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Why Justice Carpio is on the wrong side of the VFA issue

04:01 AM February 19, 2020

With all due respect to Justice Antonio Carpio, he has unfortunately fallen into the trap of seeing our strategic choice as either pro-United States or pro-China (“Weakening our defenses in the WPS,” Crosscurrents, 2/13/20).

Washington has consistently told the Philippines that the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) does not obligate it to defend Philippine territorial and resource rights in the West Philippine Sea. It has consistently asserted it “will not intervene in sovereignty issues” in the West Philippine Sea whenever our government, from Marcos to Aquino, asked for its intervention.

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At the same time, Washington enmeshed us in a military alliance against China through the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca). Entering into Edca, which was a key part of Barack Obama’s strategy of militarily containing China, seriously undermined the moral and legal assertion of our rights via our case in The Hague. This is why, as a member then of the House of Representatives, I authored a resolution renaming the South China Sea the West Philippine Sea (a peaceful moral and legal move), at the same time that I opposed Edca (a provocative aggressive military move), along with Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, and we both incurred the displeasure of the strategically deaf chief executive at the time.

Justice Carpio’s litany of President Duterte’s foreign policy statements even before he was president, in fact, provides evidence that Mr. Duterte was apparently slowly coming around to recognizing the truth that, when it came to the West Philippine Sea, the treaties with the United States were useless by Washington’s own admission, even as the United States was opportunistically pinning us down into a de facto military alliance that was part of the Pentagon’s offensively-oriented Asia Pacific-wide military strategy of AirSea Battle designed, by its own admission, to penetrate the A2/AD defenses of China. In the most authoritative exposition of AirSea Battle (recently given the new name of Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons [JAM-GC]), the strategy is designed to carry out “kinetic and nonkinetic” (in other words, both explosive and electronic) strikes against inland command centers, radar systems and intelligence-gathering facilities, raids against missile production and storage facilities and “‘blinding’ operations against Chinese satellites.” It also says that China’s “seaborne trade flows would be cut off, with an eye toward exerting major stress on the Chinese economy and, eventually, internal stress.”

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We were caught in a terrible fix that was definitely not in our national interest. I don’t support Mr. Duterte’s tilting toward China instead of maintaining an independent course; like the proverbial David, the Philippines should resist being drawn into a battle between two Goliaths. I condemn Mr. Duterte’s violations of human rights and strangling of democratic rights, but let’s give the devil his due: He’s right to withdraw from the VFA, and hopefully he will withdraw as well from the Edca and MDT — agreements that totally subordinate our interests to the political and military interests of Washington. Justice Carpio should stick to points of law, where he has no peer, and not allow himself to be drawn to the military strategic designs of the United States.

WALDEN BELLO
Former Member of Congress
[email protected]

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TAGS: Antonio Carpio, Edca, Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, letter, MDT, mutual defense treaty, VFA, Visiting Forces Agreement, Walden Bello
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