Fil-Ams to Biden on Edca, Amerasians
In a letter to US President Joe Biden dated April 14, 2023, leaders of Filipino-American (Fil-Am) groups in the United States stated the gist of their call thus: “US-PH Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) ignores Filipino Amerasians. Your leadership will unify them with their fathers.”
The heart of their clamor: “We, the undersigned leaders, are disappointed and we question your bilateral Edca with the Philippine government because it ignores the plight of at least 15,000 Filipino Amerasians. They are the forgotten children of American military fathers who served in the Philippines. They were abandoned after the Vietnam War with the end of US-PH Military Bases Treaty in 1992.”
Citing a study by the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, the group raised the issue of how these Filipino Amerasians faced widespread discrimination, underemployment, poverty, domestic violence, and sexual abuse.
The closure of the US military bases in 1992 after an extension was rejected by the Philippine Senate, (“enhanced” and hastened by the world-class eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 that changed the landscape and whose disastrous effects were felt for more than a decade) did not mean zero US presence in the following years. The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) was put in place with Edca its sidekick. Whatever geopolitical significance these agreements have, they cannot be seen solely as what their names suggest. They carry with them “collateral damage” on the Filipino populace, women particularly, the effects of which would be felt not only by the generation directly exposed to them but by succeeding ones as well.
While the Fil-Ams’ letter may refer to an older generation of American-fathered offspring whose lives saw many twists and turns, there are younger ones and more may be born because of VFA-Edca. This is not something to smile about.
I say this straightforwardly: US military presence in the past had spawned a sex industry (no euphemism for that) in the environs, a flourishing commercial endeavor, no doubt, in places where US troops spent dollars for their R and R. I had done my part to write about the so-called collateral damage—the women facing the specter of HIV-AIDS, abortion, fatherless offspring, name it. I had even spent a night in these women’s quarters. Those in the women’s movement who had come to the aid of women in dire straits deserved to be written about and I did that, too. I am quite puzzled that this time I have not heard much from vocal women’s groups.
If I may do a “been-there-done-that,” I had covered a circa 1980s PH-US war games in Botolan, Zambales, where a bunch of us, uninvited, crawled in the bushes and watched the military exercises and surreptitiously took photographs. We had, believe it or not, an Aeta and a Franciscan nun as guides. We saw how huge barges unloaded armed marines who waded to shore. It was like watching the Allied Forces making a beach head in Normandy in the movie “The Longest Day.” My feature story with photos came out in a widely circulated magazine. But I digress.
The Fil-Ams are urging Biden “to issue a humanitarian executive order that would protect the rights and welfare of current and future Filipino Amerasian children and adults by including them in the US-PH Edca … A surge of Amerasian children can be expected in future years.” A surge! While I am writing this, some 15,000 visiting US troops are now in “Balikatan” military exercises with their Filipino counterparts.
The Fil-Ams are also lobbying for “support for Filipino Amerasian legislation in the US Senate and House through the Uniting Families Act of 2021 (H.R. 4522 in Congress) that will reunite the (Amerasian offspring) with their fathers and/or American siblings who have accepted financial responsibility for them since they have proven through their DNA to be offspring of American service members.”
A copy of the letter has been sent to Vice President Kamala Harris. The signatories are Loida Nicolas Lewis, chair of US Filipinos for Good Governance (USFGG) and convenor of Filipino Amerasians Reunification Coalition (FARC); John Haines (US Navy Ret.) of Fathers of Filipino Amerasians; Angela Aquino, founder and chair of Equal Rights for Children; Christopher Lapinig, legal counsel; and Eric Lachica, coordinator of USFGG and FARC.
Meanwhile, the trying hard hegemon that is China is not only watching, its ambassador has made veiled threats. Ni hao!
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