On the “suspension of VFA termination”
In an act of diplomatic acrobatics, the Philippine government yesterday announced it has notified the US of a six month “suspension of the termination” of the Visiting Forces Agreement, which can be further extended by another six months, which puts the abrogation of the military agreement on indefinite hold. This step was undertaken by the Department of Foreign Affairs under the instruction of Duterte.
The Party denounces the puppet Duterte for backtracking on its declaration to terminate the VFA. It contravenes the Filipino people’s long-standing desire to end the US military intervention in the country and attain genuine national sovereignty. The VFA is one of the starkest reminder of US neocolonial rule in the country and serves as an instrument serving US military domination in the country.
1. What is behind the “suspension of termination” of the VFA?
On February, the Party anticipated that the Duterte regime will not push through with the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and viewed the act of filing a notice of termination on February 11 as self-serving to seek more attention and support from his imperialist masters.
The Party said: “Duterte’s self-serving and myopic aims indicate that his act of serving notice to terminate the VFA are not geared towards ending more than half-a-century long neocolonial rule by the US imperialists. He will likely be easily placated. Or he can be made to straighten up by Trump or by his own pro-US military officers.”
Prior to this playacting, Duterte vented frustration over the lack of brand-new helicopters, fighter jets, bombs and other war toys being provided by the US military to the AFP for its counterinsurgency drive.
To placate their misbehaving puppet, the US State Department on April 30 issued a certification approving the Duterte government’s request to buy \$1.5 billion (around ₱75 billion) worth of helicopters, Hellfire missiles and other war matériel and services. A few weeks earlier, the regime also placed orders to buy ₱2.4 billion worth of artillery systems from a US-partner company in Israel, the Elbit Systems.
Duterte’s order to suspend the termination of the VFA is an expression of satisfaction over the offer of arms by the US.
2. What are the “political and other developments in the region” that Duterte is talking about?
Duterte’s rush and sudden turnaround to save the VFA show that he has bowed to increasing US pressure exerted through US agents in his government. It is linked with pressing plans of the US to further heighten its military presence in the South China Sea and use the Philippines as a base of operations in view of increasing anti-China jingoism and war preparations of the Trump government.
There are now several saber-rattling American warships in the South China Sea and in the southern Philippine seas. The non-termination of the VFA will pave the way for them to sail and dock in Philippine waters.
Amid the sharp intensification of the international capitalist crisis that has pulled the US economy back to recession after years of economic stagnation, the Trump government is increasingly turning to the use of direct military force to secure and further push its economic interests in the Asia-Pacific as well as other regions across the world. The US military urgently needs the continuance of the VFA to serve its military strategy.
By suspending the termination of the VFA, expect the AFP and the US military to push through with the Balikatan exercises that were suspended because of the VFA “notice of termination,” and the Covid-19 pandemic. In the coming weeks and months, expect the inrush of an unprecedented number of US military personnel in the country as the US rushes to build up its forces amid reports of continuing strengthening of China’s military forces in the South China Sea.
In securing the VFA, combined with its failure to oppose Chinese construction of military facilities in the South China Sea, the Duterte regime is putting the country at the center of US-China inter-imperialist conflict.
3. What is the link between the “suspension of termination” of the VFA and the rush to approve the Anti-Terror Bill?
Also yesterday, the House of Representatives rammed through congressional procedures and approved on second reading the Anti-Terror Bill. With the approval, Duterte is now one breath away from acquiring even more authoritarian powers which will further reinforce his tyrannical regime and complete his martial law rule.
The sudden rush to approve the draconian Anti-Terror Law is also inextricably linked with the suspension of termination of the VFA. The push for a new Anti-Terror Law to replace the Human Security Act has long been pushed by the US imperialists and expressed through their representatives in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and their agents in the security and defense establishment in the country.
The most vigorous promoters of the Anti-Terror Law are American military agents Delfin Lorenzana, Eduardo Año and Hermogenes Esperon, who compose the junta with Duterte that now dominates the country through the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), as well as the National Task Force Against Covid-19.
The Anti-Terror Law is the quid pro quo for the US’ approval of the Duterte arms deal. It will help further entrench US military domination in the country, reinforce the US imperialist’s Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines (OPE-P), justify more arms deals and dumping of US surplus war matériel in the country, and give way to open deployment of more American troops in the country to directly participate and support counterinsurgency operations of the AFP.
The OPE-P, which gave the US a broader venue to perpetuate and expand military presence in the country, was borne out of the ruins of the Marawi siege which the regime and the US stridently painted as a “war against terror.” US special “anti-terror” forces, which are euphemistically called “advisers,” need the VFA for immunity against local laws and regulations.
Duterte needs the Anti-Terror Law to justify begging the US for more arms. He must keep his US-trained and loyalists happy, both in their brutal campaign against the people and by lining their pockets with kickbacks from bigger and more lucrative acquisition contracts.
4. What must be done?
The Filipino people must condemn the suspension of the termination of the VFA, push their patriotic demand for its complete abrogation and oppose any move to have it renegotiated. They must call on the international community of Filipinos to expose and denounce the VFA and heightening US military intervention in the Philippines and denounce US support for the Duterte fascist regime.
The Filipino people must express their indignation and protest not only online, but “offline” as well by coming together to manifest their unity and as a means of fighting back against the onslaught against the country’s sovereignty and national dignity.
The people’s patriotic forces must remind everyone of the innumerable crimes perpetrated by US military forces which have gone unpunished because of the VFA, and how the US military uses the VFA, the EDCA and Mutual Defense Treaty to dominate the country and establish its imperialist hegemony in the region. The Filipino youth must be reminded of the Filipino people’s grave sufferings during US armed aggression, colonial and neocolonial subjugation of the country since the turn of the 20th century.
The Filipino people are being blindsided by the Duterte fascist regime in suspending the termination of the VFA, railroading the Anti-Terror Law, extending Duterte’s emergency powers, and implementing a slew of other militarist and neoliberal measures.
These measures are being rammed through by the fascist regime almost at a time that the Filipino people remain locked down as the fascist regime reserves the “right” to determine what is “essential” or not for the people. The youth, in particular, the torch bearer of Filipino patriotism and militance, are being prevented from collectively raising their voices and expressing their patriotic and democratic stand.
The need to voice out indignation and resist the fascist, neoliberal and US interventionist blitzkrieg has become most urgent. The people must overcome all barriers.