Wednesday, March 18, 2009
As if they never left...
We have long dismantled the US military base here in my country, but the Philippines remained on the radar of the US goverment. They sought to regain military foothold in my country through various agreements.
In 1999 our senate ratify an RP-US Visiting Forces Agreemet (VFA) which serves as a legal framework for the treatment for visiting American troops, and this serves as the legal basis for the stationing of US troops in the Philippines.
But unlike the base treaty, the VFA has no duration. It is in effect, by all intent and purposes, INDEFINITELY! Add to that, it does not limit the area where they can visit, the number of troops allowed, nor the activities of the visiting troops. Theoritically, the US can station or deploy any number of troops anywhere in the Philippines for unspecified activities.
This is favorable to America as the design is more flexible and less costly to maintain. One batch leaves another enters... in a kind of revolving door fashion.
So, why did I talk about it today? Because President Obama called our president to talk about the VFA.
Obama is an American president, and he represents American interests. His own claim to power depends on his ability to be seen as representing American interests. The importance of the VFA to the US today may be seen in Obama’s call to Arroyo after refusing to acknowledge her existence all this time. There is always the fear that Arroyo might drag down US interests along with her.
I have always admired Obama. He is the first American president to have recognized the Philippine contribution to the Allied cause in World War II. All the other US presidents have merely paid lip service to Filipino bravery. Obama has put money where the American mouth is.
Of course, he made a mistake calling up Arroyo. It allows Arroyo to put a spin to that call and exploit the American vulnerability to being held hostage by the Visiting Forces Agreement. But that is for us, the Filipino people, to oppose. That is for us, the Filipino people, to correct.
So to the elected president of America, here's what I want to say:
"The VFA has no place in the world you envision. Certainly it has no place in the country we live in. It is not your place to demand that it continue to exist. It is an exaction upon us, no less than your bases were. It ought never to have seen the light of day.
We are America’s ally, we are America’s friend. But principles are the true foundations of alliances, not expedience. Equality is the true foundation of friendship, not imposition. You want us to respect you, respect us. You want us follow your lead, lead where we may follow.
You have been an inspiration to America, you have been an inspiration to the world. Be an inspiration to us as well."