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Clinton convoy in paint attack in Philippines

November 16, 2011 

U.S. empire was also confronted by demonstrators in the Philippines, where protests threw red paint on Clinton’s convoy and clashed with security forces. The convoy was forced to detour:

Protesters clashed with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s security detail near the Malacañang Palace Wednesday, forcing her convoy to detour, an Agence France-Presse photographer on the scene said.

Filipino security men and at least one American jumped out with automatic rifles drawn after about 50 protesters kicked their vehicles and hurled red paint on the cars, but no shots were fired, the photographer said.

[…]

At a largely friendly public meeting that was broadcast on television, a demonstrator suddenly stood up with a banner and repeatedly shouted, “Drop VFA!” before staff at the event escorted the protester out.

The protester was referring to the Visiting Forces Agreement, which gives US troops legal safeguards when they visit the Philippines.

The pact has been controversial in the Philippines after alleged crimes by US troops in the former colony, as well as opposition among some groups for any American soldiers to be in their country.

Clinton brushed off the protest and said that it was a sign that “people are unafraid to express themselves” in the Philippines.

She was on a visit to the Philippines aimed at shoring up military cooperation amid high tension between Manila and Beijing over a territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

U.S. troops engaged in military operations in the Philippines

November 25, 2009 

After U.S. bases were evicted from the Philippines in 1991, the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. and the so-called Global War and Terror created an opportunity for the U.S. to establish new “lily pad” bases and resume military activities in the Philippines.   Filipino activists and scholars have warned that the Visiting Forces Agreement that allows U.S. troops to be in the Philippines as trainers and advisers would open the door for U.S. troops to surreptitiously engage in actual combat operations. These fears appear to be coming true.

The New York Times reports that the U.S. recently deployed 600 more troops to Mindanao:

United States troops have been carrying out military missions and development projects here since 2002. Having already provided $1.6 billion in military and economic aid to the Philippines since then, much of it geared to Mindanao, the United States recently renewed the deployment of an elite, 600-soldier counterinsurgency force that operates in Mindanao alongside Philippine armed forces.

In September, two U.S. soldiers were killed in a bomb attack on Filipino Marines.  Politicians said that the incident proves that U.S. troops were going beyond their role as trainers to engage in actual combat operations alongside Filipino troops. The bombing sparked renewed calls for scrapping the Visiting Forces Agreement.

While most of the recent U.S. military activity in the Philippines has focused on hunting the Abu Sayyaf group and countering the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Mindanao, a National Democratic Front spokesperson reported troubling news that U.S. troops were also engaged in military operations against the New People’s Army, the revolutionary guerrilla army.

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http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/23/world/asia/23phils.html?sq=moro%20&st=cse&adxnnl=1&scp=1&adxnnlx=1259175769-ZnR9mLsA/va2fhVzgwOQHQ

In Philippines Strife, Uprooting Is a Constant

By NORIMITSU ONISHI

Published: November 22, 2009

DATU PIANG, Philippines — For most refugees here, the long-running conflict between the Philippine government and Muslim separatists on the island of Mindanao has become such a part of their lives’ rhythms that they have lost track of how often fighting has displaced them.

What is certain is that this evacuation’s duration, well over a year, has been the longest by far.

“In the past, we were evacuated for a few days, or 15 days, or two months at most,” said Danny Abas, 30, a rice farmer who has been staying since August 2008 at a refugee camp on the grounds of this town’s main elementary school.

Along with his parents and four children — his wife was working temporarily as a maid in Oman — Mr. Abas lives under the school library building in a crawl space covered with plastic sheets and crammed with cooking utensils.

“We want to go back,” he said. “We want to work.”

Although peace talks are under way, it is unclear when the 300,000 refugees like Mr. Abas will be able to go home.

Most fled their villages in August 2008 after the breakdown of a peace agreement between the government and the secessionist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, led to widespread fighting in Mindanao, the southern island that is home to most Philippine Muslims. Both sides are respecting a cease-fire that has been in place since July.

But no progress has been made on the problems that doomed the last agreement and that are at the root of the current rebellion, which has lasted four decades.

United States troops have been carrying out military missions and development projects here since 2002. Having already provided $1.6 billion in military and economic aid to the Philippines since then, much of it geared to Mindanao, the United States recently renewed the deployment of an elite, 600-soldier counterinsurgency force that operates in Mindanao alongside Philippine armed forces.

The conflict between the government and the Moro front has further complicated the activities of the American forces, whose mission is to root out Abu Sayyaf, an Islamist group with ties to Al Qaeda.

Despite improvements in security, portions of Mindanao remain tense under the threat of random violence. In Cotabato, the closest city to Datu Piang, a series of bombs, some planted outside two Roman Catholic churches, killed a dozen bystanders in July. Kidnapping for ransom remains a lucrative enough business that a large banner in the center of the city read: “Stop Kidnapping.”

At its peak, the fighting forced about 750,000 Muslims and Christians to flee their homes.

The number of refugees later stabilized at 300,000, with about 60 percent staying in camps and 40 percent with relatives, according to the World Food Program of the United Nations, which has been distributing food to camps in Mindanao.

The fighting was not as widespread or intense as in previous phases of the conflict. But it still made refugee repatriation impossible and complicated relief efforts.

“There was a lot of movement among people trying to go back home and finding out it wasn’t secure enough, then fleeing again, maybe to a different place,” said Stephen Anderson, the World Food Program’s director in the Philippines.

In what is sometimes described as the world’s oldest separatist movement, Muslims here, called Moro, have been fighting for autonomy since Spain colonized the Philippines five centuries ago and brought Roman Catholicism with it. They later fought against the United States, which replaced Spain as the colonial power, and the Philippine government, which urged Christians to settle in Mindanao after World War II.

“We don’t believe we are Filipinos — that’s the essential problem,” said Kim Bagundang, 33, the leader of the Liguasan Youth Association, a private organization that helps refugees and is named after the vast, fertile marsh that surrounds this town. “The struggle of the Moro people has been going on for 500 years now. So this problem can’t be solved in our time.”

Last year, the government addressed the key issue of the separatists by recognizing the “ancestral domain” of Muslim areas in Mindanao, a status that would have given more power to already semiautonomous regions. But after protests by Catholics here, the Supreme Court declared the agreement unconstitutional.

The Moro front has insisted that “ancestral domain” be included in any agreement, making constitutional change a prerequisite to a final agreement.

In an interview in Cotabato, Eid Kabalu, a spokesman for the front, said the recognition of “ancestral domain” was the only way to protect Mindanao Muslims, who are now outnumbered because of past Christian settlement. “We have become a minority already in our own homeland,” he said.

Mr. Kabalu added that the areas around Datu Piang were now safe for the refugees to return home — an assessment not shared by those in the camps.

At the elementary school here, Pampai Karon, 45, said none of the 300 families from her village, just outside Datu Piang, felt safe enough to return.

“We want assurances from both sides that it’s safe to go back,” said Ms. Karon, whom the camp had selected as its spokeswoman.

Baichan Butuan, 40, a woman living with her family under the school principal’s office, said she hoped both sides would resume negotiations soon. The family had dug a narrow channel in the ground to prevent rainwater from reaching their sleeping area. But the stench from the stagnant water overpowered the cooking fumes drifting in from a nearby open fire.

“We’re fed up with our situation here,” she said.

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http://www.philippinerevolution.net/cgi-bin/statements/stmts.pl?author=ndfm;date=091102;lang=eng

US troops engaged in counter-guerrilla operations in Bukidnon

Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos

Spokesperson

National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Mindanao

November 2, 2009

The National Democratic Front (NDF)-Mindanao has received more information regarding the actual participation of US soldiers in combat operations in Mindanao. This time, the operations are not just in Basilan and Sulu, but in other areas of the island as well. According to confirmed reports, US military personnel have been playing an active role in combat operations against the NPA in the hinterlands of Bukidnon.

Four separate incidents were initially cited. Around mid-February and in early July, US soldiers were seen participating in combat operations in Quezon, Bukidnon. These troops, together with a unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), engaged an NPA unit in a firefight and committed fascist acts against the residents in the area. In April and again in September, US troops were also sighted with AFP soldiers in Valencia and Malaybalay asking local residents for possible NPA locations and even intimidating civilians in the area.

Aside from these reports, the NDF-Mindanao has also received similar information from reliable sources in South Cotabato, Central Mindanao and the Davao provinces.

The increasing participation of US troops in combat operations in Moro areas have become even more common. Last September, at least two US soldiers were killed in an armed attack against a convoy of US troops in Indangan, Sulu. Earlier that month, US troops in a knee-jerk reaction to a nearby grenade explosion fired their guns indiscriminately at the port of Jolo, Sulu, damaging dock facilities and a nearby mosque. Back in 2002, a US Army serviceman, Sgt. Reggie Lane, embedded among troops of the 18th IB, shot Buyong-buyong Isnijal, a farmer in Basilan whom a combined team of US and Filipino soldiers raided his house.

These reports increasingly expose the lies behind the template pronouncements of US officials denying the actual involvement of its troops in combat operations in Mindanao. They provide further evidence that US troops belonging to the Joint Special Operations Task Force (JSOTF)-Philippines have been joining AFP units engaged in counterrevolutionary operations in the island.

Even as US and Philippine officials are quick to deny that US soldiers are engaged in combat operations, they do not deny that the US military has been actively involved in providing the AFP with combat and aerial intelligence as well as logistical support to AFP ground operations.

These incidents point clearly to increasing US military intervention and fascist atrocities in league with local puppet troops.

The NDF-Mindanao will continue to expose incidents of US military involvement in actual combat operations in the country, especially against the revolutionary forces and the people. Local commands of the New People’s Army in Bukidnon have been instructed to closely monitor the movements of US soldiers and their participation in counterrevolutionary and antipeople military activites.

The NDF-Mindanao supports the recent efforts by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chair of the senate committee on foreign affairs to review the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). We, however, believe that these efforts must not simply lead to amending some vague provisions of the agreement. Instead, the NDF-Mindanao echoes the call of patriotic Filipinos nationwide for the abrogation of the VFA, the Military Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) and other one-sided military treaties.

It is these agreements that provide the framework for the US to permanently station its troops in the Philippines, engage in outright military intervention and wage war against the national democratic revolutionary movement in the country.

The NDF-Mindanao calls on the Filipino people to wage an allout, renewed, aggressive and sustained campaign against continuing US military intervention in the country.

We also urge the American people to demand the pullout of American troops permanently stationed in the Philippines and the cessation of US military interventionism in the country. We call on our Filipino compatriots in the US and other countries to help heighten public awareness in their host countries and internationally about US military intervention in the Philippines. #

Two U.S. soldiers killed in Jolo, Philippines

October 1, 2009 

2 US soldiers killed in Jolo

Attack spurs call for VFA scrapping

By Julie Alipala
Inquirer Mindanao

First Posted 01:02:00 09/30/2009

ZAMBOANGA CITY-Two American soldiers and a Filipino Marine were killed early Tuesday in an explosion that went off as a US military vehicle passed in Barangay Kagay, Indanan, Sulu.

Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, Armed Forces spokesperson, said a number of American soldiers escorted by Filipino Marines had just inspected a school project in Sitio Laum Saing and were heading back to a Marine detachment in a US Hummer when the explosion occurred at around 8:30 a.m.

He said it was as yet unclear whether the explosive was buried in the road or by the roadside. Two other Filipino soldiers were injured in the blast.

Brawner told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo that the slain Americans were members of the Seabees, the construction battalion of the US Navy.

The Sulu police late Tuesday released the identities of the two American soldiers and the Filipino Marine trooper, who were killed in the blast in Indanan town.

Senior Superintendent Alibuddin Esmail, Sulu police chief, identified the US soldiers as Staff Sergeant Jack Martin and Sergeant First Class Christopher Shaw. The Filipino soldier was only identified as a Private First Class Estrada.

Esmail said the police have yet to identify who was behind the blast.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago told reporters that the explosion should prompt the Philippine government to abrogate the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

“Why are [the Americans] in an area where there are land mines?” said Santiago, who chairs the Senate foreign relations committee.

She said the attack showed that the Americans were in “a conflict or battle area,” and “absolutely” proved that US troops were taking part in Philippine operations against separatist insurgents.

“What else can you conclude?” Santiago said.

Sulu is a known lair of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group which, according to the Philippine military, is coddling operatives of the regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah.

The US Embassy in Manila is “still investigating the incident” that involved an improvised explosive device, according to spokesperson Rebecca Thompson.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack and the Philippine military and police have no suspect as yet, Brawner said in a text message.

Fire fight

Maj. Gen. Ben Dolorfino, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, disclosed that before the explosion, a 45-minute fire fight between government forces and unidentified gunmen occurred in Barangay Bitanag in Panamao, Sulu.

Dolorfino said there was no reported casualty among the troops.

Tuesday’s explosion was the second recent attack involving US forces in Sulu.

In the first, a grenade was lobbed at US troops unloading supplies at the Jolo pier. No one was injured but the incident became controversial because the Americans fired their weapons in the purported direction of the attacker, which was near a mosque.

Temojen Tulawie, the coordinator of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society in Sulu, said he saw the bodies of the two Americans in a military truck.

“They were white and they wore the usual light brown uniform,” Tulawie said by phone.

“While returning [from Sitio Laum Saing], they passed between Kagay and Bato-bato and that’s where the explosion occurred,” he added.

‘Big slap on VFA’

Sulu police chief Esmail said a red alert had been declared all over the island.

“Although the situation has somehow normalized, we cannot as yet discount the possibility of another attack,” Esmail said.

But two hours after the explosion, suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits bombed a police outpost in Patikul town.

Tulawie said members and officers of various civil society groups in Sulu had been called to an emergency meeting.

He admitted that the situation was worrisome “because this is the first time a US soldier was killed in Sulu, and in an area where there was a fresh fire fight.”

He warned that US and Philippine troops “may launch offensive actions in the area although we still cannot determine who was behind the attack.”

Tulawie also said the attack was “a big slap on the VFA.”

‘Serving others’

In a statement, the US Embassy said the explosion occurred at 8:45 a.m. while the American soldiers were conducting a re-supply mission for a school construction project.

The embassy and the US members of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines expressed condolences to the families of the killed and wounded.

“They lost their lives serving others and we will always be grateful for their contributions to improve the quality of life on Jolo,” US Ambassador
Kristie Kenney said.

According to Kenney, US forces are temporarily deployed at the invitation of the Philippine government to conduct activities such as training exercises, professional exchanges and civic action projects with the Philippine military.

Land mine around schools?

Told of the US Embassy statement that the American soldiers were in the area to build schools, Santiago was incredulous.

“And Filipinos were so stupid to plant land mines in an area for a school where most of their children would go?” the senator said.

Asked if the incident would drag the US government into the Philippine conflict, she said America became involved “when [it] insisted on the VFA” 10 years ago.

Told further that US troops were arriving to help rehabilitation efforts in the wake of Saturday’s great flood, Santiago said any help was welcome.

But “I humbly contend that this is all part of psy-ops (psychological operations) to gather intelligence,” she said.

Santiago also said she had transmitted to Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo, Ambassador Kenney and the Presidential Commission on the VFA an approved Senate resolution seeking a review or renegotiation of the agreement.

On patrol?

At the House of Representatives, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo agreed that the explosion “proves that [the Americans] were in a combat area.”

“What was their mission there? Were they conducting a patrol?” Ocampo said.

He called for an inquiry into the attack, pointing out that the Constitution prohibits foreign troops from operating in combat areas.

Ocampo said the killing of the US soldiers could be a reason for American officials to retaliate against those they believed responsible.

“I am calling on the Americans not to take action,” he said. “The terms of reference of their participation must be clarified first.”

Ocampo echoed calls for a review of the VFA in order, he said, to prevent the Americans’ deeper participation in counterinsurgency operations in the country.

Muntinlupa Rep. Rufino Biazon, vice chair of the House committee on national defense, said the deaths of the US soldiers were a blow to the VFA and could lead to its abrogation.

Biazon said the government should not have sent US soldiers to combat zones where they would be put in the line of fire.

“Because of this incident, the fate of the VFA may have just been doomed. The US troops should be immediately pulled out from the combat zones now. Exercises should be suspended until this is thoroughly investigated,” he said.

‘Noncombatants’

But Brawner said the slain US soldiers were working on “development projects” and were not involved in combat activities.

“The soldiers were in that detachment because of ongoing projects … Specifically, they were working on the 5-kilometer Kagay road,” Brawner told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

He said that from information gathered by the Philippine military, the Americans were “noncombatants.”

“They were there to supervise the developmental projects in the area when they were attacked,” he said.

Brawner also said how the explosive was detonated, as well as its composition, was still being determined.

He denied that the explosive was a land mine, the use of which in warfare is banned under the Geneva Convention.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) expressed sadness at the killing of the three soldiers.

“It is with sadness that we learned of the death of a Philippine Marine and two US servicemen. What they were doing in Sulu-assisting Philippine military and local officials in undertaking civic engineering projects, protecting families and securing the peace, for which they paid the ultimate sacrifice-is important to the Filipino people,” DFA spokesperson Ed Malaya said.

With reports from Cynthia D. Balana, Leila B. Salaverria, Christine O. Avendaño and Alcuin Papa in Manila

Source: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20090930-227582/2-US-soldiers-killed-in-Jolo

U.S. troops open fire in the Philippines

September 19, 2009 

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20090920-226058/Shooting-by-American-troops-lawfulmilitary

Shooting by American troops lawful-military

By Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: September 20, 2009

THE PHILIPPINE military maintained Saturday that American soldiers acted within the bounds of the law when they fired their machine guns in self-defense following an explosion believed targeted at them at the Jolo pier in Sulu on Monday.

The avowal was in reaction to the claim by the leftist group, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), which said that United States forces, stationed in Mindanao as part of anti-terror operations jointly undertaken with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), were cleared of any liability too quickly while questions on their continued presence here had yet to be settled.

“It is part of their right to defend themselves. They are targets for liquidation or harm by terrorists. It’s normal that they also take precautionary measures to defend themselves,” said Lieutenant Colonel Romeo Brawner Jr., military spokesman.

He said the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which sets the parameters covering the conduct of soldiers while engaged in training exercises and intelligence or technical assistance in the country, did not bar American troops from carrying firearms.

“They are allowed to carry guns. The VFA only says they cannot engage in combat, but they have the right to defend themselves,” said Brawner, adding that a Philippine investigation found nothing unlawful about the discharge of firearms from US guns.

“We also expect that it is a natural tendency for soldiers when under attack … that the immediate reaction is to seek cover, determine the source of attack and fire back,” Brawner told the Philippine Daily Inquirer when reached by phone Saturday.

Bayan, which had long called for the abrogation of the VFA, expressed concern over the VFA Commission’s speedy resolution of the incident wherein it concluded that the discharge was “a justified response” to a threat.

While US military officials said that their troops fired just a single burst, civilian witnesses said arms were let loose for about 20 minutes and described the US soldiers’ response as an “overreaction.” The fusillade damaged a mosque.

“The presidential VFA Commission seems to be working on damage control. It is amazing that in a matter of 24 hours, they have cleared the US forces from any liability, despite numerous eyewitness accounts,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said in a statement.

“The impression we’re getting is that a coverup is in the works,” he said.

But Brawner said that the investigation went through a process and that local officials took part in it.

Denying an unfair investigation was conducted, Brawner said: “In the first place, in order for a liability to be established, there should be a complaint. But there was no complainant.”

US to continue counter-terror cooperation with Philippines

September 13, 2009 

US to continue counter-terror cooperation with RP – Gates

By Jaime Laude and Jose Katigbak (The Philippine Star) Updated September 12, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates said his country’s counterterrorism cooperation with the Philippines will continue.

Gates voiced the US position in a meeting with Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. in Washington.

The security arrangement involves heightened US support for the local military against local and foreign terrorists as well as against rogue elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

It was not immediately known what additional contributions or assistance the US would provide the local troops.

Gates’ message highlighted Teodoro’s five-day visit to the US aimed at bringing “to a high gear” the defense and security cooperation between the two countries, the Department of National Defense said.

There are some 600 US troops currently deployed in several hot spots in Mindanao, particularly Basilan, Sulu, Zamboanga Peninsula, the two Lanao provinces and Central Mindanao under the Visiting Forces Agreement.

Their task is limited to providing technical and intelligence assistance to local troops, based on the agreement.

In his meeting with Gates, Teodoro emphasized that the Armed Forces of the Philippines has significantly weakened the terror group Abu Sayyaf although it still poses “clear and present danger” to the country together with the Jemaah Islamiyah and rogue MILF forces.

Aside from addressing terror threats, Teodoro and Gates also agreed to explore further cooperation in dealing with non-traditional security issues such as humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR), climate change, drug trafficking, and maritime security.

Teodoro, in his meeting with Gates, also cited the need for an enhanced Coast Watch South (CWS) by the navy, in partnership with the US and other countries, in order to deny use of the Sulu and Celebes seas by non-traditional maritime threats.

He also underscored the significance of greater US assistance in the government’s infrastructure projects such as construction of school facilities, water system, and farm-to-market roads in strife-torn areas in Mindanao.

Gates, for his part, lauded Teodoro for his efforts to institutionalize reforms in the Defense department and in the AFP through the Philippine Defense Reform Program (PDR).

A DND statement also said Gates praised Teodoro for his department’s successful hosting of the first ASEAN Regional Forum-Voluntary Disaster Response (ARF-VDR) last May in Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga.

Defending VFA

Meanwhile, Teodoro, in a speech before the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, dismissed as “shortsighted” calls for the abrogation of the VFA.

He said that while there were some problems between the Philippines and the US over some aspects of the pact, abrogation is not the solution.

He described the VFA as Manila’s “hottest political issue” with Washington but said this was an international pact that must be respected by the two signatories.

Teodoro accused the left of ramping up opposition to the treaty over the Balikatan military exercises but of keeping quiet when US forces swing into action on relief operations to help victims of natural disasters.

The Heritage Foundation described Teodoro as a “quickly up-and-coming political leader.”

Teodoro said he was humbled by expressions of support from local executives for his presidential bid and said if nominated by the ruling party and elected to succeed President Arroyo, he would work even more closely with them for the good of the country.

He was commenting on a statement by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita that “there has been an unexpected groundswell from local executives” unanimously supporting Teodoro as the presidential candidate of Lakas-Kampi.

US analysts see the timing of his visit as a subtle show of support by Washington for his candidacy.

Teodoro said he will accept whoever is chosen by the Lakas-Kampi-CMD convention on Sept. 15 as the ruling party candidate.

Asked if he would accept an offer to run for vice president in case he is not anointed as the presidential candidate, he said he would discuss the matter with his family and supporters. “That (running for vice president) is not automatic,” he said.

Officials Teodoro met included Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, who gave him a commitment to speed up the processing of claims of Filipino WWII veterans under a $198-million lump sum package provided for in the US Stimulus Package.

Sinseki said as of Sept. 1, a total of 31,876 claims from Filipino veterans have been received and 8,900 applications have been processed. More than $77 million has been awarded to eligible Filipino veterans broken down as follows: 3,138 Filipino veterans with US citizenship received $15,000 each, while 3,414 non-US citizen Filipino veterans received $9,000 each.

Teodoro conveyed the Philippine government’s appreciation for continuing US support for the veterans’ war claims and thanked Shinseki for the DVA’s grant-in-aid to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) amounting to $5.5 since 2003, inclusive of MRI equipment amounting to $1 million, the delivery of which will be completed next year.

At Capitol Hill, Teodoro thanked Sen. Daniel Inouye and Rep. Bob Filner for their crucial role in the passage of the Filipino veterans provision contained in the Stimulus Package.

On Senator Inouye’s concern about Mindanao and the peace process, Teodoro said that the Abu Sayyaf is less of a problem now and that direct conflict with the MILF has been suspended.

Inouye expressed his intention to visit the Philippines in December this year.

Filner also said he would head a San Diego trade mission to the Philippines in November and take the opportunity to meet with Filipino veterans’ groups. Aside from being chairman of the House Committee on Veteran Affairs, Filner is also chair of the Philippines-US Friendship Caucus in the House of Representatives.

Teodoro also met with Sen. Jim Webb (Democrat-Virginia) and expressed his appreciation for US assistance in building schools and infrastructure in conflict areas in Mindanao.

“There is not much outside support for the Abu Sayyaf, especially from al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah,” he told Webb who is chairman of the Senate Subcommittee for East Asia and the Pacific and member of the Committee on Armed Services.

Webb also expressed a desire to visit the Philippines, saying “we do not show up enough in Southeast Asia.”

Source: http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=504541&publicationSubCategoryId=63

US Troops in Philippines: America Pursues Expansionism, Protects Economic Interests

August 28, 2009 

US Troops in Philippines: America Pursues Expansionism, Protects Economic Interests

PUBLISHED ON August 28, 2009 AT 5:14 PM

In her revelations of the violations committed by US troops while on Philippine soil, former Navy officer Nancy Gadian also affirmed what has always been the core of US expansionism: using its military power to exploit the wealth and resources of another country. This was the core strategy in practically all the wars America had fought. Its so-called “war on terror” in the Philippines is no exception.

By ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – When former Navy Lt. Senior Grade Mary Nancy Gadian gave a press conference in Quezon City on Wednesday to expose the wrongdoings of US troops stationed in the Philippines, she mentioned, among other things, the economic agenda behind America’ continued presence in the country.

“The US is after the natural resources of the Philippines,” she said, adding that the Philippines has a “strategic location” in relation to the rest of Southeast Asia.

Gadian only affirmed what has always been the core of US expansionism: using its military power to exploit the wealth and resources of another country. This was the core strategy in practically all the wars America had fought – from Iraq to Afghanistan to the Philippines, where it had maintained military bases.

When these Philippine bases were removed by the people’s will in 1991, it did not signify the end of US military intervention in the Philippines. After the attacks in the US on Sept. 11, Washington found a convenient justification for sending its troops here – the so-called war on terror.

The US forces started trickling in since 2002 and have never left. As Gadian revealed during her press briefing, the Americans have put up their own facilities and structures in Mindanao, their unhampered access and presence allowing them not only to actively participate in a local conflict, in violation of the Constitution, but also to pursue what Gadian called “economic surveillance.”

Gadian is the same Navy officer who, last May, exposed the alleged malversation of P46 million for the US-Philippines Balikatan military exercises in 2007. Her latest exposé came days after The New York Times reported on the announcement of US Defense Secretary Robert Gates that a 600-member elite force of US troops deployed in the Philippines – particularly in Mindanao – since 2002 are here to stay.

These troops, who are stationed in what Gadian described as “permanent structures,” comprise the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P), which was established by the US Special Operations Command Pacific (Socpac). It began its work when Socpac’s Joint Task Force (JTF) 510 deployed to the Philippines. Based on an item on GlobalSecurity.org, JTF 510 was deployed to the Philippines “to support Operation Enduring Freedom.”

Operation Enduring Freedom is the official name given to the US government’s military response to the Sept. 11 attacks. It entails a series of “anti-terrorism” activities in Afghanistan, the Philippines, the Horn of Africa, Trans-Sahara, and Pakinsi Gorge.

Based on a fact sheet posted on its website, the JSOTF-P maintains its headquarters within the AFP’s Camp Navarro, which is located in Zamboanga City. It also has three regional task forces throughout Mindanao, working with the AFP: Task Force Archipelago, also based at Camp Navarro; Task Force Mindanao, based at Camp Sionco, Maguindanao; and Task Force Sulu, based at Camp Bautista, Jolo Island, Sulu. A number of JSOTF-P personnel also work in Manila, coordinating activities with the US Embassy and the AFP General Headquarters.

Aside from these facilities, according to Gadian, the JSOTF-P also maintains an office at Edwin Andrews Air Base, which is also located in Zamboanga City, as well as facilities in Camp Malagutay, Zamboanga City; the Philippine Naval Station in Batu-Bato, Panglima Sugala, Tawi-Tawi; and Camp General Bautista in Busbus, Jolo, Sulu.

Art. XVIII, Sec. 25 of the Philippine Constitution provides that:

“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.”

Government officials supporting the continued stay of US troops in the Philippines have claimed that the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) allows their prolonged presence in the country. The VFA, however, is not recognized by the US government as a treaty.

Economic Interests

Zamboanga City, the largest city of Zamboanga del Sur, is “home” to the Zamboanga Freeport Authority, where US corporations like Multi-Products Distribution and International Power Distributor are among the investors. Zamboanga del Sur is also a major mining area in Mindanao, aside from being rich in marine and aquaculture resources.

The nearby Maguindanao is one of the provinces straddled by Liguasan Marsh, together with North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat. Covering 288,000 hectares, Liguasan Marsh is rich in oil and natural gas reserves. Former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Nur Misuari, citing estimates by American oil engineers, has said total earnings from the natural gas reserves of Liguasan Marsh could amount to $580 billion.

As if to underscore the importance of control of the marsh, it had been the site of numerous clashes between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a separatist group whose avowed objective is to ensure that the rich natural resources in Moro areas should be enjoyed first by the Moro people.

Sulu is currently the site of oil exploration operations involving several foreign companies, including a US corporation. In 2005, the Department of Energy (DoE) awarded Service Contract 56 to Australia’s BHP Billiton Petroleum PTY Ltd., Amerada Hess Ltd., Unocal Sulu Ltd., and Sandakan Oil II LCC. Amerada Hess Ltd. is a unit of Hess Ltd., a US-based oil and gas exploration company. Based on a 2005 news item published by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Service Contract 56 covers some 8,620 hectares offshore Sulu Sea, an area described as “one of the most prospective areas for oil and gas exploration as indicated by the previous drilling activities conducted in the area.”

Basilan and Sulu are both part of what is known as the Sulu Archipelago, together with Tawi-Tawi.

The economic agenda behind US military presence in the Philippines, however, is not limited to the Philippines.

“By and large, the most important value (of the Philippines for the US) is its strategic location: we are at a critical area where north of the Philippines and south of the Philippines you have the critical flow of sea lanes for US (and) Japanese vessels – both military and commercial – coming from the Middle East, bringing in oil supplies and other raw materials all the way from Africa to the Pacific Ocean,” said Roland Simbulan, a professor of development studies at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Manila and an expert on US foreign policy.

“Of course, anyone who controls this area, this gateway where the Philippines is located, will control the flow of trade in this area. And next to that, of course, is the location of the Philippines facing China, because in the medium-term and long-term basis, the United States still looks at China as a potential rival within the next 15 years, (if) its military prowess (catches) up with the economic power that it has right now,” Simbulan told Bulatlat in a recent interview.

Rey Claro Casambre, who heads the Philippine chapter of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS-Philippines), affirmed this in a separate interview. “The Philippines is strategically located on the Strait of Malacca, the trade route through which half of world trade passes,” Casambre said. “The US earns several billions of dollars from trade there. And a lot of oil… is transported (there) on oil tankers. Anyone who controls that area controls trade.”

Litany of Offenses

Apart from the economic agenda behind US military presence in the Philippines, Gadian – who was assigned for several years in Mindanao – gave a litany of various offenses committed by US troops in the country.

She said she had received several reports indicating that the US troops in Mindanao were “embedded” within Philippine military units conducting field operations in the area, something that the Constitution disallows.

This statement of Gadian bolsters allegations that US troops have been sighted in encounter sites in Mindanao – most notably during an attack by combined Army and Navy forces in Barangay (village) Ipil, Maimbung, Sulu on Feb. 4, 2008. This attack claimed the lives of eight non-combatants, including an Army soldier on vacation.

The US troops in the Philippines, Gadian said, also join actual operations against “insurgent” or “terrorist” groups. “They help in ‘neutralizing’ high-profile targets,” she said.

Aside from these, Gadian said, US troops in the Philippines routinely conduct intelligence operations through the use of “special intelligence equipment,” and participate in the planning of combat operations.

“Intelligence is part of combat operations,” said Gadian, who claimed to have had direct dealings with some of the American soldiers. “When you use special intelligence equipment, you (are getting to know a certain) target and where he is. Why would you conduct intelligence (work) if not for combat operations? Intelligence is not separate from combat.”

“Conducting intelligence operations and participation in the planning of combat operations are unconstitutional,” said Gadian’s legal counsel, Evalyn Ursua, who also spoke at the Aug. 26 press conference. “Prohibition on foreign military presence means foreign troops should have nothing to do within Philippine territory.”

But that is not all, Gadian said. She revealed that the US troops also conduct various operations and other activities without the knowledge of, let alone clearance from, their Filipino counterparts.

Gadian also said she was a direct witness to several incidents which showed not only the “arrogance” of US soldiers and their civilian employees, but also their “abusive” treatment of Filipinos. “They don’t even call us by their names – they merely make gestures with their fingers, as if they are calling dogs,” she said.

Another issue linked to US troops’ presence in the Philippines, Gadian said, is the exploitation of women. She said she was personally a witness to several instances when US soldiers picked up prostituted women, or when prostituted women went to the soldiers’ hotel rooms. It has reached a point, she said, where the women would even go to Camp Navarro to provide their “services” to the US troops stationed there.

“Small” Benefits

How has the Philippines benefited from the seven-year presence of US troops? Not very much, Gadian said.

Gadian pointed out that the seven-year presence of US troops in Mindanao has not solved the “insurgency” and “terrorist” problems in the area.

“There has been no end to it because they don’t want to end it,” she said. “So many soldiers have died there, who didn’t have to die if only there was resolve to end the problem.”

Technology-wise, Gadian said, Filipino soldiers learned to use “small pieces of equipment such as sophisticated guns, which the armed forces does not have and does not acquire,” as well as night-vision goggles. Another technological “benefit,” she said, is the opportunity to ride high-powered aircraft. “Filipino soldiers used to only see these in the movies, but now, they get to ride these,” she said.

The government has pointed to the infrastructure projects and medical and dental missions conducted by US troops as benefits from their presence here. For Gadian, however, there is not very much in these to be thankful for. “The government can provide these if only it is serious enough in giving services to the people,” she said. “We don’t need the Americans to do these things.”

Gadian said the VFA should be abrogated. “Since it has always been used as a justification for US troops’ presence in the Philippines, the VFA should be junked so there would be no more justification for their stay,” she said. (Bulatlat.com)

Source: http://www.bulatlat.com/main/2009/08/28/us-troops-in-philippines-america-pursues-expansionism-protects-economic-interests/

Envoy: Rape case shouldn’t affect Philippines agreement

March 30, 2009 

http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=61651

Envoy: Rape case shouldn’t affect Philippines agreement

By David Allen, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Sunday, March 29, 2009

The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines does not believe the Daniel Smith rape case will affect the Visiting Forces Agreement with the Philippines.

In a statement reported by media in Manila on Wednesday, Ambassador Kristie Kenney said negotiations regarding where the Marine lance corporal should be held pending his appeal of his December 2006 conviction should not result in any changes to the entire agreement.

The Philippines Supreme Court ruled last month that Smith, who is being held on the grounds of the U.S. Embassy in Manila pending his appeal, should have been remanded to a Philippines jail. The court ruled the agreement allowing Smith’s transfer to the embassy compound did not follow the guidelines set forth in the bilateral Visiting Forces Agreement, known as the VFA.

“I don’t for the moment see a review of the VFA,” Kenney said. “We’re working through one specific case. We should not confuse it with the entire VFA. It’s a little soon to talk about the VFA as a whole.”

A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Friday confirmed the accuracy of Kenney’s response to a reporter’s questions Wednesday.

“We’ve taken note of the Supreme Court decision,” Kenney said. “There have been discussions both in Washington and here, but there are some issues still pending in that legal case. We are in good dialogue with the Philippines. It’s been a difficult three years, but we’re working together for this.”

Her statement was made while new developments in the rape case have rocked the Philippines judicial establishment. On March 12, the 25-year-old woman who testified during the trial that Smith raped her, signed an affidavit stating she now doubts Smith actually raped her.

The woman, known publicly as “Nicole,” has since moved to the U.S. with her American boyfriend, according to statements made by her mother.

Anti-VFA and women’s rights groups in the Philippines charge that the “Smith camp,” somehow bought Nicole’s recantation. They also claim the recent revelation that an appeals court judge had filed a draft ruling last year that acquitted Smith was part of a publicity campaign to free Smith.

The appellate judge retired before his draft decision was reviewed by other justices, and a problem with finding judges to sit on the case – many recused themselves because of friendships with Smith’s lawyers – has delayed a decision for more than two years.

The Manila Times reported Wednesday that the draft is part of the case files.

Nicole’s affidavit and the appeals court draft ruling echo what Nicole told a Philippines lawmaker the day after the Nov. 1, 2005, incident, according to media reports.

Mitos Magsaysay, a member of the House of Representatives from Nicole’s home district, said she was one of the first people to speak to Nicole after the incident.

“Based on her narration, and the interviews I made with her sister, her cousin, other witnesses at the Neptune Bar (where she and Smith had been dancing and drinking with friends), and the driver of the van … I concluded that no rape took place,” Magsaysay was quoted as saying by the Philippine Star.

She told the newspaper that people with an agenda against the U.S. military “took over and influenced her.”

The rape case has stirred emotions in the Philippines. On Wednesday, about 100 demonstrators protesting against the VFA clashed with police at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, and 40 people were reported injured, although none seriously.

Manila police beefed up security outside the embassy soon after Nicole’s affidavit became public.

“Peaceful protests are a normal part of a vibrant democracy that respects the right of free speech,” said embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Thompson in an e-mail response to queries by Stars and Stripes Thursday.

“We depend on the Philippine authorities to provide protection so that the public and diplomats can come and go safely and freely from the Embassy grounds.”