The Philippines Is Not America’s Battleground, Testing Ground, Playground or Dumping Ground! Junk the Visiting Forces Agreement Now!

For Immediate Release
February 4, 2013

Reference: Jessica Antonio, Secretary General, BAYAN-USA,

The Philippines Is Not America’s Battleground, Testing Ground, Playground or Dumping Ground! Junk the Visiting Forces Agreement Now! ~BAYAN-USA

On February 4, 1899, the U.S. launched the Philippines-American War, its first imperialist war of aggression in Asia. For the 114 years since then, the U.S. has used the Philippines as its battleground, testing ground, playground, and dumping ground, a centerpiece in its drive for global hegemony. Now, in the wake of the destruction of the Philippines’ ecologically irreplaceable Tubbataha Reef by the U.S.S. Guardian, BAYAN-USA is claiming February 4, 2013 as a day to remember the lessons of the Philippine-American War and joins the call to junk the Visiting Forces Agreement, a one-sided agreement which perpetuates America’s imperial legacy of the Philippine-American War.

After winning the Spanish-American War and wrestling top colonial power status from Spain, the U.S. attempted to subjugate and “civilize” the Philippines as its newest colonial prize. The Filipino people responded with armed resistance, as they refused to willingly relinquish their national liberation struggle to a new Western power after over 300 years of Spanish rule. The Philippine-American War resulted in the death of over one million Filipinos and the U.S. assuming control of the country, turning the islands into its military outpost and launching pad for further imperialist aggression and expansion.

Testing ground
During the Philippine-American War, the U.S. began perfecting its military and counterinsurgency tactics, which it would then use in a century’s worth of wars and covert operations. The “water cure” method and psychological warfare techniques used during the Philippine-American War evolved into the torture methods, killing, occupation, and counter-insurgency operations the U.S. used in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

After granting independence in name to the Philippines in 1946, the U.S. embedded safeguards to its colonial hold of the country by enacting lopsided economic and military treaties and hand-picking new leaders to serve as its loyal puppet presidents, not unlike the U.S.’ current approach to the transition of power in Iraq and Afghanistan. Agreements like the old Cold War-style Mutual Defense Treaty and the new-and-improved Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) have provided a welcome mat for the placement of thousands of U.S. troops and ships throughout the country, with or without physical military bases. Under the cover of the VFA and the guise of joint training and “mutually beneficial” counter-terrorism efforts, the U.S. brings its military personnel, ships and drones into the country as if it is a laboratory to test new technology and tactics.

The new deployment of U.S. military advisors and troops to 35 African nations this year uses the same pretext of supporting its allies in fighting common terrorist enemies. Testing the limits of the flimsy VFA, the U.S. has permanently located over 600 special forces in Mindanao, claiming that the forces are not technically based in the Philippines because they rotate the individual troops every three years. The U.S. plans to use a similar rotational approach to its thousands of troops stationed in nearby Okinawa and Guam, places where it has also faced increasing protests.

The U.S. sends its military to the Philippines with the expectation that Filipinos will provide “rest and recreation” for the troops. A Marine Corps Times article last year stated: “The Philippines also are known for their raunchy party atmosphere… Places such as Olongapo and Angeles City feature notorious red-light districts where alcohol and scantily clad women have attracted many Marines and sailors over the years.” This has resulted in the rape, sexual assault and other human rights violations of tens of thousands of Filipina women and children at the hands of the U.S. troops. Because the VFA grants immunity for U.S. military personnel from Philippine laws, they are free to commit grave crimes with no recourse.

Dumping ground
For decades, the U.S. military dumped its toxic waste in the waters of Subic Bay and the land surrounding Clark Air Base and refused to clean it up. The VFA has prolonged this abuse, as the U.S. continues to bring its warships carrying toxic and nuclear materials into Philippines’ ports, with the Philippines prohibited from inspecting the ships. When U.S. military contractor Glenn Marine Defense dumped toxic waste into Subic Bay last November, it claimed that the VFA protected it from prosecution. When the U.S.S. Guardian plunged into the Tubbataha Reef this January, the U.S. blocked the Philippine reef authorities from inspecting the damage. Despite calls for the U.S. to explain why it was in such close proximity to the reef and to compensate the Philippines for the damage, the VFA has provided a convenient excuse for the U.S. to dodge questions and accountability. Showing his true allegiance, President Aquino protects the U.S. by claiming that the VFA has nothing to do with Tubbataha, while doing nothing to ensure a full investigation of the incident and fair compensation to the Philippines.

The military is not the only guilty party: American and multi-national mining corporations employ open-pit mining techniques and pollute land and water sources with lethal chemicals like cyanide, forcing indigenous communities to leave their now-unlivable ancestral lands. It is no coincidence that mineral-rich areas in Mindanao where foreign mining corporations operate are the same areas where the U.S. and Philippine military are based and conduct “joint exercises.” These are also the areas with some of the highest incidences of human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, committed by the military against civilian activists.

Ground zero
With its military rebalancing to the Asia Pacific set to deploy 60% of American forces to the region, the U.S. has turned the Philippines and the entire region into its new ground zero for reassertion of its global hegemony and as a counterpoint to China’s rising economic status in the world. It also views the pivot as way to boost the flagging U.S. economy, projecting billions of dollars in sales of U.S. weapons to “help equip our friends” in the Asia Pacific region, as reported by the Aerospace Industries Association. The strategy is sure to prolong the extreme violence, poverty and maldevelopment that 114 years of U.S. imperial aggression has caused.

But just as the Filipino people resisted the American takeover in 1899, today BAYAN USA along with Filipinos all over the world are continuing to resist US imperialism and asserting the right of the for a truly independent nation. BAYAN-USA joins the call of our compatriots in the Philippines to demand U.S. accountability for Tubbataha, decisive action by the Aquino government to uphold national sovereignty, and termination of the VFA. We join with all oppressed peoples in building the broadest international solidarity against U.S. hegemony. As long as US imperialism dominates the Philippines and other countries and peoples, Filipinos will continue their resistance launched in 1899.

Dr. Jason Hess San Diego