BY REY O. ARCILLA
‘The military logistics to be moved here from Afghanistan couldn’t possibly be mainly tents, blankets and the like. The bulk must be war materiel and equipment.’
THE United States, according to news reports, plans to redeploy military logistics in Afghanistan to the Philippines ostensibly for better access during natural disasters in the Asia-Pacific region.
Last I heard, the only disasters that have been taking place in landlocked Afghanistan are man-made, not natural like the ones that have stricken our region in the recent past. There is a war going on in that country.
It is obvious the US move is due to the winding down of her entanglement in Afghanistan by next year, her earlier disengagement from Iraq and her recent “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region. To say that the logistics being moved are solely for assisting the countries in the Asia-Pacific region during natural calamities is, to me, a barefaced lie. Nobody would believe they consist mainly of tents, blankets and the like – except, it seems, our Department of National Defense. The bulk of those logistics could only be war materiel and equipment.
What would be the implication to us of the US move?
Section 25, Article XVIII of our Constitution, states:
“Section 25. After the expiration in 1991 of the Agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America concerning military bases, foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.”
It is clear that the planned storage of military logistics which is the same as putting up military facilities in the country would violate the above provision in the absence of a treaty ratified by both parties. We have once made the mistake of allowing US troops to be based in the country without a treaty ratified by both parties, the Visiting Forces Agreement. Let us not make the same mistake again.
The “expanded” relations between PH and US involves the basing of US troops here on a “rotational” basis. That simply means that those who are already here will be replaced on a continuing basis. If that does not mean maintaining a base for these rotating US troops here on a permanent basis, I don’t know what does. Ergo, that would also be a violation of the above constitutional provision unless covered by a treaty ratified by both parties.
I am not against the planned US moves per se as long as they are covered by a duly ratified treaty. But definitely, I would like her to pay us an appropriate amount for the use of our land, ports and airfields for their Asia-Pacific “pivot”. US$3 billion per annum would be just right.
Again, let us not delude ourselves. The US move is not being taken for altruistic reasons – to help a “special” friend. No Siree! She wants to be here in these parts to protect and promote her own national interests – no more, no less.
The US could either take it or leave it. Let’s see if she can go elsewhere in the region. Let’s see if Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand or even Vietnam would welcome them on their soil. I doubt it. The leaders of those countries are more nationalistic than ours.
US3 billion a year is not stiff price if one considers the fact that Afghanistan, a fellow Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA), will be getting US$4 billion a year after the US departure next year! Consider also the major economic and strategic importance of our country to the US. Hosting her military troops and facilities and the use of our ports and airfields by her warships and military aircraft are really of immense value to her.
Please do take note, President Noynoy Aquino, Sir. The US has been taking us for a ride for so long now.
During the Senate hearing on the DFA budget last week, some senators kept asking Foreign Secretary Albert “Amboy” del Rosario about the status of our dispute with China over certain areas in the West Philippine Sea and PH-China relations in general.
To the credit of Del Rosario, he said he’d rather answer such delicate questions in an executive session. He also said that it would be best for us to speak only with one voice on the matter, with which the senators agreed. Mabuti naman. I have been saying that for a while now.
I was very disappointed though when none of the senators sought clarification from Del Rosario where the US actually stands on our problem with China. That is where they should have asked searching questions because the government has not exactly been transparent on what the US “pivot” to this region and her consequent “expanded” presence in our midst entail and what exactly are we getting in return. Aside from “feel good” statements emanating from Washington, there has been no clear indication of what the US will do in case the situation gets worse. The government has also not been forthcoming in telling our people what they may expect from the US by way of helping us attain a “minimum credible defense posture”.
I double dare anyone of our honorable senators to ask these questions and more in their next encounter with Del Rosario.
Incidentally, whatever happened to the Senate resolution passed sometime ago urging the government to review or revise the Visiting Forces Agreement? Del Rosario has also categorically stated once or twice in the past that the Agreement was under review.
In my last column, I enumerated several matters that Del Rosario should have long acted upon but has apparently not.
I forgot to include in that list the weeding out of DFA personnel who have acquired citizenship or permanent resident status in another country. They should relinquish it or be fired. If Del Rosario is a citizen or permanent resident of the US as alleged, he naturally would have to start with himself. The reason for this proposal is really a no-brainer – how can one promote and protect the interest of his country when he has double loyalties?
Such dual citizenships or permanent residence in another country of all active DFA personnel should be prohibited by law.
In this connection, I suggest that Del Rosario should take advantage of the recent move by Congressman Rodolfo Biazon to amend certain provisions of the Foreign Service Act, RA 7157 as amended. He should coordinate with Biazon to also include in the bill (aside from the case of dual citizenship) the addition, revision or deletion of such provisions as he may consider essential to streamline the operations of the DFA. It could be his greatest legacy to the DFA – the “Del Rosario Amendments”, one of which could be reducing from six years to four the tour of duty abroad of all personnel.
Senator Franklin Drilon should push through with his proposal to move the opening of classes from June to September. Climate change has evidently taken hold and it is unlikely the present weather pattern will change in the foreseeable future.
As an educator, my greatest concern is short-changing the students in getting the education they or their parents pay for. Experience of the recent past has shown that they don’t get their money’s worth due to the frequent suspension of classes on account of floods.
The switch to September opening of classes does not have to be done in one go. Beginning next year, the opening of schools could be deferred by one month at a time for three years. That would make the transition less complicated.
When the Autonomous Region in Mindanao was being formed some years back, one of its consequences was the breaking away of the MILF from the MNLF. Now that the peace talks with the MILF is nearing conclusion, according to news reports, there has been no mention of how the proposed absorption of the ARMM in an expanded autonomous region will be received by the MNLF.
Have both the government and MILF peace panels taken this into account? Have they been consulting with the MNLF? Wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that any final arrangement will be altogether resented and objected to by the MNLF if their concerns are not considered? What role will they be playing in the new entity? Is it too far-fetched to assume they may resort to armed rebellion again? Wouldn’t that be a repetition of history with the MNLF fomenting trouble this time?
What about the breakaway faction of the MILF, the BILF? It looks to me like we are heading to a never-ending vicious cycle, to the amusement of other countries, particularly our neighbor Malaysia.
Speaking of amusement, we must be the laughing stock of the world with the lurid tale of a prisoner being kidnapped inside the prison compound. As Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said, “only in the Philippines”.
US Ambassador Harry Thomas proudly announced an additional pledge of about US$400,000 to help the victims of “Habagat”. It brought the US pledge to a total of US$500,000. For sure, we appreciate the US gesture. I must confess, however, that I could not get over the fact that Australia has pledged US$2 million – four times more than the US’! And we are supposed to be her “special” friend?! Oh well…
Special thanks should also go to the other countries and institutions which have extended assistance to the flood victims.
Reminders (for Noynoy’s action):
1) Filing of charges against officials of the National Food Administration (NFA) during Arroyo’s illegitimate regime. Noynoy himself said on several occasions that there is documentary evidence to prove the venalities in the past in that agency; 2) Investigation of reported anomalies in the GSIS during the watch of Winston Garcia; 3) Facilitating the investigation of rampant corruption in the military and police establishments; and 4) Expeditious action by the AFP on the case of Jonas Burgos.
Today is the 107th day of the sixth year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance.
From an internet friend:
Famous lines from Bob Hope:
ON TURNING 70
“I still chase women, but only downhill.”
ON TURNING 80
“That’s the time of your life when even your birthday suit needs pressing.”
ON TURNING 90
“You know you’re getting old when the candles cost more than the cake.”
ON TURNING 100
“I don’t feel old. In fact, I don’t feel anything until noon. Then it’s time for my nap.”
ON GIVING UP HIS EARLY CAREER, BOXING
“I ruined my hands in the ring. The referee kept stepping on them.”
ON HIS SIX BROTHERS
“That’s how I learned to dance. Waiting for the bathroom.”