Congressman Crispin Beltan Bayan Muna Party List Represenative Chairman,Kilusang Mayo Uno Chairperson, International League for People’s Struggles (ILPS)
Keynote address before the Founding Assembly and Launching of ILPS-Philippines
August 1, 2002 Miriam College, Quezon City
In the wake of the end of the Cold War, U.S. imperialism has come out clearly as the sole superpower with an overweening arrogance. But the world capitalist system is reeling from a grave economic crisis, the worst since the end of the second inter-imperialist war.
Even before the Sept. 11 attack, the Bush regime was already agitating for an increase in military production as a way to revive the U.S. economy. In this connection, he has been warmongering and threatening and launching attacks of aggression against countries labeled by the U.S. as “rogue” states.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. has used these as pretext for launching a war of aggression against Afghanistan, threatening other countries(the ‘axis of evil’ and 12 countries ‘harboring terrorists’) and undertaking massive war preparations.
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 events in the U.S., the imperialists and their reactionary lackeys in client countries have launched a new offensive against the people’s democratic rights under the pretext of waging a ‘war against terrorism.’ The U.S. has seized on the Sept. 11 events to wage aggressive wars and thereby accomplish their geopolitical objectives to establish control of strategic areas in the Middle East, Central Asia and Southeast Asia. It has also taken the lead in imposing draconian measures that further infringe on the democratic rights of the people and to suppress any opposition to their anti-people policies.
We have seen U.S. military intervention and aggression in the Balkans, Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia. We have seen the state terrorism of the U.S. violating International Humanitarian Law, disregarding and misappropriating UN resolutions. It even launched aggression under various pretexts, such as “human rights”, “humanitarian mission”, and “peacemaking.”
This war is a continuation of the economic terrorism of IMF-World Bank and WTO by military means. It is aimed at suppressing the peoples that wage revolution, the nations that fight for liberation and the countries or governments that assert national independence. The US is overconfident that it can carry out acts of aggression unilaterally or with the aid of its imperialist allies. But these allies are becoming wary of the propensity of the U.S. to undertake unilateral actions, its hysterical bellicosity and its extreme voracity in grabbing most of the spoils. The U.S. is sowing the ground for violent contradictions among the imperialist powers themselves.
“Free market” globalization has victimized most grievously the oppressed peoples and nations. But it has also weakened the puppet rulers. The loot to share among the competing reactionaries has diminished. Thus, they tend to become more violent in their political rivalry. They have become more corrupt and repressive than ever before.
The U.S. Hegemonic Drive in the Region
Let me cite a recently formulated strategy of U.S. imperialism to further expand its hegemonic drive in the world, particularly in Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific Region. Called the Quadrennial Defense Review 2001, this study states that America’s overseas presence, concentrated in Western Europe and Northeast Asia “is inadequate for the new strategic environment, in which U.S. economic and security interests are global and potential threats in other areas of the world are emerging.” The new strategic environment of course refers to one that is favorable to the global trade and investments of U.S. monopoly capitalism.
Based on this strategic environment, QDR 2001 calls for a more aggressive U.S. global security posture, a “political-military” offensive different from what Bush officials call the Clinton administration’s purely “defensive” stance. Accordingly, the U.S. global military posture will be reoriented to : ” (a) develop a basing system that provides greater flexibility for U.S. forces in critical areas of the world, placing emphasis on additional bases and stations beyond Western Europe and Northeast Asia; (b) providee temporary access to facilities in foreign countries that enable U.S. forces to conduct training and exercises in the absence of permanent ranges and bases; (c) redistribute forces and equipment based on regional deterrence requirements; (d) provide sufficient mobility, including airlift, sealift, prepositioning, basing infrastructure, alternative points of debarkation, and new logistical concepts of operations, to conduct expeditionary operations in distant theatres against adversaries….”
In another earlier report, the 1995 East Asia Strategy Report of the U.S. Department of Defense, it is stated that the report “reaffirms our commitment to maintain a stable forward presence in the region at the existing level of about 100,000 troops for the foreseeable future…for maintaining forward deployment of U.S. forces and access and basing rights for U.S. and allied forces…If the American presence in Asia were removed, our ability to affect the course of events would be constrained, our markets and our interests would be jeopardized.”
Though China has been given a most favored status in trade by the U.S., upon pressure from the American corporate world, Bush has repeatedly called this country a rising “regional hegemon.” The U.S. government is pursuing what its policy strategists call “co-engagement” with China –“engagement” in trade and investment relations subject to certain political and economic conditions and “containment” in light of Beijing’s potential threat.
The U.S. has long considered the Asia-Pacific region as its sphere of influence and maintains the biggest command outside the U.S., the Pacific Command(USPACOM) in the area. U.S. imperialist trade with the Asia-Pacific now surpasses that with Europe, and of special interest to U.S. monopoly capitalism is the vast oil and gas reserves of the region. Production levels of oil and gas in Indonesia and Brunei are high, especially Indonesia, which accounts for 20% of the world’s liquefied natural gas(LNG). In the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam, new oil and gas fields are being discovered. In the Philippines, U.S. oil companies are fervidly drilling for offshore oil in the island of Palawan and have struck it rich in several sites, forthwith preserving these areas for themselves by elbowing out other European oil companies.
The Council on Foreign Relations(CFR), a think tank for Washington policy makers, has also seen the vital importance of the critical waterways surrounding the Philippine archipelago, particularly the South China Sea and North Pacific Ocean.
From a military perspective, according to the CFR, these sea lanes are critical to the movement of U.S. forces from the Western Pacific to the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. With a strong military presence in the region, the Council said, the United States would be able to challenge Chinese claims to the South China Sea and its disputed island groups,the Spratlys and Paracels, that are believed to have significant oil reserves.
The Philippines as a Staging Area for U.S. Military Aggression
In a May 2001 report of the RAND Corporation, the think tank of the US Air Force, it is advised that the U.S. must once again gain access to the Philippines as a staging ground to contain China and Russia from East Asia. The report advocated a “robust security assistance program to allies in the region, particularly the Philippines” which RAND senior policy analyst Angel Rabasa called ” a frontline state in the war on terrorism.” Rabasa called for the provision of “urgently needed air defense and naval asset to the Philippines…to reestablish deterrence vis-a-vis China.” It is also Rabasa who, without any direct evidences, and to justify the sending of some 3,000 US troops to the Philippines began warning about the extensive pesence of terrorist networks in Southeast Asia that span from the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia to Indonesia.
The Philippines has always been a main staging area of the US in East Asia when this imperialist power had still its military bases is the Islands. Subic Bay, once the largest American naval base in the Pacific, used to be the homeport of the US Seventh Fleet which policed the Pacific Ocean, and Clark Field was the largest airbase of the US outside its territory. From Subic and Clark, US military interventions in all parts in Asia were launched.
With the loss of their bases in the Philippines in 1992, US Strategists considered it as a puncture in their strategic perimet to contain potential enemies in Asia and Eurasia and the forfeiture of vital sea lanes to guard their economic interests. This is the reason why Bush after the fall of Afghanista, has declaredthe Philippines as the new frontline against international terrorism. Based on the QDR 2001, the Rand Report and the polcy advise of CFR, the yawning gap left in an important strategic area in the Asia-Pacific region for the U.S. must be closed and the Philippines once again secured to complete the ring around China and Russia, and possibly Japan, the economic rival of the US in this part of the world.
U.S. Military Presence in the Philippines
Using the campaign against international terrorism as its cover, U.S. forces have again gained a foothold on Philippine soil under the Visiting Forces Agreement(VFA). Previous to the so-called war on terrorism launched by the Bush administration, US- RP military exercises under the VFA lasted only for one month, compared to Balikatan 02-1 in Basilan and Zamboanga and Balance Piston 02-2 in Pampanga, which extended to six months. The US has announced through the Philippine government that the stay of US forces in the Philippines may be extended to another five years after the expiration of Balikatan 02-2 on July 31, 2002.
U.S. engineers have started building permanent infrastructures, roads and other facilities, under the guise of civic action, “Operation Gentle Wind”, in Basilan. The international airport being built in General Santos City by U.S. construction companies, which is intended to accommodate various aircrafts of the US Air Force, is almost completed.
All these fervid construction activities are evidences of the intention of the US to establish a permanent presence for their troops in the Philippines as part of its new strategic environment to more effectively control the Asia-Pacific region.
It must be noted that the VFA, ratified as a treaty by the Estrada administration but not by the US government, does not allow the setting up of infrastructure by US military personnel on Philippine soil, thus the need to camouflage such actions under civic actions and economic aid.
Previously, the attempt of the US in 1994 to legitimize the building of infrastructures like storage and refuelling facilities under the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement(ACSA) was not successful because of widespread opposition which saw ACSA as a prelude to re-establishing US bases in the Philippines. But because of the US-initiated wordwide propaganda against the threat of terrorism, particularly in East Asia, the influx of thousands of American forces here and their engaging in “civic action” have conveniently diverted the attention of Filipinos from the hidden agenda of US imperialism in securing the Philippines once again as a base for strengthening its hegemony in the Pacific region.
This is further buttressed by the secret negotiation by the Macapagal-Arroyo and Bush administrations on the Mutual Logistics and Support Agreement(MLSA) when the former went on a state visit to the US last November, 2001. MLSA revives ACSA and, moreover, lays the groundwork for the return of permanent US military bases in the Philippines. It is instructive to note that the agreement called Status of Forces Agreement(SOFA), similar to VFA, was also rejected in 1997 due to mass opposition, only to resurrect later into the present VFA.
A draft for the MLSA has been prepared for signing by the Philippine government and this is the reason why US Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz suddenly made a turn-about and announced that the US after all would stay for another five years in the Philippines after the present Balikatan exercises expires at the end of July. This is also the reason why Vice President Guingona was eased out by Malacanang, as Secretary of Foreign Affairs since he was opposing the signing of the MLSA by the Philippine government.
The MLSA will place the Philippines more firmly under the claws of US imperialism because, together with the VFA , which allows the use of all the 20 ports for visiting US forces, MLSA can open the door for the establishment of permanent military facilities in all these ports. Under the old Military BAses AGreement(MBA), which was rejected by the Philippine Senate in 1991, US forces were allowed the use of only four bases, notably Clark and Subic. In short, the whole Philippine archipelago under MLSA will be one big port for US imperialism , a situation that Washington strategists have long aspired for. In time to come, in an American war, the whole of the Philippines can be caught in one huge conflagration. Truly, Filipinos will always be on teeter edge, since of all nations, the US has the most enemies as evident by the greatest number of its embassies bombed worldwide compared to those of any other countries.
VFA and MLSA are supposed to be part of the implementation of the Mutual Defense Treaty(MDT) of the Philippines with the US, signed in 1951 with the goal of mutual defense of the two countries against external attacks. It must be noted again that the US Senate never ratified MDT as did the Philippine Senate, which shows the high-handed treatment of the US towards its former colony. But MDT does not provide the sending of American troops to help quell an internal rebellion or banditry as is true with the activities of the Abu Sayaff. Thus even with the MDT, Balikatan 02-1 is unconstitutional.
The need for ILPS-Philippines
The First International Assembly of the International League for Peoples Struggles(ILPS) last year is a great milestone in our militant, anti-imperialist struggles. We need to carry forward these struggles, especially in the light of an ever-worsening crisis of global monopoly capitalism and the more recent US-led wars of aggression and intervention. While the modern-day conquistadores expand for imperialist world hegemony, all the more do we need to strengthen our resolve and the capability to fight back. We have taken a decisive step with the formation of the ILPS. We will now take it further. We shall see to the formation of the Philippine National Chapter of the ILPS.
In November last year, US President Bush and Philippine President Macapagal-Arroyo met, marking the 50th year of the post-World War II US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty. They did not only talk about the export of Philippine mangoes to the U.S. Bush agreed to give over $1-billion in Generalized System of Preferences(GSP) benefits, increased quotas of US imports of textile and garments from the Philippines, guarantee programs worth $150-million for US agricultural exports to the country, $40 million in so-called food aid, $29-million for Mindanao, a special credit line of $200 million from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation(OPIC), a ten-fold increase in Foreign Military Financing from $1.9 million to $19million for this year, and a total security assistance to the Philippines nearly $100 million. (Actually, Bush wants an increase to 379 billion dollars for his defense budget next year, boosting their military-industrial complex and hoping to revive the US economy that is now in deep recession.) The military and financial aid to the country is a drop in the bucket, so to speak. But this is very much like the military and financial aid given by the US to the late dictator Marcos when the US military bases were still in the country before being booted out in 1991. Of course, in exchange for the fresh support, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo acceded to a Mutual Logistics Support Agreement(or MLSA) with the US which would provide for flexible basing of US troops in the Philippines.
With the full backing and support by the US, President Arroyo as the commander-in-chief of theArmed Forces of the Philippines has unleashed a most brutal war against progressive and militant forces. Even the unarmed, legal democratic movement is not spared. More than 20members from my partylist, Bayan Muna, have been murdered in the past 18 months since Arroyo became President. One-hundred forty-eight(148) activists have been killed in this short period. In Basilan island alone, with the recent US military training exercise, 10 people were killed, more than a thousand people bombed and shelled, and more than 3,000 people and entire communities forced to evacuate. That is just in one small island, far South. You can just imagine the atrocities being replicated here on a scale of 7,000 islands with about 80 million people. This would be another bloody Vietnam or would be a bigger bloody Vietnam should US armed intervention be allowed to gain headway.
Indeed, another Vietnam is in the offing. But also, another bloody defeat for the U.S.. That is what the US will surely suffer from the hands of a rising people, and from the heightened anti-imperialist struggles in the world, be it in the Philippines, Nepal, Peru, Colombia, Palestine, whether in nations asserting their sovereignty or in the enemy imperialist homeground themselves. Hence, we must prepare for the inevitable. We must prepare for battle, and be ready for more intense battles ahead.
The Task At Hand
More than 300 delegates and guests, representing 232 mass organizations from 40 countries, attended the First Assembly of the International League for Peoples Struggles(ILPS) last year. Forty-eight of those organizations are here from the Philippines. The task at hand now is to consolidate our Philippine member organizations into a National Chapter of the ILPS or what we call the ILPS-Philippines. This is to strengthen both our local struggle and to work for the 18 major concerns of our International League.
ILPS-Philippine chapter has the distinct task and responsibility to strengthen the anti-imperialist forces in the country and unite the Filipino people to expose and resist US imperialist designs and actual acts of aggression and intervention in the Philippines and in the region.
ILPS Philippine chapter is a key force in the broad anti-imperialist front as embodied by ILPS and must play its role in strengthening ILPS internationally so that it may lead the fight against terrorist, interventionist and aggressive actions of US imperialism and its allies in the whole world.
Cognizant of the great and difficult tasks ahead, the ILPS is ever more committed to intensify its efforts to arouse, organize and mobilize the broad masses of the people to fight imperialist globalization and war.
The League will strive harder to attract more anti-imperialist and democratic organizations in many more countries and continents. It will have to exert more effort in carrying out political education, conducting mass campaigns and in linking up and uniting with other progressive forces in order to build a broad anti-imperialist solidarity and international united front for the national and social liberation of the people.
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