First of all, let me thank the organizing committee for the invitation to make this introductory report in this Plenary Session. Allow me to extend warm greetings of solidarity from the Nuclear Free Philippines as well as the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Movement and the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre
I feel deeply honored & pleased to be among peace advocates and peace workers, comrades all in our continuing search for peace and justice. As in the spirit and ways of the peoples of the Pacific, I wish to honor the peoples of this land and the peoples of Hiroshima who at a brief moment in the history of this nation and of the world experienced the horror of atomic bombs and who today continue to provide the human face of that tragedy and injustice. Yet that tragic moment is the reason we are all gathered here today - not to much to grieve as we condemn it, not so much to be despaired but to be inspired, to draw strength and inspiration from every call for peace and justice by every Hibakusha.
Much has been said and more will be presented to us about United States policies of aggression and intervention in Asia and in other parts of the world and the directions these are leading us to. Our friends who spoke earlier have clearly expounded on US National security agenda and how this relates to the US ''free trade'' agenda.
Let me speak more specifically about the Philippines being the "second front" next to Afghanistan in US campaign against terrorism. The Philippine Government is the first in Asia to declare its unconditional support, including the restoration of US military facilities and bases in the Philippines. It is well to remember that the US bases in the Philippines have been actively used as staging areas for military intervention, strikes and attacks against other Asian countries as in the cases of Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia. In terms of regional role in the fulcrum of US security interests in Asia and as far as the Middle East, the Philippines provides the following important contribution:
a) A good location to restore its military forces in Southeast Asia in the light of threats from Islamic fundamentalist groups especially from Indonesia and Malaysia where the US finds it dangerous to deploy US forces.
b) Gateway of the Pacific to the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf = Ideal for forward-deployed US forces in the Western Pacific.
c) 1900s to 1991, RP was the Pentagon's military stronghold in its economic, political and military linchpin in Southeast Asia.
d) Logistical support to US wars in Korea and Vietnam, and later in the Gulf in the war against Iraq.
e) Regional center for the CIA's covert operations against Indonesia and against the national liberation movements in Indochina.
With the victory of the Filipino people's struggle against the US bases in 1991, US military presence shifted to Japan, which became the cornerstone of US power in the Pacific and adjacent areas thru the US-Japan Security Treaty. In Okinawa, US Marine Expeditionary units that now train regularly in Balikatan exercises in the Philippines, form the core of today's interventionary forces in the Asia-Pacific, if not the entire world.
The United States plans to re-establish "forward bases" in the Philippines as part of an American strategy against international terrorism, a reversal of post-Cold War trend of reducing or closing down of overseas US military bases and facilities. Even Before Sept. 11, the Rand Corporation in an important policy strategy study titled, "The United States and Asia - Toward a New US Strategy and Force Structure" (May 2001), strongly pushed for the restoration of US forces in the Philippines through "future USAF Expeditionary Deployments." As a Filipino: It is difficult for me to forget that when the first US Visiting Forces trampled on Philippine soil in 1899, they undermined the freedom and sovereignty of our newly born Republic, waged a war of conquest and colonized the country so as to gain a market and military stronghold in Asia. The bloody US conquest in 1899 caused the death of more than 600,000 Filipinos, mostly civilians, or one-sixth of our population then. Historians have called that era of the Philippine-American War as "America's First Vietnam in Asia."
Post-independence security agreements like the 1947 Military Bases Agreement which was terminated in 1991, the Military Assistance Agreement of 1947 (later amended as the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement of 1953) and the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty allowed the United States to control the external defenses of the country while leaving to the Philippine Army and Philippine Constabulary the job of suppressing Filipino revolutionaries. The Visiting Forces Agreement of 1999 restored US troop activities in the Philippines after the rejection of the bases treaty in 1991. Various small and large-scale military exercises have since then been undertaken to justify the restoration of US military presence in the Philippines. These exercises are the following:
1. Carat - a specific amphibious exercise between the US Pacific Fleet and the Philippine Navy involving use of frigates, landing ships, helicopters and P-3C Orion aircraft. Training includes lectures, demonstrations and shipboard tours during port training and highlighted by amphibious exercises between the two navies.
2. Masurvex -this deals with RP-US maritime patrol, surface detection, tracking, reporting and training. It involves the use of maritime surveillance aircraft and P-3C Orion from the US Navy. Activities for this exercise may include day/night surveillance, search and rescue exercise, anti-smuggling operations and maintenance lectures.
3. Palah - this exercise is conducted between US Navy Seals teams and the Philippine Navy Special Warfare Group (SWAG) teams to improve individual and team skills as well as enhance "inter-operability" on a vast range of naval special warfare and skills common to maritime special operations forces of both countries.
4. Teak Piston - an airforce-to-airforce exercise which covers instructions on aircraft maintenance on areas such as corrosion control, airframe/sheet metal repair and aerospace ground equipment repair, sea search and rescue, special tactics training, air crew training and on jet engine instrument test equipment procedures.
5. Balance Piston - an infantry exercise dealing with special operations.
6. Handa Series - a Philippine-US bilateral table war game conceived to enhance higher level command and staff interaction between the AFP and the US Armed Forces to strengthen military-to-military cooperation and enhance links between the game and future exercises.
7. Flash Piston - this is a navy-to-navy exercise similar to the Palah exercise using a 16-man US Navy Seal team and a Philippine Navy SWAG team. Exercise includes training in the areas of underwater demolition, weapons familiarization, sniper training, direct actions and a field training exercise (FTX) to cap the training.
8. EODX - specialized inter-operability training between the demolition and ordnance experts of the two armed forces. Exercise includes lectures and drills on day/night LIMPET and Improvised Explosive Devise (IED), underwater ordnance, demolition training and VIP protection.
9. Salvex - this is a navy exercise designed to improve Philippine and US skills in ship salvage operations, usually requiring actual operations on sunken ships. The current large-scale Balikatan exercises in the Philippines started in 1991 as a navy-to-navy exercise sponsored by the US CINCPAC (US Pacific Command). The Visiting Forces Agreement (1999) may have succeeded in reversing what the Senate did in 1991. Philippine courts cannot, under the VFA even assume jurisdiction over U.S. soldiers and try them for such crimes as rape, murder, or homicide, committed against Filipinos right here in our own country. Under Article 5 of the VFA, any offense committed by US soldiers or personnel, no matter how grave or heinous, may be considered "official acts" provided the US commander issues a "military duty" certificate. This was how the US gave immunity to thousands of accused American soldiers from 1947 until Sept. 16, 1991 for their criminal acts on Philippine soil.
Although Balikatan military exercises have been going on since 1991, these were temporarily stopped after the Senate rejected the proposed bases treaty. The proposed Military Bases Agreement which was rejected in 1991, covered transient US forces undergoing training. This was, however, resumed after the ratification of the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement. A shift in the orientation and implementation of Balikatan exercises, however, has occurred after Sept. 11, 2002. Balikatan in early 2002 was intentionally conducted in the Basilan and Zamboanga war zones, this time with live targets in actual military operations, during what National Security Adviser Roilo Golez calls "on-the-job training."
This shift in Balikatan only refers to the open and publicly acknowledged role of the war exercise in current AFP counter-insurgency campaigns. In a TOP SECRET Memorandum to former President Joseph Estrada dated May 9, 2000, of the TASK FORCE BLACK CRESCENT which analyzed the TOP SECRET OPLAN MINDANAO II/BLACK RAIN operations against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the TF Black Crescent headed by former Secretary of National Defense Fortunato Abat referred to the "Conduct of military advance training on anti-guerrilla warfare under the guise of 'Balikatan 2000' RP-US military training exercises, in consonance with the ratified Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) (p.5); "the arming of the Alliance of Christian Vigilantes for Muslim-Free Mindanao and the Spiritual Soldiers of God in Mindanao to whom 20,763 units consisting of M14s and M16s had already secretly been distributed."(p.8). This TOP SECRET document WHICH HAVE DECLASSIFIED clearly shows the wanton use of vigilantism against so-called terrorism in Mindanao, now reinforced by the rewards system for bounty hunters.
Perils of American Intervention
The US experience in Vietnam should be an eye-opener for those wishing to invite more US military advisors and trainors from the US Special Operations Forces. The first 400 Green Beret special advisors to South Vietnam were sent in 1961 to train the South Vietnamese army in methods of counter-insurgency against the guerrillas of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam. The Vietnam War eventually resulted in the deployment of no less than half a million US combat troops by 1967-70, the death of two million Vietnamese and injuries to three million civilians. Twelve million Vietnamese became refugees and thousands of children were orphaned. Millions of acres of Vietnam's forests and farmlands were defoliated by Agent Orange herbicide, sprayed from planes whose pilots were eventually contaminated themselves. Millions of mines and unexploded bombs and artillery shells are still scattered in the Vietnamese countryside, posing constant danger to life and limb.
What about the environmental injustice brought upon the communities of former US military bases at Clark and Subic where victims of toxic contamination continue to suffer as the United states government shamelessly deny responsibility for the toxic wastes they left behind. The legacy of US intervention in the Philippines is a classic example of how the United States treat its allies and its friend. My colleague from the People's Task Force for Bases Clean Up in the Philippines will tell you more about this situation.
Operation Phoenix Laboratory
We are deeply concerned that the Philippines is now becoming a laboratory for a new type of militarization being initiated by a borderless US military? Recent events in Southern Luzon, especially in the island of Mindoro, could show that an Operation Phoenix-type of operation may be taking place Within a span of one year, 20 local coordinators of the Bayan Muna political party, including its provincial coordinator, were assassinated. The US-trained and armed Philippine military has intensified its counter-insurgency campaign against New People's Army guerrillas and against the political infrastructure of the National Democratic Front (NDF). This is reminiscent of the most secret and deadliest US covert operation in Vietnam where the US launched a massive assassination campaign against what it believed was the political infrastructure of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam as well as local leaders and local officials known to sympathize with the Vietnamese resistance. Between 25,000 and 30,000 civilians in South Vietnam, mostly non-combatants, were later acknowledged by the CIA to have been liquidated in the US-directed Operation Phoenix which had the objective to "disrupt and destroy enemy assets."
US Special Operations Forces
As stated earlier, next to Afghanistan, the Philippines has become the second front in the war against international terrorism, including the deployment of the elite U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) which is a composite force and command by itself. SOF operations are described as "direct action" (small-scale strikes), unconventional or irregular warfare, civil affairs and psychological operations (psy-ops to influence public opinion), foreign internal defense (arming and training paramilitary forces), and counter-terrorism training. SOFs, together with CIA special hit teams, have also been known to specialize in political assassinations. The deployment of SOFs in the Philippines shows that in recent Pentagon strategy, the Philippines serves not only as the second front in the war against international terrorism, it also serves as a springboard for renewed US drive for geopolitical hegemony in Southeast Asia, against Philippine home-grown guerrillas (NPA, MNLF, MILF) and other Asian people's mass movements.
The Mutual Logistics and Support Agreement (MLSA) is the Pentagon's logical follow-up to the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). The MLSA is not just about logistics and other military hardware that the US wants to stockpile in the Philippines for use by American forces. It is also about the setting up of facilities, structures and infrastructure to "house" US war materiel in the Philippines. For the Philippine government, this is a necessary document to enable it to comply with the constitutional provision requiring an agreement to allow foreign military "facilities." The VFA had already given the go-signal for the entry of "foreign military troops" under the guise of joint military exercises. All these point to the full restoration of US military presence in the Philippines, but this time using the entire country as one big military base!
Under the former Philippine-US Military Bases Agreement (MBA), US troops and facilities could only be stationed or installed inside the bases which were limited in scope and area, all in Luzon island. Now the VFA and the proposed MLSA would cover the ENTIRE Philippines, including southern Mindanao, noted for its close proximity to Indonesia and Malaysia.
While it is true that the MLSA does not specifically designate certain basing areas for use by US forces, it offers, like the VFA, the entire Philippines, all its islands, air space and territorial land and water to the US Armed Forces for use in the same functions as bases, namely: training, refueling, replenishment, resupply and possibly even the repair of US naval vessels. But more important is the use of the Philippines once again as a staging area for US interventionist actions in Asia and other parts of the world, as springboard for unilateral actions of a superpower that is behaving like a mad dog after Sept. 11. All our ports and airfields nationwide in all the islands can now be used by the US armed forces. And if the Philippines and the US have stretched the interpretation of the 1999 VFA to include all kinds of military activities on Philippine territory, including actual counter-insurgency missions for US forces, you can imagine what they would do with a document like the MLSA in place.
Dilemmas in Philippine National Interest
In the US preparations to strike at Iraq, the Philippines is faced with a serious dilemma. It has diplomatic ties with Iraq as well as with the two other nations demonized by Bush's reference to the "axis of evil" which also include Iran and North Korea. If the Philippines allows the active use of Philippine territory by US military forces against these countries, can we ask them not to take this against us or the Filipino contract workers on their soil? Domestically, the Philippine government is also faced with the prospect of completely scuttling the ongoing peace talks with the National Democratic Front after the US included this organization, as well as the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army in its "Foreign Terrorist List."
The worst of military campaigns are already being waged under the pretext of war against terrorism and are sustained by US military intervention and increased military supplies from the Pentagon. the US has been deploying US combat troops in the Philippines . All the time that it has been carrying out its war of aggression against Afghanistan and then Iraq, the US has been deploying US combat troops in the Philippines under the guise of anti-terrorism and issuing threats against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea under the pretext of pushing nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. The hostile acts of the US against the Filipino and Korean peoples are interrelated. They have something to do with pushing US hegemony over the whole of East Asia.
The Philippines is seen as the center of an arc, with one end consisting of more developed countries in Northeast Asia (Japan, South Korea, North Korea and China) and another end consisting of the underdeveloped but natural resource-rich countries in Southeast Asia. The US is giving high priority to preparations for establishment of US air and naval bases in Central and Far South Mindanao to acquire a control point over the oil-producing and predominantly Muslim countries of Southeast Asia.
The new shift in US military strategic thinking affects the Philsippines and the rest of East Asia. The US is eager to establish small US military bases and outposts wherever possible, under the concept of forward deployment, which is a shift away from the previous concept of rapid deployment. The advance deployment of US forces on the ground are seen as effective facilitation of any subsequent deployment of large US military forces from their secure US bases at any time.
In a recent development , the US is behind the scenes pushing the amendment of the Philippine Constitution in order to align the Bill of Rights to the US Patriot Act and obliterate the provisions derived from the Miranda doctrine and likewise those restricting the declaration of martial law, to cast away the provisions on economic sovereignty and the national patrimony and to remove the national restrictions on foreign investments as well as the provisions banning foreign military bases, foreign troops and nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.
The failed "coup" or what should be more appropriately called July 27 protest action of 300 soldiers, including 70 officers exposed the government's hand in systematically creating an atmosphere of terror in Mindanao and fouling up the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) by masterminding the terrorist bombings in addition to ordering the unwarranted assault on the MILF in Mindanao last February. The grievances include the corruption of the regime, involving top military officials, at the expense of the junior officers and ordinary soldiers and the terrorist bombings engineered by the military in Mindanao to pave the way for US military intervention, increased military supplies from the Pentagon and the declaration of martial law in August.
Filipinos have come to learn lessons from People power in the past or what is known as EDSA 1 & EDSA 2 - lessons that we should never forget: 1) that the people and history will be the ultimate judge of the legitimacy & illegitimacy of any government, 2) that genuine and lasting social transformation cannot be achieved overnight or thru shortcuts, 3) that without the painstaking empowerment of people thru organizing & democratic struggles, elite vested interests will time and again exploit legitimate uprisings and wrest victories for themselves.
These are lessons we hope the military ''coup'' perpetrators know and take to heart: their frustrations may be justified, but in the end their actions will be judged according to how they have placed themselves in the service of the democratic aspirations and struggles of people's movement
Closing Ranks Against the Borderless US Military
The past victories of Asian anti-colonial struggles, including those for self-determination in Vietnam and elsewhere, the democratic movements against pro-US dictatorships, as in the anti-Marcos dictatorship struggle and the dismantling of the formidable US bases in 1991 in the Philippines, demonstrate the desire of the people of Asia to live in freedom, to run their country their own way, without foreign dictation.
In the Philippines, even after the dismantling of the US bases in 1991, we continue to block any attempt to re-establish US military presence through the proposed MLSA. This is being done by defending and giving substance to the anti-militarist, pro-peace and anti-nuclear provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. We are also seeking the abrogation of the Cold War relics - the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and the 1947 Military Assistance Agreement, as well as the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement.
Our experience in people's struggles against foreign aggressors and dictatorships shows us that only by closing ranks and forging a broad united front can we defeat our militarist adversaries both in the Philippines and Asia. "Organization is the weapon of the weak in their struggle with the strong."
Let me close by expressing my hope that despite the stories of arrogance, betrayal, deception, Injustice and violence that resonates in this International Meeting, that we remain inspired and take courage from the stories of humility, truth, love and compassion, and strongly committed to the cause of justice and peace and that we remain in solidarity with our struggles as our fitting tribute to the courage and legacy of every Hibakusha crying out for justice and genuine lasting peace in the world so that there will be NO MORE HIROSHIMA, NO MORE NAGASAKI.