Saturday, July 24, 2010

Who will benefit, U.S. or US?

Who will benefit, U.S. or US?
By Erick San Juan

There seems to be so much renewed interest by Uncle Sam in this part of the world which, according to a US top official is “a dynamic region”. US top officials are doing their “friendly visits” ahead of the largest meeting of foreign ministers on Friday in Hanoi, Vietnam for the 27-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Regional Forum. While the US Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in South Korea last Monday and followed by the US Secretary of State herself, Hillary Clinton, the US Undersecretary for Political Affairs, William Burns arrived in Manila last Tuesday for his two-day visit here.

For barely a month since Pres. Aquino took office, US Usec. For Political Affairs William Burns, the first senior US official who visited President Aquino after he took office, reminded the Filipino nation that they will continue their “support” as a commitment by the Obama administration to the new government.

Burns said that he was able to discuss with Aquino priority issues for the US, including judicial reform, protection of human rights, and efforts to combat trafficking, efforts to improve accountability and transparency and the fight against corruption, which are crucial in any healthy democratic society. (ABS-CBN News)

In his visit to Cotabato City last Wednesday, Mr. Burns reiterated what U.S. Ambassador Harry Thomas said, that the US troops stationed in Mindanao will remain there to help train local troops as they fight Islamic militants who are blamed for the country’s worst terrorist attacks. The Mindanaoans are puzzled and asking through the mail why Usec. Burns proceeded to Cotabato instead of Zamboanga where the bulk of the American troops are stationed. Again, for the nth time, let me ask our “friends” – if they have been there in Mindanao for a decade now, helping our soldiers through training, why is it that the supposed “terrorists” are still doing their usual acts of terrorism? Have we forgotten the word transparency here? What could be their real motive, which they are not telling us? Are we really going to benefit here? Or is it for their own hidden agenda?

Remember, tensions have been building up in Taiwan, the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea. That is reportedly the reason why Secretaries Clinton and Gates met with South Korean officials to boost their moral and show a united front against North Korea. The tension started in March due to alleged North Korea's apparent sinking of a South Korean corvette-Cheonan. US will be needing us more than ever as a member of the ASEAN and at the same time as an important American ally in this region. That is the main reason why I keep on reiterating that we have to play our cards well and not to be fooled again into entering a war that is not our own choosing. America is our friend but we have to remind their government to give us what due us. Up to now most of our war veterans have not been given what's due them.

We have to consider also as part of the Asean family of nations that we have to maintain a good relationship with our neighbors and help resolve conflicts peacefully. We could not afford another war because our “friend” choose to be at war, this is not the right approach to sustain a peaceful world.

If it’s true, from what I heard from the Palace that P-Noy will revisit the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), well and good. This way, the “lopsided” provisions against our nation’s interest will be reviewed. Hopefully our Congress will do the necessary changes that will benefit US, and not only the U.S......

As the saying goes, "In unity there's strength". This is what we need now to boost the morale of our leaders and negotiate for what is right and good for the "Pinoys".......

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Much Needed Surprise to Survive!

The Much Needed Surprise to Survive!

By Erick San Juan

A week from now, President Benigno Aquino III will deliver his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) before the 15th Congress as it formally begins its session on July 26,2010. The 15th Congress, particularly, the Senate has a big task ahead, which is to decide on the fate of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which was not tackled during the last 14th Congress.

Methinks that the VFA issue should be taken up immediately as what our good Senator, Miriam Santiago did when she reminded President Noy to be firm on his stand for the abrogation of the said agreement. Why do we have to prioritize this agreement among other issues that confronts the Philippine Congress? I don’t want to be an alarmist but we have to be sure that we are not entering another war due to the laxity and naivety of our leaders. Why do I say this?

A few days ago, the 83-year old former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, gave his warning of a possible nuclear war. Mr. Castro writes his columns called “Reflections” for Cuba's state-run media and there he wrote his predictions that a nuclear war will soon break out between the US and Iran. This tension between the two countries has been building up since the US accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons (which Iran had repeatedly denied and claimed that they are actually developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes) that threatens US security and the rest of the world. The United Nations resolution for a fourth round of sanctions, voted in by the Security Council last month, calls for the inspection of vessels suspected of carrying materials, setting the stage for military incidents at sea between Iran and the US Navy, has aggravated the situation that might lead to a nuclear war.

Few days ago, an article also appeared on the internet that: “A former senior advisor to President Bill Clinton says that the only thing which can rescue Barack Obama's increasingly tenuous grip on power as his approval figures continue to plunge is a terror attack on the scale of Oklahoma City or 9/11. Another startling reminder that such events only ever serve to benefit those in authority.

Buried in a Financial Times article is about Pres. Barack Obama's "growing credibility crisis" and fears on behalf of Democrats that they could lose not only the White House but also the Senate to Republicans. Robert Shapiro makes it clear that Obama is relying on an October surprise in the form of a terror attack to rescue his presidency. Shapiro is clearly communicating the necessity for a terror attack to be launched in order to give Obama the opportunity to unite the country around his agenda in the name of fighting terrorists, just as President George Bush Jr. did in the aftermath of 9/11, when his approval ratings shot up from around 50% to well above 80%.” (Paul Joseph Watson, Propaganda Matrix, July 14, 2010).

The predicate has been laid, the much needed “surprise” will alter the confluence of events towards a global conflict. As Fidel Castro put it - "The empire (United States) is at the point of committing a terrible error that nobody can stop. It advances inexorably toward a sinister fate.”

As an observer of events unfolding here and abroad, I am writing this to inform and warn our leaders and the public as to what is happening and might happen that can guide us for future decisions. There is so much to do and crucial decisions to make as an American ally, but let us hope and pray that our leaders will have the divine guidance so as not to drag the whole nation to a war that nobody wants.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Vague Friendly Arrangement

Vague Friendly Arrangement

By Erick San Juan

The good US Ambassador, Mr. Harry Thomas, made a pronouncement last week about the presence of the US military troops in Mindanao (Manila Times, July 10,2010). Since the day he made that premature visit to the residence of PNoy (President Benigno Aquino III), Washington is telling us to “fulfill the treaty” and he was referring to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). The VFA was ratified in 1999 by the Philippine Senate and signed by then President Joseph Estrada, but it was never ratified by the US Senate.

The American diplomat emphasized that the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) do not engage in combat operations and “are merely there to provide and offer information, training and medical support to the Philippine Armed Forces who are at the frontline (of counter terrorism efforts).”

But what is JSOTF-P? The JSOTF-P was established by the US Special Operations Command Pacific (SOCPAC). It began it's work when SOCPAC deployed to the Philippines Joint Task Force (JTF) 510 with the task “to support Operation Enduring Freedom.” Operation Enduring Freedom is the official name given to the US government’s military response to the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City . It entails a series of anti-“terrorism” activities in Afghanistan, the Philippines, the Horn of Africa, Trans-Sahara, and Pakinsi Gorge. (

It is very clear that the so-called “temporary visits” of the US troops here are justified because of the threat from a possible terrorists’ attack. Could this be the only reason? If so, they have been in the south for almost a decade and the secessionists and bandits are still doing their routine of kidnapping, killing, stealing, and so on and so forth. Meaning, they are not effective and like what Sen. Miriam Santiago said, the VFA should be abrogated and review the “lopsided” provisions that are not beneficial to the Filipinos.

Let us remember what Dr. Francisco Nemenzo said – “In the particular case of the VFA, ambiguity is extremely dangerous for the Philippines. As I just pointed out, it can involve us in unnecessary conflicts with America 's potential enemies in the region. And it runs counter to our avowed foreign policy objective of developing good relations with our neighbors.”

Yes, the vagueness of the said agreement can lead us to a war, (especially with our neighbors) that is not of our own liking. If ever a review of the VFA will transpire, it should be transparent and provisions must be clarified as not to shortchanged us in the long run.

This is the fundamental issue: Are our interests identical with those of America ? Are America 's enemies necessarily our own? I believe that our national interests may be different and, at times, contrary to those of the US . Therefore, we must pursue an independent foreign policy. (A paper delivered to the National Defense College of the Philippines by Dr. Francisco Nemenzo on September 18, 1998)

This is a great task for our solons and that of the US leadership to make this friendship last in the midst where border wars and flashpoints seem inevitable. We can make things work as long as it is fair and just on both parties.

If President Noynoy Aquino will be successful in uniting the people, I dream of a better nation, an ideal democracy just like my friend,Dr. Florangel R. Braid wrote at the Manila Bulletin about Costa Rica. It needs a lot of political will, but achievable. As a nation-state member of the Non-Aligned Movement, this is a litmus test for P.Noy and to all of us. "Pag bagsak ni P.Noy,kasama tayo", whether we like it or not. "In unity there's strength", an old adage quote that everyone of us should remember everyday.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Friendly Persuasion

Friendly Persuasion

By Erick San Juan

July 4th - the anniversary of the American independence and the Filipino-American friendship, a relationship that has been tested for many decades and now with the Aquino (part 2) Administration, where the US has shown so much so soon. The so called friendly gesture disregarded protocol while the whole electoral process was marred with irregularities and questionable results. But the show must go on, in order to prolong that friendly tie and make the bond stronger.

But for whom is the friendship anyway? Is that badly needed relationship benefit the Filipinos more than the Americans? A friendship is a two-way traffic that is sustained in a give-and-take atmosphere that should be beneficial to both parties. As an observer of events unfolding here and abroad, it seems that the US is gradually losing some of its vital allies especially in this region. I was at the East West Center's 50th anniversary and for the July 4th celebration in Honolulu and I can see that most of the attendees and guests are old hats,alumni and grantees. It was a warm gathering of experts but the young bloods seem not so keen in reviving the camaraderie and the bonding. The perception for that too friendly act towards the new president is to make sure that they will have a "permanent" station here when all hell break loose.

Actually there is nothing wrong if we have a powerful nation as a friend but through the years, the US has been perceived by many as shortchanging us. In the process, this so called alliance was and still is more beneficial to the US than to the Philippines. Presently, there are some crucial issues that our solons had to tackle and decide upon in relation with the US. The status of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is still on the table through the Senate resolution authored by Sen. Miriam Santiago that has to be reviewed and decide upon by the 15th Congress. And, other very important economic issues that are very close to the grumbling stomachs of most Filipinos. We hope that the good ambassador, Harry Thomas can rectify this bad impression and lead us all to a relationship where both parties are equally treated as more than friends but more as brothers.

Together with all the peace-loving Filipinos, we pray that President Noy will not be the next “war president” in this very interesting times when humanity is faced with a threat that is unimaginable – a possible nuclear war. Hoping that what happened in the second World War will not be repeated when we entered a war not of our own liking.

Everyone has a role to play and the new administration should take the necessary precaution in dealing with other countries so that we will not always be at the losing end. Establishing good relationship with the community of nations is a need for any country to survive but such survival can be attained when that nation is ruled by a nationalist leader, who will always act for the good of all its citizenry.

May God bless all of us, most especially our leaders so that they may have the wisdom to unite this nation.