By Erick San Juan
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) last week announced a $30-million "reconciliation program" for the three southernmost provinces of Thailand. The provinces are wracked by Muslim separatist insurgency, pretty much like our southern Mindanao. This part of the article written by our friend, Amb. Rey Arcilla for Malaya last April 6 caught my attention and lead me to evaluate our nation’s status when it comes to receiving that so-called “funds” or “aid” from our “friend” through the USAID.
Actually that $30-million "reconciliation program" in Thailand is a 5-year program to help strengthen democracy and promote conflict resolution, including the country's restive south. And that half of the total of $30 million, about $15.5 will be spent directly on grants for civil organizations promoting reconciliation or looking to serving as checks and balances for political process and public policy. Although some reports said that "Thailand Citizen Engagement Program" funded by the agency was allegedly created in response to Thailand’s recent political instability which was immediately denied by USAID mission director in Asia - Olivier Carduner.
In the Philippines, the Unites States Government is the biggest grant donor, with nearly $9.5 Billion in foreign assistance since 1946. Of this amount, about $4.4 Billion is USAID and predecessor programs' assistance. In FY 2009, $96.04 Million was made available for our bilateral assistance programs and as grants to non-government organizations. (USAID Philippines website) Almost a year ago, I wrote about this US aid granted to us which is for me was and still is such a big joke. Why? Did we benefit from this grant? Like what Amb.Rey Arcilla said that all those infrastructure projects in the south were more for US military troops convenience than to our people’s.
Bilateral agreements must be corrected once and for all especially in the issue of the Visiting Forces Agreement and other Military/Defense Treaty which were perceived by Filipino thinkers and nationalists as one sided propositions. If we were given $9.5 Billion in foreign assistance since 1946, why do our soldiers still complaining? Why do we have an armed forces branded here and abroad as an army with rebuilt weaponry, a navy with 2nd world war ships and an air force full of air and no power with widow maker planes? Sad realities in the midst of millions of dollars that were granted to us through bilateral agreements. For sixty-four long years we were treated as mendicants, our natural resources exploited, our soldiers and lands used for military exercises only to be left behind with nothing! We never had those so-called state of the art weaponry and hi-tech military gadgets, but why do we allow such treatment up to this day?
Until we learn our lessons in dealing with foreign “friends” we will always be at the losing end.
U.S. President Barack Obama appointed our president as coordinator in this region and a staunch ally on the global war on terror (myth). With the “perpetual war” in the south tagged as training ground for the notorious terrorist group (brand named) al-Qaeda, we should demand a just treatment here and be given what is due us based on their nicely written reports and press releases in order for “Washington” to level the playing field with the Filipinos.
We should not even blame the foreign governments who usually protect their 'interests' well. But let us not create another batch of mendicants who will kowtow to a perceived master. What we need now is a leadership with strong backbone and the will to say no when the nation’s survival is at stake. Let us scrutinize well these politicians running and their platform of government. Don’t get fooled by motherhood statements, expose's and empty promises. After this country experienced many collaborators in the government in the past, we should know better this time and vote wisely. Please don't repeat our bad side of history!