The annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2012 will be held in the vicinity of Mindanao Sea or Bohol Sea, which lies between the provinces of Bohol and Leyte and north of Mindanao. The area is under the area of responsibility of the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao (NFEM). It will run from July 2 to 10, 2012.
According to Col. Omar Tonsay, Philippine Navy spokesman, this year's CARAT 2012 will involve 450 personnel from the Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard; and 500 personnel from the US Navy and Coast Guard. (Interaksyon, June 28, 2012)
The CARAT started in 1995 and like other bilateral military exercises we have with the US through the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) such exercises occur annually.
The mere fact that these exercises were considered part and parcel of the Mutual Defense Treaty that we have with Washington, but still, the timing and the venue are suspicious vis-a-vis the tensions brewing in the South China Sea. We cannot help but ask ourselves – do we really need such annual exercises? We have several of the same kind already and recently they are not being useful to us and to the rest of the Asia-Pacific region. Obviously, it is a tool for provocation whether we like it or not. Any accidental firing or miscalculations during such exercises, could be use as pretext for regional conflict.
Like what we have been saying (over and over), the defense treaties that we have with Uncle Sam should be revisited and reviewed (or possibly terminated) because it benefits them more than us. In other words, from the very start these pacts were all one-sided. Even in its ratification, treaties and agreements we entered in the past, it did not have the conforme of the other party. Are we all that dumb that we allow such process?
And here we go again, with the pending ratification on the third reading of the Status of the Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA) in the Senate,it is a clear sign that we are allowing ourselves to be used as a pawn in the game of war that US and Australia had planned since 2009 against China.
I have written about this in my past article (@ericksanjuan.blogspot.com) that a 2009 Defense white paper contained a “secret chapter” in David Uren’s book that assessed “Australia’s ability to fight an air-sea battle alongside the United States against China” and the revelation came out in an Australian newspaper last June 2,2012.
At the Senate deliberation of the SOVFA on its second reading, Senators Joker Arroyo, Miriam Defensor- Santiago and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed reservations, saying this would be disadvantageous to the Philippines. Santiago believes concurring with the treaty may threaten the country’s sovereignty.
“This treaty violates the doctrine of void for vagueness. It is so vague that it will spawn myriad irritants in Philippine-Australia relations,” she said. (Source: Alexis Romero, Philippine Star 6/10/2012)
The points raised by the senators were like a repeat of what happened when the VFA with the US was questioned. They were both VAGUE. (translation – This could lead to something else. We will be shortchanged again and we will find ourselves being dragged to a war not of our liking.)
Are we going to repeat history with this SOVFA with Australia? We have too much “visiting forces” already that some of them enjoyed it too much that they were no longer visitors.
I have to remind my regular readers of my articles, that the Coast Watch South that we have, is a joint military undertaking of US and Australia, and we have witnessed how such operation did not help our fellow Filipinos in the south. Instead, it contributed to the extension of the perennial problem of insurgency and banditry, and worst of all the possible balkanization of Mindanao from the rest of the archipelago.
Let us hope that at the opening of the Congress later this month, more sane Senators will vote against the ratification of the SOVFA on its third reading."Makonsensiya naman kayo!"