The Visiting Imperialists Agreement

Revolutionary Worker #976, October 4, 1998

Seven years ago, a broad movement of the people forced the Philippine government to reject a treaty on military bases with the U.S. Up til then, the U.S. had operated an extensive network of military bases in the Philippines, including the huge Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Force Base. After the rejection of the agreement in 1991, the U.S. shut down its military bases in the Philippines.

Now, the U.S. is once again trying to expand its military presence in the Philippines. Earlier this year, the U.S. and Ramos regime signed the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which allows U.S. warships to enter any port in the Philippines. Under the VFA, Philippine authorities cannot inspect these U.S. warships--which means that the U.S. could bring in nuclear weapons into Philippine territory in violation of the country's laws. The VFA also shields U.S. military personnel from the jurisdiction of the Philippine courts, even if they commit crimes against Filipino people.

In short, the VFA openly gives the U.S. military forces special freedom of movement and privileges in the Philippines. It should really be called the "Visiting Imperialists Agreement."

The current Philippine government, headed by President Estrada, is pushing for the ratification of the VFA in the Philippine Senate in October.

In response to these moves by the U.S. and its henchmen, a "Junk the VFA Movement" has started up in the Philippines and in the U.S. The movement includes: BAYAN (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or New Patriotic Alliance), human rights advocates, religious forces, and others.

A September 10 "Unity Statement" by the Junk the VFA Movement says in part: "We simply cannot accept such a vulgar defilement of our national sovereignty, security and safety. The VFA brings us back to those traumatic days when the U.S. bases were still here, even worse because it virtually transforms the whole country into one big U.S. military facility. It invites armed attacks from U.S. enemies and our involvement in wars of their making. It opens up our country to the threat of nuclear war and environmental destruction. It is sure to encourage prostitution, drug abuse and other vices....

"We hereby declare our unity to stringently oppose the VFA and expose its unacceptable provisions and implications on our sovereignty and national interest. We vow to work for its rejection by the Senate. We urge all the people to join us in this noble fight."

The withdrawal of the U.S. bases in the Philippines in the early 1990s came at a time when the U.S. was doing various restructuring of its military forces worldwide in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The U.S. no longer faced a rival imperialist military power like the Soviets. But the maintenance of overseas military power is still very important for the U.S. imperialists. In 1995, a report on East Asian Strategy by the U.S. Department of Defense said: "[This report] reaffirms our commitment to maintain a stable forward presence in the region, at the existing level of about 100,000 troops, for the foreseeable future...for maintaining forward deployment of U.S. forces and access and basing rights for U.S. and allied forces.... If the American presence in Asia were removed...our ability to affect the course of events would be constrained, our markets and our interests would be jeopardized."

Since that report, the economies of a number of Asian countries have gone into a tailspin. Mass protests have rocked Indonesia. In the Philippines, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is leading a Maoist new democratic revolution and people's war against the reactionary rulers and their imperialist backers. This is the context in which the U.S. is trying to expand its military presence in the Philippines.

On February 27, 1998 the Central Committee of the CPP issued a statement after the signing of the VFA by the U.S. and Ramos regime. The statement noted that the VFA is a version of Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA) that the U.S. has imposed on other nations. The statement pointed out: "SOFAs, access agreements, and similar bilateral agreements between the U.S. and its client states serve U.S. global military strategy of pre-positioning U.S. military forces in staging areas around the world without incurring the economic and political costs of maintaining permanent military bases. They also make possible strong U.S. military presence and activity in the host countries."

In the last few months, the U.S. has been stepping up its presence and activity in the Philippines. In July, U.S. Secretary of Defense Cohen and Secretary of State Albright stopped in the Philippines as part of a tour of Asia. They pressed the Estrada regime and the Senate to officially ratify the VFA.

Shortly after Cohen and Albright left, the U.S. and Philippine navies conducted a joint military exercise. There were reports that this is just one of a series of war games that the U.S. and the Philippine military are conducting this year. Danilo Vizmanos, a convenor of the Junk the VFA Movement, condemned the military exercise: "It is a grave insult to our sovereignty. The Americans are arrogantly trying to send the message that with or without VFA ratification, joint military exercises and even access agreements with the Philippines can still push through."

Anti-VFA protesters have demonstrated at the U.S. embassy in Manila and carried out other actions in the Philippines, Hong Kong and the U.S. On September 16, a two-day car caravan was capped with a rally of 30,000 people in front of the Malacañang--the presidential palace in Manila. Teodoro Casiño, Deputy Secretary General of BAYAN, said that if the VFA is ratified, "We will hound and pester every arrival of American troops, ships and aircraft in the country. We will try to block ports, airports and other areas they plan to dock and land. We will make it very difficult for the Americans to enter the country and trample on our sovereignty."

At a rally held in Seattle on September 15, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War Anti-Imperialist presented a statement which said in part: "We are proud and honored to join with our Filipino brothers and sisters in this national day of resistance aimed at stopping the revival of U.S. bases in the Philippines. The Visiting Forces Agreement is just one more way for the U.S. to control the Philippines under the lie of `joint military exercises.' We call this bullshit. In 1991, the Filipino people spoke clearly for the whole world to hear when they sent the U.S. military packing. The attempts by the U.S. and its puppets within the Philippine government to re-establish a U.S. military presence are nothing short of a new build-up of weapons of mass destruction in the Pacific....

"We are anti-imperialist vets but not necessarily anti-war. We uphold the just struggles of the people throughout the world and we uphold the people's war that is challenging the U.S.'s 100-year-long grip on the Philippines."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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