“Unfinished Business” – Twenty years since the Philippines kicked out U.S. bases, what is the Status of Forces?

The Interaksyon news website has an excellent two-part series entitled “Unfinished Business: Transforming the former U.S. military bases into zones of peace and development remains a challenge, 20 years after a historic Senate vote scrapped the PH-US bases treaty.”

“Unfinished Business” by Joel C. Paredes begins:

Veteran nationalist lawmaker Wigberto Tañada still vividly recalls when his father, the late Senator Lorenzo Tañada lost in the 1957 election where he ran as vice presidential candidate of Don Claro M. Recto, the standard bearer of the short-lived National Citizens Party.

Their tandem was rallying the people behind the need to fight for sovereignty against continued US intervention in the country, and for that they lost in the elections. The younger  Tañada, who by then had completed his law studies, joined the campaign sorties, convinced that they had to push for the removal of all US military installations  on the islands.

It was the least he could do for a father who had gambled his political career, leaving the Liberal Party in order to help organize an obscure party which had dared challenge the US’ continued interference in its former colony. For Don Claro Recto, their fight was one meant to liberate government from a “mendicant foreign policy.”

“Our foreign policy was conducted from the very beginning, and is being pursued, on the erroneous assumption of an identity of American and Filipino interest or more correctly of the desirability, and even the necessity, of subordinating our interests to those of America,” he said.

Roots of our insecurity

It was policy that was actually crafted on July 4, 1946, when the Philippines was granted independence by the United States, but with the condition – embodied in the Bell Trade Act – that it must accord the American entrepreneurs “parity” rights to land ownership, resources exploitation, and other business activities.

According to Philippine scholar Patricio Abinales,  the destruction of Manila during the war, the displacement of landlord power in the adjoining provinces, and the plantation  agriculture had that time posed a combined challenge enough to destabilize the country. “The United States contributed to the problem when it demanded that the new government accept a ‘free trade’ treaty  heavily favoring the industrialized United States over the agrarian Philippines.”

A year later, the RP US Military Bases Agreement was forged, giving the United States the right to maintain military bases for 99 years and their military  advisers a major role in the development of the Philippine armed forces.

The article gives an excellent history of the Phlippines-U.S. bases agreement and the successful effort to terminate the treaty.

The second article is “Economics of conversion: the best is yet to come”.

But as previously reported on this site, despite the prohibition on U.S. bases and combat operations in the Philippines, U.S. troops have been engaged in combat operations in Mindanao.

Meanwhile, women in Mindanao employed a Lysistrata strategy to end violence.  They staged a “sex strike for peace” until the men stopped fighting:

Women in the southern Philippines brought peace to their strife-torn village by threatening to withhold sex if their men kept fighting, the UN refugee agency documents in a video posted on its website.

The “sex strike” in rural Dado village on the often lawless southern island of Mindanao in July helped end tensions and bring some prosperity to the 102 families living there, said UNHCR national officer Rico Salcedo.

“The area is in a town which is subject to conflict, family feuds, land disputes (locally referred to as ‘rido’). The idea came personally from the women,” Salcedo told the Agence France-Presse.

The idea was conceived by a group of women who had set up a sewing business but found that they could not deliver their products because the village road was closed by the threat of violence, Salcedo said.


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