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Terror Scare, Travel Advisory and the VFA
On Terror Scare and VFA Extension
Filipinos want VFA scrapped
By Edwin Cordero Mercurio
A terror scare is poised upon the Philippines which sources say is aimed to justify the continued US military intervention in the Philippines in the midst of the ongoing review of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
Citizens of the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom were issued travel alert advisories warnings against travelling to the Philippines, indicating threats of terrorist attacks in Metro Manila and Mindanao. The terror scare advisories came in the wake of suspicious air cargo packages bound for the United States that were intercepted in Britain and Dubai.
The timing of the travel advisories has raised suspicion in this Southeast Asian country. According to Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, the threat of terror attacks are being issued at a time when questions are being raised and intensifying regarding the presence of US troops and calls to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)." It seems that they are laying the propaganda groundwork to justify the continued presence of US troops in the country.”
Philippine progressive leaders say the VFA agreement signed in May 1999 provides an excuse for the US military forces to get involved in actual combat missions against the New People’s Army, the revolutionary armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), an Islamic movement fighting for the right to self -determination for the Bangsa moro people of Mindanao, Southern Philippines.
The controversial VFA agreement paved the way for the return of US troops in the country allegedly for joint military exercises with Filipino troops after the US-RP Bases agreement expired. Reports, however, revealed that American soldiers are, indeed, involved in actual air and ground combat operations and aerial sorties in the Philippines.
A review of the VFA has been ordered by Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III. Executive Order No. 9, issued by Mr. Aquino ordered a review of the VFA and calls for reorganizing the Presidential Commission on the VFA. Lately, however, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa who heads the commission has been mentioning the need for ‘refinements’ instead of a comprehensive review of the VFA.
The controversial provisions of the VFA
The VFA violates the provision of the Philippine constitution that states and guarantees “equal protection before the law” because it gives special privileges and rights to uniformed and civil members of the US Defense Department. Ordinary Filipino citizens are not given these rights and priviliges. Article I of the VFA, “based on its “Definitions,” allows the American military and civilians to perform “activities” agreed upon by the Philippine government. The VFA provisions do not clarify whether these activities are for training, combat, spying or espionage or for “Rest and Recreation”
Filipinos also question what the “temporary” stay or visit provisions means to the country. One week? One month? A year or longer?
Ilagan said “The United States is once more raising the ante of terrorism worldwide so that it can sustain military presence and further secure its hold on areas like the Philippines.”
Philippine observers accused the US of creating an atmosphere of terror as it did before invading Iraq to justify its presence. They cited the multiple bombings in Mindanao allegedly used as justification for additional military presence in the area. In the past, while unexplained bombings were taking place in Mindanao, a US citizen was caught by local police with explosive devices and bomb making equipment after an accidental explosion in his rented Davao City hotel room. News reports revealed the man was freed from detention by unknown US military personnel before additional investigation by Philippine authorities could take place.
Recent tensions between North and South Korea and maritime territorial disputes between China and Japan are believed to have bolstered the US move to secure its control and strategic military and economic interests in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. The United States is siding with South Korea against North Korea. It is siding with Japan in the recent maritime territorial dispute between China and Japan. Russia has allied itself with China. Recent statement of US Defense head Robert Gates indicates that the US intends to strengthen military presence in Asia.
The Centre fo Anti -Imperialist Studies (CAIS) revealed that the "Philippines is vital to preserving U.S. Imperialism’s economic and security interests in the region and beyond, and the US is set to reclaim some privileges which it lost when the Philippine Senate rejected the proposed RP-US military bases agreement of 1992.”
Ilagan added that the travel advisories resulting from so-called threats of terror attacks in the country prove that the VFA has failed in curbing terrorism. “What have these so-called counter-terrorism trainings achieved? After 12 years, what we get are travel advisories from Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and France and we have a military that is still ill-equipped and ill-trained despite year after year of Balikatan exercises,” said Ilagan.
In addition, The National Democratic Front (NDF)-Mindanao, has called the terror threats as a ‘scheme to justify the increasing presence of US troops in the country, and more aggressively launch the US counter insurgency strategy.’
The NDF-Mindanao is quoted by Philippine media as stating that the terror threats are a ‘scheme ‘ to justify the increasing presence of US forces. “This wave of terror-threats and its subsequent violent counter-terror campaigns is a prelude to a full throttle attack against the revolutionary movement come January 2011. It comes as no surprise that AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] propaganda spin-doctors have maliciously rehashed the baseless “NPA-MILF-Abu Sayyaf” collusion angle.”
The New People’s Army (NPA) is the revolutionary armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The MILF or Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fights for the right to self-determination of the Bangsamoro people while the Abu Sayyaf is a kidnap-for-ransom group with roots from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Citing the US Counter-Insurgency Guide (US Coin Guide), the NDF-Mindanao said "the AFP redeployed the 1st Marine Brigade from Basilan to Sarangani, in time for the resumption of the GRP-MILF talks. This big force," according to the NDF, "would also secure the completion of US military base facilities in the area. The US-Aquino regime has no plan to lift the terror tag against the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the NDFP (CPP-NPA-NDFP), and these terror threats could be spitefully used as a license to amend the VFA for intensified anti-terror campaigns against the revolutionary movement. This usual terror line will only result to crackdown against the Moro people, political activists and political opposition block. The reactionary regime could also use this ploy as an excuse to derail the peace talks with the MILF and the NDFP.”
Filipinos from abroad and in the Philippines have longed for a just and lasting peace for their country based on Justice, Freedom, Mutual Respect and National Democracy. The peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP and the GRP and MILF must be restarted soon based on mutually agreed terms of agreement. The Filipino people have suffered long enough.
Source: Ronalyn V. Olea