For Immediate Release
February 18, 2013
Reference: Jessica Antonio, Secretary General, BAYAN-USA, email@example.com
JUNK THE VFA! TUBBATAHA DISASTER SHOWS HOW US MILITARY PRESENCE IS POISONOUS TO THE PHILIPPINES! — BAYAN USA
Filipino-Americans under the banner of BAYAN USA are calling on Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to terminate the US-RP Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) as protesters descended upon the US Embassy in Manila yesterday to rally against the disaster surrounding the USS Guardian, a US naval minesweeper that got stuck onto the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea over one month ago.
The Tubbataha Reef, a large atoll coral reef and natural marine park, is regarded as a World Heritage Site by United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
“The damage done to the Tubbataha Reef is irreparable and inexcusable!” states Bernadette Ellorin, chairperson of BAYAN USA. “The environmental destruction of Tubbataha by the presence of the US military, and the lack of accountability of the US Navy for their actions, only underscores how the presence of US troops is poisonous to the Philippines. President Aquino and his administration should hold the US military accountable and heed the call of the growing movement to terminate the VFA.”
Negotiations between the US and Philippine government on the matter have been stalled, and the US Navy has yet to dismantle the ship. No investigation of the incident and how it occurred has been pursued by the Aquino administration, despite the unfolding devastation the disaster is having on the livelihood of many fisherfolk in the area and its larger implications on Philippine sovereignty.
Since its ratification in 1999, the VFA has resulted in the permanent presence of US troops in the Philippines despite the closure of the US bases in 1991.
Last year, the Obama administration announced plans for a so-called rebalance of its military force to the Asia-Pacific region. Key to its geopolitical strategy is it military posturing in the Philippines.
“With this pivot, we can expect a push for more US naval vessels, drones, tanks, and other large military equipment to find their way to the Philippines. This means the contamination of our water, our air, our mountains, our soil, and our bodies,” Ellorin continued. “We must grow our movement to junk the VFA and pressure Aquino administration to invoke the spirit of the 1991 landmark Philippine Senate decision to reject the US bases treaty that effectively shut down the former permanent US military bases in the country in favor of Philippine national interest and territorial integrity.”
Junk the Visiting Forces Agreement!
US Out of the Philippines Now!
Accountability for the Tubbataha Reef Disaster!
Uphold and Respect Philippine Sovereignty!
BAYAN-USA is an alliance of 18 progressive Filipino organizations in the U.S. representing youth, students, women, workers, artists, and human rights advocates. As the oldest and largest overseas chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of thePhilippines and as a center for educating, organizing, and mobilizing anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S. For more information, visit www.bayanusa.org