US-Philippine Military Talks Threatens, Not Protects, Philippine Security

In the midst of a firestorm of global opposition to U.S. plans to launch a strike on Syria, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is meeting today with Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III, Defense Minister Voltaire Gazmin and Foreign Secretary Albert F. del Rosario to continue negotiating the Framework Agreement for Increased Rotational Deployment and Enhanced Defense Cooperation, an executive agreement that would allow increased U.S. troop presence throughout the Philippines.

“Aquino, Gazmin and del Rosario are naïve at best and outright lying in all likelihood when they say that the agreement will benefit the Philippines and that Philippine sovereignty will be upheld in negotiations,” said BAYAN-USA Chair Bernadette Ellorin.

An August 23rd article on the US Defense Department’s website clearly spells out the American military’s objective for its meetings with the Philippines: “Hagel will talk with President Benigno S. Aquino III, Defense Minister Voltaire Gazmin and Foreign Secretary Albert F. del Rosario about ongoing negotiations for a framework agreement that would allow U.S. forces to operate on Philippine military bases and in Philippine territory and waters to help build Philippine armed forces capacity in maritime security and maritime domain awareness.”

“How will allowing U.S. forces to operate on Philippine soil and in our waters build Philippine armed forces capacity for anything but committing human rights abuses? How will it build security when the very presence of, let alone operations by, American troops has been proven to cause more danger and insecurity in the Philippines and around the world? How will it build awareness for anything but the willingness of Aquino to surrender the country’s national sovereignty?” questioned Ellorin. “The bottom line is that American troops will be granted further access to operate in the Philippines, despite any excuses given for their presence. The U.S. Defense Department is clear that it seeks the ability to operate in the Philippines. If Aquino truly sided with the people of the Philippines, he would make it clear that Filipinos reject U.S. troops operating in our country.”

Hagel’s meetings in the Philippines follows his participation in the meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defense Ministers Plus 8 and individual meetings with his counterparts in various countries, during which he peddled America’s plans to rebalance its forces to the Asia Pacific and negotiated a deal to sell $500 million worth of Apache attack helicopters to Indonesia. Deals to arm countries with attack ships promise to give financial security to corporate mega-giants like Boeing, at the expense of people of the Asia Pacific.

“If Aquino really wanted to increase security for Filipinos, instead of negotiating this military agreement, he would be pressing Hagel to abandon American plans to attack Syria in order to protect the thousands of Filipino migrant workers living there and the millions of Syrian civilians who will suffer from a U.S. strike,” said Ellorin.

BAYAN-USA calls for the rejection of any military deal between the U.S. and the Philippines, the expulsion of U.S. troops from the Philippines, compensation by the U.S. for the destruction of 2,000 square meters of the Tubbataha reef by a U.S. warship, and the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement.