US bases returning to the Philippines aggravates rights abuses, militarism, and likelihood of war according to a regional think tank
The Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN) raises deep concerns over US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s state visit to the Philippines as four more sites for US bases were announced. “The people are demanding peace, but the re-establishment of US bases will do more harm than good,” says APRN.
US military bases had been ejected in 1991 after the Philippine Senate junked the 1947 RP-US Military Bases Agreement. However, the late president Benigno Aquino restored the US bases in the country through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in 2014.
Through EDCA, US bases can be established in both public and private lands. According to APRN, these military facilities can be erected in existing Philippine military bases and will operate free of charge and with tax exemptions. Local and international courts are also conveniently prohibited from attending to any possible disputes. The effectiveness of the agreement can also be renewed an indefinite number of times.
Although Secretary Austin claims that EDCA is geared towards building the Philippines’ capabilities to “defend their own sovereignty,” which means regular joint-military exercises and selling weapons and military assets to PH. However, APRN affirms peace advocates and Filipino organizations’ position that this will only undermine Philippine sovereignty and escalate the human rights situation in the country.
“We have to talk about the social cost, the environmental damage, and human rights violations the accommodation of the US war machine will bring to the Filipino people,” says Dr. Azra Talat Sayeed, Chairperson of APRN’s Board of Conveners.
Philippine and US officials present EDCA as an added safeguard against possible conflict emerging from the West Philippine Sea or the Taiwan Strait. Despite these claims, nowhere in the agreement does it mention that the US is obliged to aid the country in times of conflict.
APRN’s General Secretary, Alex Enano asserts that “Secretary Austin and their US bases are simply protecting their foothold in the region and not the interests of the people. In fact, their mere presence in the country makes the Philippines a target for their enemies – a modern-day Pearl Harbor.”
High-level US officials, such as US President Biden and Vice President Harris, have conducted several diplomatic visits to the Asia Pacific in the past couple of years. “Austin’s arrival in the Philippines aligns with their Pivot to Asia strategy. After decades of occupation in Afghanistan and their hand in the Ukraine conflict, the US turns their attention towards Asia,” says Sayeed.
The US’ rebalancing of military presence in the region coincides with the White House’s identification of China as a threat to US economic and political dominance. “To this end, the US is willing to lie through their teeth so long as they reestablish a strategic launchpad of imperialism in the region with the hopes of containing China,” Sayeed maintains.
“We are sounding the alarm for all peace-loving organizations and movements across the Asia Pacific.” According to APRN, this expansion could cause harm through military conflict, escalation of the human rights crisis, and economic and environmental degradation. The new military bases in the Philippines present a danger that extends far beyond its borders, with the advanced military equipment, such as planes, drones, ships, and arms, having the potential to reach and impact neighboring countries.
“It is imperative that we oppose these threats to peace in the region. The US and the subservient Philippine regime under Marcos Jr. be held accountable for their actions,” Enano ends. #
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