Indeed, US bases’ removal in 1992 a ‘magnificent’ decision
THIS IS in reaction to Hermenegildo C. Cruz’s commentary titled, “What’s magnificent about withdrawal of US bases?” (Opinion, 4/11/16).
Cruz disputes the view that the Philippine Senate’s removal in 1992 of the US bases from our country was magnificent. (The 12 senators, headed by the late senator Jovito Salonga, who voted for the termination of the Philippine-US bases treaty, were later called the “Magnificent 12.”)
Cruz rather sees it as an “unmitigated disaster.” For three reasons: First, he said, we would still be in possession of the Panatag Shoal and other areas in the West Philippine Sea now occupied by China were the US bases still around; second, we lost more than 80,000 jobs created by the US bases; third, we’ve ceded in effect our rich fishing grounds to China, gravely affecting the livelihood of our fishers.
We disagree with Cruz. China’s sudden claim to the West Philippine Sea has nothing to do with the “absence” of the United States from the country. It has more to do with China’s emergence as a global superpower.
The presence of the US bases a deterrent to China’s expansionist incursions? For one, the United States has repeatedly said it will not engage in any military activity against China over the Philippines’ claim in the West Philippine Sea. Besides, available data show that the United States has more economic and geopolitical interests in China than in the Philippines. In fact, America owes China a whooping $1.2 trillion, not to mention its $65.77-billion direct investments in China and a valuable market for US products. It’s simply hard to see that the United States would cross swords with China just to take up the cudgels for the Philippines.
On the jobs supposedly created by the presence of the US bases in the country, what kind of jobs? Recall the time Clark and Subic still hosted the US bases; they became R & R hubs for American soldiers, where 55,000-60,000 prostitutes plied their trade. In fact, Clark and Subic became known globally as centers of prostitution, where Filipino women were being “sold” cheap, with many of them ending up sexually violated with impunity.
To be sure, a large number of Filipino fishers have been denied access to traditional fishing territories because of Chinese harassment and intimidation. But how is that different each time the United States and the Philippines conduct Balikatan exercises? A fishing ban is imposed every time, to throw a security blanket around participating American soldiers. Which means, the disruption of the fishers’ livelihood not just in West Philippine Sea, but also wherever these military exercises are undertaken.
So what was magnificent about the removal of the US bases? Admittedly it has not made us independent from the United States; still, it was a victory for patriotic Filipinos who, until today, are fighting against American control of various aspects—economic, political, cultural—of our life as a people. It showed us that a people’s collective will and action are vital elements in their pursuit of independence, a cause we have been fighting for—for centuries.
—SALVADOR FRANCE, vice chair, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas, convener, Pilipinong Nagkakaisa Para sa Soberanya
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