Monday, November 29, 2010

The VFA “fixers” and RP Repeating History

The VFA “fixers” and RP Repeating History
By Erick San Juan

Can we defend our nation against aggression from other countries? Can we do it alone in this chaotic world if we are going to cut off relationship with the U.S.? Some nagging questions that hovers above the archipelago for quite some time now amidst the growing tensions in the region coupled with the tensions for the review and abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

VFA is simply an implementation of the Mutual Defense Treaty (signed in August 30, 1951). If we didn’t ratify this treaty, we don’t have the VFA today and might not have any visible opponents around us.

Actually the Mutual Defense Treaty was as hot as the VFA when it was ratified back then and one of the opponents was Senator Claro M. Recto (but he signed the treaty anyway together with the other senators). Here is the explanation of Sen. Claro Recto :

“I shall vote for its ratification, and I trust that the number of senators required by our Constitution shall vote likewise, but let us vote with our eyes open to what our votes shall mean to our people and this republic. We were outmaneuvered, outsmarted, and outreached in the negotiation of this treaty. But at least, in ratifying it for lack of something better, let us not believe we are getting a good bargain. It is hard enough to be outwitted. Let us not fool ourselves, and let us not build a fool’s paradise for our trusting people.”

Let these words by Recto be a reminder to our current leaders in “fixing” the VFA. But like Sen. Recto, when he was careful during that time as not to antagonize the US too much, we always say that US is not our enemy though we must be given what's due us and not be shortchanged in the process.

Here is another direct remark from Sen. Recto when he stressed the lack of mutuality in the MDT :

“… it is not true either that America is giving us almost everything for nothing; on the contrary it is we who have given, and are giving, and will continue to give America almost everything for nothing...”

With this in mind, let me cite a news article that came out last November 23 that -Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) received $100.8 M worth of goods and services under a deal with U.S. last year. But it was charged $109.5 M according to the Commission on Audit. COA said that the AFP still reported a PhP6.2 billion balance in its guaranty deposits despite having wire transferred PhP5.32 billion to the US Treasury under foreign military sales required in the letters of offer and acceptance between US and RP. (Source: Manila Standard Today)

What Sen. Recto said 58 years ago is very much true today. Trust begets trust. We were shortchanged and outwitted again into believing that everything given by Uncle Sam is free. . .

In this case, as I always say, history repeating itself or that people keep on repeating history which is clearly not beneficial to us before, and until today.

Lest we forget, from the words of another nationalist – Dr. Francisco “Dodong” Nemenzo, “As a general rule, the stronger party in a bilateral negotiation prefers ambiguity because it allows a larger room for maneuver; but the weaker party - if mindful of its national interest - must insist on concrete formulations because it wants to limit the capacity of the stronger party to act unilaterally. 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."

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.”

We still don’t have the capacity to stand alone (and have an independent foreign policy) – militarily speaking because since the Americans left Subic and Clark, we did not have something to fall back on and had remain dependent on Uncle Sam’s support (which comes in trickles). That is why when China showed interest again in the disputed islands in the South China Sea, VFA was the convenient answer.

Can our leaders fix an agreement that was born out of the crucial need to counter a perceived enemy of Uncle Sam? In the midst of a possible regional conflict, are we going to allow a repeat of going to war not of our own liking just because we have an agreement that says so?

This is a wake up call to our leaders, our sovereignty is at stake here and hopefully, let's have a much better living legacy for future generations to come.

1 comment:

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