MANILA, Philippines—Militant lawmakers on Friday expressed fears of “unli” (unlimited) access of American and Japanese forces to military bases in the Philippines.
“What’s in a name? Access arrangements, military exercises or routine port calls—they all mean the same thing, translating into unhampered use of facilities and structures in Philippine territory for foreign military use. It means allowing unlimited foreign military basing in the Philippines,” Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda C. Ilagan said.
Ilagan was referring to a government plan to allow the United States, Japan and other allies access to Philippine military bases to discourage China from further encroaching on the country’s territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Ilagan said the terms of the access agreements being lined up by the Department of National Defense are “so vague that these appear to expand the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).”
She said the defense department would create de facto military bases by allowing US and Japanese forces use of an “unidentified and undetermined number of Philippine facilities for an undetermined period of time.”
Instead of providing more security, Ilagan said the increased military presence of the United States and the additional presence of Japan in Philippine territory would escalate tensions between the Philippines and China.
Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlo Zarate called the plan “a shameful act of national betrayal” to overturn the 1991 Senate vote to eject the US bases from the country.
“It’s just like being invaded again by the Japanese and the President has become a Makapili,” Colmenares said, using the term for Filipinos who betrayed guerrillas to the Japanese during World War II in the Philippines.
“It also violates Japan’s peace constitution, which prohibits militarism in Japan because of [the] atrocities [committed by Japanese forces] during World War II. Japan’s military presence in the Philippines is not only unwanted, it is also unwelcomed. This is an insult to our veterans and comfort women who suffered under the Japanese,” Colmenares said.
Zarate pointed that the increased US military presence in Mindanao worsened the security situation in the region.
“The people’s rights were disregarded, and the VFA was rendered inutile while the Philippine government covered up the reported human rights violations by US troops in Mindanao,” Zarate said.
ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said the expanded access deal with the US showed that Malacañang wanted US forces to be stationed on our territory “indefinitely and in greater numbers.”
Encirclement of China
“Historically, the US has used the Philippines as a stepping stone for military intervention in China. US troops based in the Philippines were among the foreign troops that invaded China and occupied Beijing in 1900.
Most Filipinos are probably unaware of this, while the Chinese certainly have not forgotten,” Tinio said.
“Instead of forging an independent and self-reliant foreign policy in response to Chinese territorial incursions, the Aquino administration would let this country reprise its role as a neocolonial outpost, a staging area for the encirclement of China by the US,” he said.