weaken the sovereignty of underdeveloped countries in the Asia-Pacific; and perpetuate neo-colonial relationships between developed and underdeveloped countries. The TPPA also violates basic principles of democracy; its negotiations are kept secret from the public and the full content of the agreement will not be made public until four years after the TPPA is completed and implemented.

The TPPA guarantees profits for corporate giants like Monsanto and Cargill but not job security or a living for U.S. workers. Continuing war threats abroad guarantee profits for Pentagon contractors but not increased security for the U.S. public. While the White House and the Pentagon are concerned about its “official” pivot to Asia, a growing number of people at home find themselves spending more of their income toward paying off debt, cut off from healthcare access, losing unemployment benefits, and/or facing unaffordable tuition hikes.

As supporters of peace in the U.S., we oppose U.S. war threats in Asia and the Pacific and the TPPA, and demand a reorientation of U.S. national priorities to place human needs and the environment above corporate profits. We are unified in our concern for the livelihoods and security of our sisters and brothers in Asia and the Pacific and envision a world that values local industries and small farmers; guarantees labor rights and food sovereignty; ensures access to social services for all; and prohibits corporate plunder of our environment. We resolve to fight the U.S. pivot to Asia and the Pacific in all its forms – including war games and intensifying war threats, the TPPA and corporate-driven trade agreements, and new weapons of mass destruction that cost U.S. tax payers resources that can otherwise be invested in education and healthcare.

US Out the Asia-Pacific Region!

Resist the TPPA! Asia-Pacific Not for Sale!

Long Live International Solidarity!

US Drones, Troops Out of Asia and Africa!–BAYAN-USA

For Immediate Release
January 11, 2013
Reference: Jessica Antonio, Secretary General, BAYAN-USA, secgen@bayanusa.org

US Drones, Troops Out of Asia and Africa!–BAYAN-USA

“Only Uncle Toms would welcome in Uncle Sam,” commented BAYAN-USA Chairperson Bernadette Ellorin on the news that the US would end 2012 and kick-off 2013 by sending troops to 35 African countries and two warships to the Philippines, and that a US drone was fished out of Philippine waters less than a week into the new year. “History has shown that US military presence in countries around the world benefits only US imperial interests and the wealthiest 1% in the host countries. The vast majority of people get hit with land theft, human rights violations, toxic dumping, and sexual assault—topped off by losing their country’s sovereignty.”

“The Filipino people learned this through more than 100 years of direct experience with the US military. Unfortunately, President Aquino is continuing the pattern of subservience to Uncle Sam by opening the door even wider to both US economic and military interests. The fact that the docking of the US warships was labeled a ‘routine’ port call shows just how normal the Aquino administration considers the presence of US military in our sovereign nation,” said Ellorin.

The US reported that it would start conducting military exercises and training with several African nations to modernize and strengthen those countries’ militaries and beef up anti-terrorism efforts in the region. Such claims are similar to the pretext given for the basing of 600+ US troops in Mindanao, increased placement of US military advisors in the country, annual “Shoulder-to-shoulder” or “Balikatan” exercises between American and Filipino troops, and provision of military supplies and ships to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. “If the Philippine experience is any indicator, this effort in Africa will not only fail to bring peace or stability to the region the way the US claims; it will do the exact opposite—bring increased antagonism and conflict.”

Ellorin continued: “After 13 years of the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Philippine military has only improved its ability to torture, abduct, and murder innocent civilians. And the Philippines has practically handed over its sovereignty on a silver platter. These are the same results African nations can expect.”

Just days after the US warships docked in Cebu and Manila Bay, a US drone was found in Philippine waters off Masbate. “The US drone even went unchallenged by anyone in PNoy’s administration.  Knowing that US drones are being used to assassinate people throughout the world, why should we believe the US Embassy’s claims that this drone was unarmed and only being used for US troops’ target practice?” questioned Ellorin.

“The main reasons presidents like Arroyo and Aquino have welcomed in the US military have been to curry favor with the military’s top brass, attempt to legitimize their rule, and line the pockets of their own families and hand-picked friends. There have been no benefits whatsoever for the majority of Filipino people, who are still languishing in poverty,” ended Ellorin.

###

Aquino’s Relief Effort Seeks to Save Private Investments, Not Rehabilitate Communities, in Mindanao– BAYAN USA

News Release
December 9, 2012

Reference: Jackelyn Mariano, Deputy Secretary General, BAYAN USA, depsec@bayanusa.org

Aquino’s Relief Effort Seeks to Save Private Investments, Not Rehabilitate Communities, in Mindanao– BAYAN USA

On Saturday, December 8, 2012, four days after Typhoon Pablo wreaked havoc on Mindanao, President Aquino has since signed Proclamation 522, declaring a state of national calamity allegedly in order to expedite the relief process. Filipino-Americans aren’t convinced such efforts are aimed to rehabilitate devastated communities.

“This is a false show of concern for the people. The relief and rehabilitation that Aquino wants to hasten is not for the impoverished communities who are suffering, but for the private sector who are losing capital from the disaster. The palace says so itself,” states Bernadette Ellorin of the US Chapter of BAYAN, or BAYAN USA.

Typhoon Pablo (international name Bopha), landed on Mindanao, the southern region of the Philippines, killing over 500 people and displacing more than 200,000 others. Mindanao is an historically neglected region of the Philippines, where its people, many of whom are from indigenous tribes and rural poor communities, face mounting poverty and joblessness.

Mindanao is also the most resource-rich area of the Philippines, where gold, oil, bauxite, nickel, copper, and natural gas have attracted large-scale corporate mining operations and other corporate agribusiness investments.

But on any other day, the people of Mindanao largely lack adequate access to basic social services such as healthcare and housing. Now, in the aftermath of the typhoon, they are receiving delayed and sparse relief assistance from the Government of the Philippines. Many people, sifting through the remains of their meager livelihoods were left scrambling for any means of survival.

“The Philippine government’s inefficient response in aiding the Filipino people during calamities is a disappointing pattern,” states Ellorin. “From Typhoon Ondoy in 2009 until now, the people are left in desperate conditions. Even in New York City, which was recently ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, thousands of Filipino migrants were negatively affected, and the Philippine government’s response was still minimal.”

Imperialist Plunder, Mining, and Global Warming

The frequency and increasing gravity of natural disasters in the past few years has many concerned groups rekindling dialogues about the effects of environmental plunder on global warming. Major typhoons that have hit the Philippines were exacerbated by floods and landslides due to state-sanctioned large-scale open-pit mining projects, which cause an imbalance within the natural ecosystem, deplete natural resources, poison water sources, uproot plantlife, and destabilize soil. These projects have been met with major resistance from the people whose lands are being exploited. The Philippine government has responded by highly militarizing these zones and forcefully silencing protest in order to protect business operations.

Mindanao activists have recently embarked on a long journey to Manila called the Manilakbayan to confront the Philippine government in the country’s capital and bring their grievances to the table. Included in their calls are demands to halt devastating mining projects and to seek justice for human rights violation victims who were maimed or disappeared for their resistance against corporate control and defending their rights to their land.

In the summer of 2012, the aftermath of Typhoon Gener provided another example of how anti-people state policies affect the marginalized in cityscapes. Urban poor communities in low-lying areas, who were previously wiped out and displaced by Typhoon Ondoy, were flooded and damaged. “Once again, the Philippine government evaded accountability for the major calamity,” said Ellorin. “President Aquino blamed the victims, the concentrated populations of  informal settlers around waterways, as the cause of major flooding. However, engineers have proven that Manila’s infrastructure, which prioritizes manufacturing plants and mega malls while neglecting sustainable planning that prioritizes the welfare of urban dwellers, is in fact the cause of the flood.”

Bayanihan Relief Effort, Serving the People

BAYAN USA is highly encouraging its community nationwide to assist in people-led relief efforts for Typhoon Pablo victims by donating to Bayanihan Relief for Typhoon Victims in the Philippines, led by the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON). Bayanihan Relief, established during the aftermath of Typhoon Ondoy in 2009, has continuously donated directly to community-based organizations in the affected areas to help supply immediate needs, such as food, water, and rescue equipment.

Donations can be made through PayPal at http://tinyurl.com/nafconrelief3 or by sending checks to “Tulong Sa Bayan (TSB)” at 519 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90013. TSB has been NAFCON’s established partner in coursing relief donations to the Philippines. On memo please write: NAFCON Bayanihan Relief and your city of residence. Donations of $250 or more will be tax deductible. Please include a return address with donations. For more information on regional collection centers, fundraising and relief activities in your area please visit http://nafconusa.org.

###

BAYAN-USA is an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, artists, and youth. As the first and largest international chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a campaign center for anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S. For more information, please visit http://bayanusa.org.