January 28, 2006
U.S. ‘AID’ SHOULD NOT BLIND GOVERNMENT TO NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF VFA
The reported “benefits” from the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)
with the US should not blind the government to the negative effects of the
military agreement and the need to terminate it, according to independent
think-tank IBON Foundation.
In response to calls to abrogate the VFA, Undersecretary Zosimo Paredes,
executive director of the Presidential Commission on the VFA (VFACom),
warned that the country could lose as much as $8 million a year in
military and humanitarian benefits.
But sovereignty has no price, says IBON research director Antonio Tujan.
Moreover, this “aid” do not benefit Filipinos but even raises many issues
on the humanitarian and development aspects of foreign aid. “Aid is not
being used to uplift people’s conditions but only as a tool for
pacification, and in the process, raises issues of human rights violations.”
These issues have become most prominent in the Philippine context where
the campaign against rebel groups has involved the systematic killing and
repression of unarmed civilians. In 2005 alone, 74 activists– including
human rights lawyers, local government officials, church workers, and
community organizers– have been murdered allegedly by operatives of the
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
In return for this aid, the US military is allowed to maintain a presence
in the country through joint military exercises so it can fulfill its
long-term security plans in Asia. “Development programs and projects are
being implemented not to truly address the development needs and agenda of
poor Filipinos but to address the military and economic agenda of the US,”
So-called special relations with our past colonial masters have no place
in a country that claims to be independent, he adds. “These relations must
be established on the basis of mutual benefit and the non-compromise of
each country’s sovereignty. The VFA clearly violates this basic principle
and thus, should be terminated,” Tujan says. (end)