Saturday, May 28, 2011

US troops in the Philippines: To go or not to go?

Part of a damaged helicopter is seen lying near the compound after U.S. Navy SEAL commandos killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad
The United States has been a long-time ally of the Philippines. The US influence in this Asian country is so huge, the way of life is felt in its many facets.
The US has been very helpful to the Philippines especially when the country has encountered natural disasters particularly the great twin storms of 2009. The US forces has sent relief goods, used its military in delivering the goods and assisted in rescue efforts.
However, the alliance has its dark side, too.
Rejecting the Visiting Forces Agreement's (VFA) "detrimental and unequal character"—a joint treaty between the Philippines and the United States—advocates have called again for its abolition.
The Philippine government was said to be "generally happy" with the 12-year-old treaty while the US embassy in Manila was pleased because the agreement has been "working very well" for both countries.
Is that so? Militant groups are not convinced. Here is what some of Philippine officials have to say, in a report by the PDI.
Calling for the treaty's abrogation, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said that the treaty's 'fatal flaw' was that it failed to specify the duration of American forces and what they could do while they are staying in the Philippines.
Cong. Antonio Tinio said, the VFA "has allowed the permanent basing of US forces in the country in the guise of never-ending training exercises, and American troops engaging in covert military operations on our soil.
"It has also accorded special treatment for US soldiers who have broken our laws, and prevented us from developing a truly independent national defense capability in accordance with an independent foreign policy."
Cong. Neri Colmenares said, the treaty was "an affront to our sovereignty and has caused immeasurable damage to the Filipino people…We are now magnets for attacks by the enemies of the US."
Fearing to be another Abbottabad where the Al Qaeda leader was killed, Renato Reyes Jr. of Bayan, said that US forces are "engaged in so many undefined activities in the country in the name of the 'war on terror.' We will not be surprised that they have engaged in actual combat operations similar to what they did in the raid against Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan."
Big Brother used the VFA hoping to gain the approval of the Filipinos towards the US. "But in reality, we are the ones helping them by buying some decommissioned military junks that will 'modernize' our AFP," Erick San Juan said in The Mindanao Examiner.
San Juan added that Pres. Benigno Aquino III's recent tour to the USS Carl Vinson—the vessel that carried Bin Laden's corpse and buried him in the sea—near the Philippine waters, was frowned by most people who knew the decorum given such scenarios.
The MalacaƱang has to carefully decide on this delicate issue and avoid repeating the same mistakes the previous administrations did in the past.
Details of this report here.

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