US military audacity under the Marcos puppet regime
The brazen presence of thousands of American troops, along with their giant warships, jet fighters, cannons and all sorts of weapons all puts a spotlight onto the absence of genuine Philippine independence and how it is treated with contempt as a mere large US military base.
While in the Philippines, American soldiers enjoy extraterritorial and special privileges, much more than ordinary Filipinos. These were given them under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), unequal military agreements that favor the US.
Under the EDCA, the US was provided extensive “agreed locations” inside military camps of the AFP, for its exclusive use as military facilities and bases. The US uses these as docks, airports, fuel storage, personnel accommodation, storage of weapons, vehicles and other war matériel. The US is allowed to use these locations “without rental or similar costs.”
The US military exercises absolute control over these locations until these are “no longer required by the United States,” meaning as long as it wants and deems necessary to use these locations. The Philippine government has no sovereignty or authority over these US military bases and facilities. These cannot be subjected to inspection unless under procedures approved (or agreed upon) by the US.
The US is also granted the right to use at any time public land and facilities such as roads, ports and airfields, particularly when moving or deploying equipment. Contrary to Philippine laws, the US is also given the right to establish its own telecommunications system and use “all the necessary radio spectrum” for free, a right Filipinos do not enjoy. In addition, the EDCA gives the US the privilege to use water, electricity and other utilities at rates similar to the Philippine government, which is below the fees paid for by ordinary Filipinos.
The agreement does not oblige the US to pay for damages to the environment that may be caused by the disposal of toxic or dangerous materials. It will be recalled that at the end of 1992, the US left the Clark Air Base and the Subic Naval Base without cleaning up their toxic waste which poisoned the ground water, sea water and marine resources.
While in the Philippines, American soldiers enjoy a special legal status. By default, they are not covered by Philippine criminal or civil laws at a time while stationed in the country. For the last 25 years, American soldiers involved in crimes (murder, rape, beatings, shooting and so on) have not been arrested, charged or made to face the courts, but were quickly sent home. Even in highly-publicized Subic Rape Case and the killing of Jennifer Laude, American soldiers who were found guilty were given the slip and returned to the US.
This 2023, at least 500 war games—military exercises in preparation for war—will be held by the US in the Philippines. This means every day throughout the year, American soldiers are in the Philippines to stir up and provoke war. These include the Balikatan exercises last April, the largest ever which saw 12,600 American troops swarmed the northern part of Luzon to display war prowess before China. All over, the US flies their jets fighters and helicopters, sails their carriers, and launch missiles and bombs that destroy the peace and environment. “Joint exercises” are being held to ensure the US will have operational control (which the US terms “interoperability”) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the event of a war. The US pushes the AFPs “modernization” to induce it to spend tens of billion pesos to buy surplus, second-hand or previous generation weapons.
While trampling and lording over Philippine land, air and waters, the large presence of American soldiers is falsely depicted as indicator of US “iron-clad commitment” to the Philippines. American claims of defending the Philippines against the giant China is a tall tale. What the US, in fact, defends is its self-interest, the same self-interest that motivated it to annex the Philippines for half a century, and rule it as a semicolony since 1946 with puppet bureaucrats.
The military presence of the US in the Philippines is part of its strategy to surround its imperialist rival China and contain its further military and economic growth. The US relentlessly expands its military forces from East Asia, Southeast Asia to the Pacific islands, even in India, while goading and arm-twisting its military allies (including Japan, Australia, to the United Kingdom) to join naval operations in South China Sea on the pretext of “freedom of navigation.” Under US geopolitical and military strategy, the Philippines is an important outpost because of its proximity to China. To China, the presence of US military forces in the Philippines is considered a threat to its security and will surely be targets of armed reprisals once the US uses the country to launch a war against China.
Allowing increased military presence in the Philippines was used by the US Biden government as condition for extending more loans, investment as well as military assistance desperately sought for by the Marcos regime in past two visits to the US. In exchange for explicit surrender of territory to the US and allowing it to use the country as a military base and launching pad, the World Bank last June approved four loan packages amounting to $1.14 billion, to bridge the Marcos regime’s massive budget deficit. These loans are now used to push economic policies that further expand the interests of foreign capitalists and their bourgeois comprador and landlord partners, at the expense of the livelihood of the toiling masses and the average Filipinos.
The Marcos puppet regime is further downgrading the Philippines status as a US semicolony without genuine independence. More than 125 years of US control and domination is the fundamental reason why the Philippines is mired in crisis, remains backward, agrarian, non-industrialized, and cannot stand on its own feet. The US is further tightening its political, economic, military and cultural grip to advance its interests in the Philippines and throughout Asia.
The Filipino people should fight for the abrogation of the EDCA, the VFA, the Mutual Defense Treaty and all other unequal military agreements with the US. The Philippines has no real sovereignty as long as its dominated by US military power. The people must struggle to liberate the Philippines from US control and develop the country’s capability to defend itself. This can only be achieved if the Philippines enjoys full economic and political sovereignty and genuine national independence.