Tag: Obama

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!

Filipino Americans Continue Mobilizing for Justice in the Wake of Obama’s 2nd Inauguration

News Release
January 21, 2013

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

Filipino Americans Continue Mobilizing for Justice in the Wake of Obama’s 2nd Inauguration

As President Barack Obama takes his inaugural oath for the second time, progressive Filipino American organizations under the banner of BAYAN-USA reflect on his next term with a critical eye, especially as this day also commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and having been critical of Obama’s domestic and foreign policies during his first term.

“Obama’s first term not only continued many of the policies of the Bush administration, it sullied Dr. King’s revolutionary legacy,” stated Bernadette Ellorin, Chairperson of BAYAN-USA. “In 1967, in a famous speech delivered at the Riverside Church in New York City against the Vietnam War, Dr. King warned, ‘A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.’ President Obama’s track record shows disregard for King’s caveat.”

Dwindling Economy, Burden on Working People

Obama began his second term by supporting the dreaded “Fiscal Cliff”, a legislative move that would implement steep cuts to public services and continue shifting the burden of fixing the U.S.’ $1.3 trillion deficit–caused by spending more than the federal budget’s capacity, overwhelmingly on the military–onto working people.

“Obama has done little to alleviate the pain working Americans are feeling in the middle of the worst economic crisis in history,” states Ellorin. “Instead, he has made the pain worse by maintaining a U.S. economy dependent on the big banks and finance firms, and he continues to make working Americans pay for the financial misdeeds of these banks and firms that caused the crisis by funneling trillions in U.S. tax-dollars from the public sector to bail out banks and private enterprise.”

Military-Industrial Complex and the Asia-Pacific Pivot

The U.S. military budget will amount to $525 billion in fiscal year 2013. This makes up 57% of the total discretionary budget and exceeds the budgets of other departments and agencies combined. “Contrary to Obama’s public support of stricter gun laws, especially in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, the U.S. occupies a monopolistic niche in the global arms market, supplying 78% of the market worldwide,” said Ellorin.

In 2012, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced a strategic pivot of 60% of the U.S. military to the Asia-Pacific region. Under the guise of national and global security against China, BAYAN-USA interprets this pivot as a tactic to secure imperialist interests in the region. Said Ellorin, “This pivot is an opportunity for the U.S. to sell more arms to its allies and build a military stronghold to maintain economic dominance. For hundreds of years, the U.S. has used the Philippines as strategic bases.”

More recently, despite the closing of U.S. bases in the 1990s, the U.S. has been increasing its visits to the Philippines and trampling over Philippine sovereignty through the continued implementation of the Visiting Forces Agreement. Last week, the USS Guardian rammed itself into the Tubbataha Reef of the Philippines, greatly harming an endangered natural ecosystem. The U.S. government has only apologized for the incident and refused to reveal vital information about the true conditions of the reef. “The U.S. exercises complete arrogance in this matter. It is equally disappointing that Philippine President Aquino’s administration has not responded swiftly to hold the U.S. accountable and has instead given way to U.S. imperialist reign,” said Ellorin.

Abuse of Migrant Workers

Known for its record number of deportees from the U.S., more than any other previous president, the Obama administration’s pattern of repressive legislation against immigrants in the midst of a failing economy has created the conditions for the proliferation of human trafficking and forced labor in the U.S.

In the U.S., a class action lawsuit is currently being filed against Grand Isle Shipyard (GIS), an oil refinery and exploration company based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Hundreds of Filipino workers are stepping out from the shadows to hold the company accountable for human trafficking, dangerous working conditions, slavery, wage theft, and discrimination, among other labor and human rights violations. For years, Filipino workers were forced to work for six to seven days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day without overtime pay, for up to four straight months on oil rigs offshore, and with thousands of dollars in over-blown “room and board” deductions unlawfully withheld from their paychecks. In November 2012, the Black Elk Platform on which GIS employees were working exploded, killing 3 Filipino workers. BAYAN-USA and other concerned groups claim that deliberate oversight caused the explosion. GIS has been guilty of over 300 labor violations that have not been investigated thoroughly by either the U.S. or Philippine governments.

“This is a blatant case of modern-day slavery. The U.S. was built on the backs of African slaves. The Capitol building that Obama made his inaugural oath on was built by slaves,” states Ellorin. “The U.S. prospers from the exploitation of cheap slave labor, and as a result, Filipino workers and other migrant workers face the dangerous brunt of this while big corporations that work hand-in-hand with Obama profit greatly.”

Justice Through People Power

“We need to build a movement that will push for comprehensive immigration reform to combat the systemic trafficking of our migrant work force! We need to expose the U.S. military’s culpability in violating Philippine sovereignty! We need to fight for access to basic social services and jobs!” exclaimed Ellorin. In the legacy of Dr. King, BAYAN-USA will continue to contribute to building a movement in the U.S. against imperialism, while organizing the broadest support from the U.S. for the Philippine movement for genuine freedom and democracy, no matter who sits in the White House.

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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 Maka bayan (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

No Matter Who Wins the Elections, the People Must Continue Organizing for Genuine Change—BAYAN-USA

Press Statement
November 5, 2012

Reference: Bernadette Ellorin, Chairperson, BAYAN USA, email: chair@bayanusa.org

No Matter Who Wins the Elections, the People Must Continue Organizing for Genuine Change—BAYAN-USA

As the corporate media zeroes in on the 2012 US Presidential election, which will determine who will assume the role of the main spokesperson and commander-in-chief for the largest imperialist superpower since the turn of the 20th century, people’s resistance against the US government’s foreign and domestic policies continues both around the world and within the United States itself. BAYAN-USA, an alliance of 18 Filipino-American organizations across the US working for social and economic equity, asserts that, no matter who wins this year’s US presidential election, people in the US must organize and fight for real and lasting social change and not rely on traditional Washington politics.

On US Foreign Policy

In the midst of the worsening global economic crisis spawned by imperialism’s neoliberal economic agenda, the two US presidential candidates and their political parties may represent different factions of the US ruling elite, but they both loyally serve the interests of the powerful 1%. Both have committed to intensifying the US neoliberal economic offensive abroad, through such tools as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), which would aggressively expand a US-dominated free trade zone in the Pacific Rim a la NAFTA.

At the same time, both candidates intend to maintain or even accelerate US military aggression under the camouflage of national defense. Both support US drone attacks against innocent civilians and intend to maintain brutal US military occupations in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, while consolidating military control over the Asia-Pacific region. The two candidates antagonistically referred to China a combined 32 times during the last presidential debate’s 90-minute span, pointing to the increased importance of the Asia-Pacific region to the imperialist objectives of both parties.

For over 100 years, presidents from both the Democrat and Republican parties have used the Philippines as a reliable overseas military hub for the projection of US military might, a dumping ground for cheap surplus US goods, and a source of cheap labor and natural resources. From the Filipino people’s perspective, both candidates will perpetuate the US State Department’s goal of maintaining the Philippines as a loyal neo-colony in the Asia-Pacific. Under the guise of “military training and mutual support,” whoever wins on November 6 will still also adhere to Washington’s pursuit of counterinsurgency operations in the Philippines aimed to suppress people’s movements for democracy and genuine national sovereignty.

On US Domestic Policy

Both candidates plan to maintain a war-dependent US economy and to continue funneling billions of public funds into defense spending rather than into domestic industrial job creation, education, healthcare, housing, and other social services. In the name of national defense, both candidates remain uncritical of a growing wave of repressive and unconstitutional legislation in the US, such as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and state immigration laws such as Arizona’s SB 1070.

By pledging to continue neoliberal policies that will drive more people to migrate to the US due to economic desperation, both candidates have abandoned any pretense about overhauling the US immigration system. The system as it stands seeks to divide the working class by creating a surplus of foreign and largely undocumented labor in the US to be exploited by big business for maximum profitability.

Filipinos comprise one of the largest and fastest-growing immigrant groups in the US. Most are new immigrant wage workers and one out of four are undocumented. Many cases of labor trafficking have surfaced in the Filipino community, including stories of migrant workers who arrived in the US with H1-B temporary visas but then were forced into undocumented status by their employers. Despite the optimism surrounding President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) initiative, it still leaves out significant portions of the undocumented immigrant population, offers limited reprieve, is a long and expensive bureaucratic process, and criminalizes immigrants.

Like the vast majority of those affected by the economic crisis in the US, Filipinos are part of the 99% fighting for greater socio-economic equity. In order to create change, this fight must continue past US elections and remain primarily based on the streets.

People Power

History proves that fundamental social change is never borne out of the ballot box. Women’s suffrage, civil rights for African-Americans, and even the defeat of the 2005 Sensenbrenner Bill all came from people’s struggle in the trenches built by years of community organizing. If we want to realize our vision of all people–in the US and worldwide–having a decent standard of living, full employment, adequate and humane working and social conditions, and dignified standards for health, education and housing, we must continue the struggle against US imperialism.  Let us be inspired by examples such as the Arab Spring, the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, Latin American social movements, the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, worker and anti-austerity strikes in Europe, and continuing people’s revolutions of US neocolonies throughout Africa and Asia. Let us also build strong solidarity ties among struggles abroad, within the US and with the Filipino people’s fight for national democracy. Let us develop a people’s platform for change that can unite our communities in the US. Let us embody the true essence of people power and keep up the fight in the parliament of the streets.

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BAYAN USA Joins March/Rally on the DNC

News Release
September 4, 2012

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

BAYAN USA Joins March/Rally on the DNC
Filipino-American Alliance Raises Issue of Obama Administration’s Military and Economic Pivot to the Asia-Pacific Region

Bernadette Ellorin, Chairperson of BAYAN USA, on stage (credit: Brenda Sandburg)

CHARLOTTE, NC–  Amidst thousands gathered in Frazier Park protesting intensified corporate greed days before the scheduled Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, BAYAN USA speaker Bernadette Ellorin spoke before the crowd about US government’s military rebalance on the Asia-Pacific region.

“Earlier this year, the Obama administration announced it would shift its military focus to the Asia-Pacific region,” Ellorin stated. “It has been reported that there are US drone exercises now being conducted in the Southern Philippines, in Mindanao. The Philippines has lived under the thumb of US imperialist aggression since 1898, one of the longest US military occupations in history.”

BAYAN USA endorsed and participated in last weekend’s March on Wall Street South, as the only Filipino-American organization on stage and at the march through downtown Charlotte, dubbed “Wall Street South” as it is home to some of the world’s biggest banks and financial institutions such as the Bank of America headquarters.

Nearby Bank of America Stadium is the chosen site of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, where President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver his acceptance speech as the 2012 Democratic Party Presidential Nominee this week.

Organizers for the March on Wall Street South addressed urgent bread-and-butter issues in the US such as record unemployment, lack of jobs and wage depression, housing foreclosures, rising cost of food, education, healthcare, and basic commodities in the midst of the increasing federal budget for endless wars of aggression and militarization abroad.

“The people of the Asia-Pacific region do not need more US militarization any more than the American people need an increased federal budget for war. What we all need is basic livelihood, jobs, security, and justice,” Ellorin stated.

Ellorin also stated that the last four years of the Obama administration has proven the economic, social, and moral bankruptcy of the two-party system of the US ruling elite. “Whoever ends up sitting in the White House after these elections, what matters most is we build a viable people’s movement here in the US that can fight for the people’s needs and challenge the system, one that is linked in solidarity with peoples abroad fighting US imperialism in the form of US foreign policy. We have many examples in world history of how organized people power can bring the traditional governments to their knees.”

In addition to addressing the US military rebalance to the region, BAYAN USA is also actively educating and campaigning against the Obama administration’s push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) a new free-trade agreement larger than NAFTA and designed to enforce a US-dominated free-trade zone in the Asia-Pacific region. For more information, visit www.bayanusa.org. ###

March on Wall Street South (credit: Grant Baldwin for Creative Loafing Charlotte)