International Meeting

2002 World Conference against A & H

Corazon Fabros

Secretary General, Nuclear-Free Philippines Coalition


Warm greetings from the nuclear-free, bases-free Philippines! (not for long I am afraid)

You have to stretch your patience, love what you are doing and find humor in what you get as news in the Philippines to keep your sanity intact.  It has not been easy dealing with so much in so short a time. There has@been a tremendous change in the Philippine political scenario after the September 11 tragedy in the United States.

As I try to write out my speech for this conference, I felt that I should try to be more personal this time and relate to you how life has been since we last met hoping that in doing so, I would be able to contribute to putting flesh and substance to our theme this year gWorking together for a peaceful and promising World without nuclear weapons.h

But first – letfs have some Philippine situationer. I have written out a Chronology of Significant Events on the issue of escalation of U.S. military presence in the Philippines, which I hope to share at Workshop 2 tomorrow.  

To a certain extent, the September 11 attack and the US global war on terrorism provided some blessings for a beleaguered Arroyo administration. The conspiracy that Bush and Arroyo established to implement the US gwar on terrorismh serves the purposes of the US political, military and economic agenda.  The Arroyo administration is provided the strongest implicit and explicit endorsement by the US which it maximized politically both in the Philippines and overseas.  The US also provided important though insufficient economic support and aid.

Over the past six months, the United states provided a full complement of more than two thousand troops and modern equipment in Mindanao, including special unit advisers, Green beret, intelligence advisers, special forces for jungle warfare and 600 marines.  More than 200 navy engineers for civic action in engineering and medical outreach were added in their drive to win the hearts and minds of the local people. The main focus at the start were training, back up for Filipino combatants and civic action, but when public opinion had become receptive to US military presence, US troops became actively involved in field operations and encounters which are violative of the Philippine Constitution.

The Arroyo government, in its bid to stem the expected negative public sentiment and protests against US troops, embarked on a grand PR campaign that emphasized the terrorism of Abu Sayyaf to create a gterrorism discourseh similar to that of Bushfs war machinery which focuses only on the emotional aspects of terrorism and avoids the social and political issues towards understanding the roots of terrorism.  The government also launched a more sinister, fascistic campaign to demonize opposition, similar to the Bush campaign in the US.  All those who opposed the presence of US troops were called gABY SAYYAF LOVERSh when such presence were clearly against the Philippine Constitution.  Oppositionists and their supporters were labeled communists. 

In the last five centuries, the Philippines have been on the receiving end of wars under various names. War of colonization; war of pacification; insurgency wars; world war; and now gWar on terrorismh.  In the aftermath of the September 11 tragedy, we get a steady stream of gwar mongering exercisesh sponsored by the United States and Philippine military. We view with great trepidation and with great anger the return of U.S. troops to the Philippines under the guise of gwar on terrorismh. In the first place, it had taken nearly half a century of struggle to get them out; for the Arroyo government to allow them to return is simply to spit on the courage tenacity and determination of the Filipino people to unchain themselves from U.S. control and domination.

Former Senator Guingonafs (one of the Magnificent 12 senators who rejected the US Bases Treaty in 1991) lone resistance to US military presence eventually led to his resignation as foreign Affairs Secretary.  But aside from him and a few other patriots, there was general support from local politicians to the presence of US troops. 

The entry of US troops fulfills the US agenda and Arroyofs political ambitions.  The brazen pro-US stance (to a scandalous level at times!) that Arroyo took especially after the September 11 attacks provided US with an opportunity to realize its short and medium term economic and military agenda as it relates to the Philippines and its role in the region.

The US objectives against terrorism in general and against the al Qaeda network in particular are not limited to the Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines and the region.  However, the focus on Abu Sayyaf through the Balikatan exercises (shoulder to shoulder) provided the political excuse to position US troops in the country and escalate the process of implementing the US agenda.

The closure of US bases in 1992 was a terrible blow to US politico-military interests in Asia and the Pacific.  The Philippines provided important location for the southern plank of China besides access to the whole Southeast Asian sub-region and further on to South Asia.  Subsequent efforts to maximize bases in East Asia and the Pacific were insufficient for US military and intelligence positioning and operations that cannot be duplicated by any other Asian nation. 

Building on the perceived success of the Balikatan war exercises under the Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement to deploy US troops for internal matters such as counterinsurgency operations, the US and the Arroyo government are now expanding US troops deployment in smaller-unit field operations in other areas in Mindanao outside the ASG strongholds and lengthening the stay of US troops beyond the Balikatan schedules. This in effect deploys US troops indefinitely in Philippine territory. 

US Secretary of State Colin Powell will meet with Philippine President Arroyo tomorrow. Top in their agenda will be the proposed Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) – the new name for what used to be called ACSA, SOFA, etc in the past.  With the MLSA, the Philippines will be turned into a jumping board for American anti-terrorism operations in Asia as the proposed agreement grants permanent basing rights to the United States. The Arroyo government considers the MLSA as a mere executive agreement not a treaty and thus would not require ratification by the Senate.  Despite GMAfs admission of not even reading the final draft of the MLSA, she indicated that the MLSA was gAS GOOD AS APPROVED as the leaving behind of US forces of their military equipment at the end of Balikatan 02-1 would depend on its approval.h

Terms of a sustained, expanded military cooperation arrangement (read that as intervention) when Powell meets with GMA will most likely be in the agenda, as large-scale military exercises will resume in October covering a more extensive geographical coverage. It might even involve participation of troops from other neighboring Asian nations.  The US is giving the Philippines US$55 Million in military aid which is meant to persuade GMA (Bribe is more appropriate) to gfast track the approval of the MLSA and turn the Philippines into a huge US military arsenal in Asia-Pacific region.h

The heritage foundation has said that gUS wants to strengthen the Philippine militaryfs ability to deal with terrorh hoping that such will translate to greater regional security, gespecially since Manila has displayed a willingness to lead the war on terrorism in Southeast Asia.

In February 1994, Dr. Boone Schirmer warned of impending AUTOMATIC ACCESS ARRANGEMENT for the Philippines: gA conclusive enlargement of the access arrangement, essentially reversing the decision of the Philippine Senate to remove the bases, automatic access implies the Pentagonfs right to use any major seaport or airfield in the Philippines as a staging area for U.S. intervention in Korea, the Mideast, or wherever else, without seeking so much as a by-your leave from the Philippine government.  In its absence of Philippine controls it resembles the eunhampered military operationsf dictator Marcos conceded the Pentagon with respect to the bases, a condition U.S. military authorities had insisted on since they first established these installations in 1947.h  Much of what Boone has been saying all along is coming true today. 

But as peace and social justice advocates, we must see things from a historical perspective. As Boone once said gHistory is a chronicle of human struggles to build a better world for all but even as humanity moves in that direction, it will have many deviations. A setback may feel devastating when it happens but it is only a small deviation in the larger movement. There will always be a few who will keep nudging humanity to move toward that vision. That is the role of social justice advocates in every generation.h

So how have we in the Philippines responded to the signs of the times?  I would like to look at it more along the lines of constantly trying to reach as many people as we can to share information, reflection and analysis and BUILDING ALLIANCES, BUILDING BRIDGES OF COURAGE AND HOPE to move people to action.

The September 11 attack in the US and the renewed escalation of US military presence in the Philippines has brought together and forged unities among many forces in the Philippine peace and justice movement. We were revitalized by the strong call for unities with the formation of Justice Not War Coalition, the birth of a broad formation Gathering for Peace, PEACE CAMP, the call for unwavering commitment to Philippine sovereignty from the US TROOPS OUT NOW! Coalition, and the dynamic participation of different sectoral formations such as the CRY OUT NOW! (Churchpeople CRY: OUT with the U.S. Troops Now!), RX US Troops Out movement of medical workers  and Women NO to US TROOPS to name a few.

My colleagues and I had the privilege of participating in the first International Peace Mission to Basilan to investigate reports of civilian casualties, arbitrary arrests and displacement of affected communities in Basilan and Zamboanga;h and gto assess the conduct of joint U.S. and Philippine military operations and their impact on the Christian - Moro conflict and the Moro separatist struggle."  After travelling around and interviewing scores of local residents, the mission arrived at three main conclusions: First, despite the national governmentfs denial of any wrongdoing, there is strong evidence that military is committing human rights abuses in Basilan; Second, a complex political phenomenon manifested by the Abu Sayyaf problem may be resistant to the military solution endorsed by the government; third, the USf avowed reasons for deploying troops in Basilan – to train the Philippine military and/or to exterminate the Abu Sayyaf – do not hold water. I brought some copies of the Peace mission report with me and is available in the internet.

There is also the upcoming Founding Assembly of the Asian Peace Alliance in Manila on August 29 - September 1, 2002. The APA is a network of activists and scholars working on pressing peace and security issues affecting the Asian region. The Assembly hopes to arrive at a common vision and program of action and set up a working and effective mechanism to address the escalation of US intervention and domination of Asia and the pacific. The Assembly theme is Kalinaw: Asian People Speak Up for Peace.  And as we end 2002 we intend to make an assessment of our campaign ten years after the pull out of the US military bases to guide us in setting strategic goals and objectives. 

These are the events that keep me going over the past months since we last met.  I would like to look at it as part of onefs duty of BUILDING ALLIANCES, BUILDING BRIDGES OF COURAGE AND HOPE.

I feel privileged and honored to be amongst you today. My heart is full of gratitude for the blessing of coming to Hiroshima once again to be inspired and revitalized by your presence and solidarity.  

The world we live in is in deep trouble. Therefs no time to loose. Many signs, here and worldwide, point towards a negative direction and dark future. We cannot wait a day longer to make a real change.  And things will not change with the heroic action of a few who are risking life and limbs to awaken us. We need to hang on TOGETHER, DRAW INSPIRATION FROM EACH OTHERfS IDEAS, ENERGIES and COMMITMENT as we strive to make a difference – as we DARE to STRUGGLE and to WIN - - a world thatfs NUCLEAR-FREE, BASES-FREE and PEACEFUL, a world thatfs FREE OF POVERTY AND INJUSTICE, a world thatfs SAFE and CARING - - for you, for me, for our children and the future generation. IT WILL COME ONE DAY IF we work together and try hard enough to build it.  We may not see it through in our lifetime but I KNOW IT WILL COME.

Finally, let me share with you a motto that I always find so apt and fascinating.  gThe future is not some place we are going to, but one WE ARE CREATING; the paths to it are not found BUT MADE; and the MAKING OF THOSE PATHWAYS CHANGES BOTH THE MAKER and THE DESTINATION.h

Thank you for this wonderful gift and privilege of sharing my thoughts and being with you today.

Corazon Valdez Fabros

1 August 2002, Hiroshima City