Sunday, September 22, 2013

Phony Relationship by Erick San Juan

Phony Relationship by Erick San Juan

When former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at the East-West center in Hawaii in October 2010, she emphasized three key elements of the US engagement in Asia. The US’s relationship with its allies, their relations with partners across the Asia pacific region and US participation in the region’s multilateral institutions such as the ASEAN, APEC and EAS. (Source: China vs US: Military Conflict in the South China Sea, The World Outline)

Since then, there has been much talk of the mighty Uncle Sam’s return to Asia-Pacific region and even referred to himself (President Barack Obama) as ‘America’s first Pacific President’ without even consulting first his history books of America’s past leaders who deserves the title better.

With so much rhetoric and doublespeak of the real intentions of this pivot to the region, the truth of the matter is, they never left. “They have maintained a forward military, political and economic presence in Asia as well as Europe since the Second World War. In short, they have pursued a political and economic open door policy underpinned by the ability to project force outside their own western hemisphere” (Ibid). And in this case, the classic example of what I am trying to emphasize here is the US military presence in the Philippines.

The mere fact that the strategic location of our country is one of the reasons why Uncle Sam just can’t afford to leave the country as its military outpost. Our leaders did not use this as leverage to gain better treatment as a long-time ally.

We have to gather our act together as a sovereign nation and assert what is rightfully ours. For every concession or treaties that we opt to negotiate so that we will not be left shortchanged in the process.

Access Agreement

That is why in the midst of the crisis in the south, the ongoing talks regarding the framing of the access agreement (executive agreement) between the Philippines and the United States has raised some questions from the progressive group led by Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares. He asked, “Why are the talks being held in the Pentagon and not here in Manila? It is the US government that is asking for a favor so the talks should be held here in Manila. Or is it because they are brow beating Philippine negotiators there in

Washington DC? From all indications, what is happening is not a negotiation but Philippine officials getting instructions from US defense officials on what they want and how to explain it to the wary Filipino people,” he said.

He added that another possible reason why the talks are being held in Washington is that both governments “are afraid of mass actions and mobilizations of nationalist and progressive groups opposed to this new agreement.” He reiterated that all negotiations on increasing the presence of US soldiers in the country should be held in Manila and be open to the public. (Source: Philippine Star online)

Even without this new access agreement, our country is being used by Uncle Sam’s troops in different ‘military exercises’ may it be on air, sea or land annually via the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and its mother treaty, the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). And ,whether we like it or not, these US forces are already ‘visiting’ the country on rotational basis and they have installed three lily-pad bases in the south for these special operation forces. So why the recent denial of the State Department? What else is new? For whom are the military exercises?

Last September 18, PHIBLEX started and will last for three weeks (21 days), I wonder why this year’s RP-US Amphibious Landing Exercise is longer than the previous year by nine days. Suspiciously it will end in October just in time for the visit of US President Barack Obama. Hmmm… Is there something in the offing that they are not telling us?

What could be the real agenda of Uncle Sam in staging military exercises with us (and with its other allies in the region) guise as rebalancing China’s military power in the region. Last August 16, China's defense minister, Gen. Chang Wanquan, arrived in Hawaii for a series of high-level meetings with U.S. military officials which also included the first-ever visit by a major Beijing official to North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)? Gen. Chang

Wanquan also had a meeting with Adm. Samuel Locklear, head of the Pacific Command. Added to this is the joint US-China military exercises in Hawaii that started in September 7.

Some pundits believe that the ongoing US-China relations projected by its military-to-military enhancement is not at all helping the countries in the Asia-Pacific region particularly claimants in the disputed areas in the East and South China Sea. The rumor that Washington and Beijing has literally divided the Pacific amongst themselves is now coming true. As a loyal ally, we have to rethink our relationship with either friend or foe. Simply monitoring is not enough. We have to make decisions that will bring back our dignity as a sovereign state and not just a slave kowtowing to a perceived master.               

Wake up!

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