TOWARDS A NUCLEAR-FREE ASIA PACIFIC
Roland G. Simbulan
Professor, University of the Philippines
National Chairperson, Nuclear –Free Philippines Coalition (NFPC)
(Keynote Address before the plenary session of the Fifth National Conference of the Nuclear-Free Zone Local Authorities of Japan and the Nuclear-Free Citizens’ Network-Japan,
Sapporo City, Hokkaido, Japan, July 20, 1997.)
I would like to greet the organizers and participants of this important conference, the summit of the people of Japan and Okinawa, local officials and citizens fighting against nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants. We are grateful to the steering committee of the Nuclear Free Zone Citizen Network Japan and the Working Committee for the Fifth Conference of the Nuclear Free Zone Local Authorities-Japan in Sapporo for having invited us from the Philippines to share our views and experiences to your conference which is being held as a parallel conference to the United Nations Conference on Disarmament here in Sapporo City, Hokkaido, Japan. We admire the intrepid work for peace and nuclear disarmament done by the Peace Forces of Japan and Okinawa which is greatly promoting the ultimate goal of global nuclear disarmament. It is in gatherings of peacemakers and peace forces like this that future generations are given hope and assurance for a safer tomorrow.
It is admirable that you are determined to bring together into a broad anti-nuclear democratic alliance all citizens, political parties, local authorities and officials, sectors, organizations and individuals for the empowerment, participation and self-determination of citizens from all walks of life. It is of urgent necessity for all sectors in a country to unite and forge a solid united front for a nuclear-free and foreign military bases-free world. The anti-nuclear movements of the Japanese and Okinawan peoples are definitely a vital and integral part of the world-wide anti-nuclear movement. Without the broad and militant participation of citizens in common struggle, victory cannot be won. We all need to unite and forge strong solidarity—nationally and internationally—in the struggle to build a just, democratic and nuclear-free global, regional and national order. BUT THIS ALL DEPENDS ON WHAT HAPPENS LOCALLY ON THE GROUND. The struggle is an arduous and difficult one because of the enormous and powerful foe that confronts us. But history has time and again shown, that it is not the size or might alone of the aggressor that determines the outcome of a fight , but the determination of a struggling people that ultimately spells the difference. This National Conference of Local Authorities and Citizens of Japan and Okinawa helps make that difference.
I represent the Nuclear-Free Philippines Coalition, a campaign-oriented coalition of 128 national and sectoral organizations of teachers, youth, students, peasants, women, health workers, churches, labor unions, urban poor, science and technology, and human rights advocates nationwide, including indigenous people’s organizations. Established in January 26, 1981, the Nuclear-Free Philippines Coalition spearheaded the successful campaigns against the construction and operation of the first and only nuclear power plant in the Philippines located at Bataan province; likewise, it succeeded in the incorporation of the nuclear-weapons-free provision in the 1987 Philippine constitution, which now declares as a State Policy: “The Philippines, consistent with the national interest, adopts and pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory.” And finally, the Coalition led the successful national campaign for the removal of U.S. military bases in the Philippines in 1991.
Our Objectives in the Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition (NFPC) are the following:
1. To inculcate the anti-nuclear consciousness among Filipinos by launching education drives;
2. To broaden the anti-nuclear movement by mobilizing the existing national and local organizations, schools and communities nationwide;
3. Lastly, to generate strong international support for the nuclear-free Philippines movement and contribute to the realization of a nuclear-free and independent Pacific by forging solidarity relations with international and national anti-nuclear and peace movements from other countries. Today, we continue to block any attempt by the Philippine government to build nuclear power plants in any part of the country, while advocating safe and renewable energy sources; we also continue to oppose foreign military access to Philippine territory by defending the pro-peace, anti-nuclear provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution; campaign for the abrogation of the the 1951 Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty and Military Assistance Agreement; and finally, we advocate the perspective for a self-reliant, pro-Filipino and environment-friendly conversion of the former US military bases.
DEAR PEACEMAKERS AND PEACE FORCES OF JAPAN AND OKINAWA:
There are clear signs that in the 21st century, the zone of advanced technology and industrial progress will be shifting to the Asia-Pacific. And if we analyze the current trends, the Asia-Pacific region is the area where world economics and politics will most likely focus next century. At the same time, what we are witnessing is a major repositioning of the entire economic, political and military infrastructure of the United States from the Atlantic tot he Pacific direction. The emergence in Asia and the Pacific of “newly industrialized nations” such as Singapore, China, Malaysia, South Korea, among others, has boosted the importance of the Asia-Pacific region in the economic and foreign policy strategy of the United States. (See US Department of Defense, US Security Strategy for the East-Asia Pacific Region, 1995.)
Today, the cornerstone of US military presence in the Asia –Pacific as well as of US power and reach in Asia and adjacent areas, is still the US-Japan military alliance. In Asia, US military might is actually the largest military force overseas of a foreign power on land and sea. As US Air Force Pacific General John Lorber bragged, “ We, the US , are a Pacific nation where command extends from west coast of the United States to the Eastern coast of Africa and includes both polar extremes. The US has 7 defense treaties…worldwide, and 5 of them are in the Pacific region.”
In view of the significance of the US-Japan security alliance to US strategic interests, the US and Japanese governments have undeniably a moral commitment to lead the way in the reduction of and removal of overseas US military forces in Asia. At the same time, a strong movement for a nuclear weapons-free and foreign-bases-free world is taking shape in Asia and the Pacific. Many countries now advocate nuclear disarmament and the idea of establishing nuclear-free zones of peace and demilitarizing the seas and oceans of the region, the most recent one being the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty (December, 1995). This now complements the Treaty of Raratonga or the Nuclear Weapons Free Zone for the South Pacific.
The Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone Treaty of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is significant because, it is, according to its own objectives, “determined to protect the region from environmental pollution and the hazards posed by radioactive wastes and other radioactive materials,” and “determined to take concrete action which will contribute to the progress towards general and complete disarmament of nuclear weapons….”(ASEAN-SOM Working Group on Zone of Peace Freedom and Neutrality or ZOPFAN and SEA-NWFZ Treaty).
The Japan-US Joint Declaration of April 1996 last year during the visit to Japan of US President Bill Clinton is really an affirmation that the ruling circles of the United States and Japan have not graduated from the Cold War mentality. Theirs is a Cold War viewpoint in a Post Cold War Order. The essential question that should be asked is, who is now the enemy and who is now the target of this security alliance in Asia which the US considers as the most important bilateral security alliance in Asia? And, for whose interests is this alliance essentially?
Increasingly, there is a view that this is really the security of the US and Japanese elites, the corporate interests which control their respective governments. The fact that this alliance is now being rapidly internationalized, that is, where US forces in Okinawa and Japan are utilized for rapid deployment missions in every part of the world shows the kind of “ stability” that is being projected in the Post Cold War world. US bases have only contributed to the stability of US big business and corporate interests in the Asia-Pacific region. They have employed these US forces to stabilize US interests and authoritarian governments propped up by US arms and training against the Asian peoples struggling for social justice and reform. US military presence have indeed given assurance to the highlyl authoritarian and elite-led Asian regimes that the United States will back them up should there be threats – both internal and external – to their rule.
Your struggle to build a society free from nuclear threats illumines our own continuing struggle to keep the Philippines free from both nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants. Your grassroots resistance to the nuclear menace by your own local communities and citizens strengthens our own fight against new schemes to make our country a nuclear colony once again of the United States.
Article II, Section 8 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides:
“The Philippines, consistent with the national interest, adopts and pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory.”
Examine the words , the way the sentence is constructed. Do you read two or three meanings or just one? Only one, and it says, consistent with the national interest, the Philippines hereby adopts and pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory. It is a declaration of state policy, not a promise or intention of future policy. By virtue of this provision, the Philippine state, as decided by the Philippine Senate in 1991 when it rejected a new proposed treaty, has committed to making the entire country nuclear-weapons-free. Given the nuclear-free policy laid down by the Philippine Constitution, even transient visits by nuclear armed vessels or aircraft is prohibited. The government may not store or allow anyone to store nuclear weapons inside the national territory, and nuclear armed aircraft and vessels may not be allowed to enter, according to that constitutional policy. But US military forces still want to enter through the back door.
But, if a nation strongly demands an end to nuclear weapons, nuclear power plants and foreign military bases, government will have to respond accordingly. In the Philippines, we have seen the importance of citizen involvement in the nuclear power and nuclear arms debate many times before. Only our citizens’ vigilance and involvement has altered our nation’s dangerous path in dismantling the Marcos dictatorship(1986), mothballing the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant(1986), drafting and ratifying a nuclear weapons-free constitution in the post-Marcos era(1987), and dismantling all US military bases and forces from Philippine territory(1991).
Our anti-nuclear and anti-bases movement has seen people banding together to demonstrate that they had had enough of nuclear war-fighting strategies and has provided a good example of the importance of citizen-sponsored initiatives. Philippine history is full of such successful citizen movements, including those in recent times, which were instrumental in dismantling the former Marcos dictatorship, the stopping of the operation of the nuclear power plant in Bataan, the incorporation of a nuclear weapons-free provision in the 1987 Philippine constitution, and the removal of US military bases from Philippine soil in 1991. We in the Philippine have witnessed the importance of citizen involvement in our successful struggles against nuclear weapons, the Bataan nuclear power plant and US military bases. Strong citizen involvement do make a difference.
Citizens have taken an active role on the nuclear issue (both nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons) as an ecological or environmental issue. Filipinos who live in an archipelagic country enthusiastically joined in a national campaign against French nuclear testing, as much as they had rejected with resounding vehemence the Bataan nuclear power plant and nuclear weapons and the US military bases in which they were stored and transited.
Our national governments have distorted the real meaning of national security. A nation can truly be made more secured by non-military spending. For national security is more than soldiers, tanks or missiles. National security is health, housing, nutrition programs, education and infrastructure capable of sustaining a productive economy. The basic question, “security for whom” must be asked whenever the topic of national security comes up. Ecological and environmental issues, for instance, fall within this question. People must take over and recover this fundamental issue from the hands of the so-called experts and national security advisers.
Role of the United Nations
The on-going United Nations Conference on Disarmament in Sapporo City should be reflective of the United Nations’ original mandate as a multilateral organization. The UN does and can still serve as the focal point for diplomatic efforts to resolve regional or global issues and crises. It is a venue for such exchange and dialogue but it should not be the muscle nor shield of an international bully.
We may ask:
Is the UN doing the right thing by deploying its so-called peacekeeping military forces in several parts of the world?
Is it being manipulated by the United States or the G-7(Group of 7 industrialized centers) as police enforcer of a globalized economy under the terms of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT)?
Perhaps, it is about time that the UN focused on such “globalized issues” long neglected by its pre-occupation with the prevention of war. I am referring to DEVELOPMENT and ENVIRONMENT as a collective issue that we must urgently confront globally through this multilateral agency.
The United Nations can use its specialized agencies like UNICEF, UNDP and the United Nations Environmental Program to deal concretely with the real issues eroding our security in the next century.
The complex issues like poverty, crime, environmental problems and scarcity of natural resources demand that we channel our efforts toward life-enhancing instead of life-destroying endeavors. The citizens of our countries have the will and strength to change our government’s national priorities. To bring about a change in our countries’ defense and foreign policies, citizens need to keep the debate alive by discussing the issues with friends, family and organizations locally.
It has been five years since the United States completed its pull-out from the former Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Bases, as well as other minor bases in the Philippines. These former bases are now teeming with business and economic activity and Subic is even advertised now as an economic miracle and the “New Hong Kong” of the 21st century.
According to a published report of the Philippine Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), as of October, 1996, or only four years after the US completed its military pullout from the Philippines, incoming investments in the former baselands have reached $1.8 billion dollars and generated 65,927 jobs – even surpassing the employment capacity of US base activities during the Vietnam War. This Philippine experience has proven in reality that indeed, “there is life after the US bases.”
But, at this point, let me share with you my observations about what is happening and how the United States is trying to reverse the successful economic conversion of the former bases. The United States is lobbying and negotiating for the approval of an Acquisition and Cross-servicing Agreement and a Status of Forces Agreement to govern the legal position of visiting nuclear armed US forces and vessels on port visits and US forces participating in joint military exercises. Secret talks are going on between US and Philippine military officials to allow US ships to re-use Subic and 21 other Philippine ports for the “cross-servicing” of US military forces. They are exploiting our territorial claims with China over the Spratlys islands to drumbeat support of these two military agreements being lobbied heavily by the United States. A “let’s get on with it” theme was expressed recently by US Ambassador to the Philippines Thomas Hubbard when he revealed in a Los Angeles Conference last May 1997 on the “State of Philippine-US Security Relations” that she wanted to see a “comprehensive Mutual Defense Treaty” between the Philippines and the United States where US forces would once again be allowed to train and use Philippine territory for their environmentally-destructive military exercises.
Under the guise of “commercial terms” and seeking to give commercial advantages for the Philippines, the United States wants to disregard the Philippine constitution. And they are also pushing President Fidel V. Ramos to change or amend the Philippine anti-nuclear Constitution because that constitution contains a clear prohibition on nuclear weapons. But given the US government’s standard practice of “neither confirming nor denying the presence of nuclear armaments” on their navy vessels, why are US military ships allowed to traverse Philippine territorial waters? Clearly, even the so-called commercial access for refueling , repair or replenishment of foreign or US military vessels must be subjected to the jurisdiction of our own Philippine constitution and customs, immigration and criminal laws. As to the proposed Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that is being negotiated to give criminal immunity on Philippine territory to visiting US forces who are either on “rest and recreational visits” or destroying the Philippine environment with artillery or mortar fire, no self-respecting country ever gives special treatment to foreign military forces, especially when they commit crimes on one’s territory. It is only in countries still hosting US military forces thru bases that usually there are provisions for “status of forces”. All visiting foreign vessels must be subjected to national customs and immigration laws and procedures which are normally required for all nationalities. To sign away the right of imposing one’s own national, criminal, customs and immigration procedures would be tantamount to the wholesale infringement of one’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty.
But why is the United States in need of an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement and Status of Forces Agreement at this time? When there is peace and no obvious threat from any rival global/regional military power?
According to Retired US Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll, “the United States is now engaged in an arms race with itself.” (Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 2, 1995). The Pentagon’s 1997 defense budget eats up 52% of total US taxes dollars which includes 22% for current military expenditures and 30% for past military expenses (Veteran’s Benefits).
There is also the need to display and show off the latest US aircraft and weaponry in joint military exercises all over the Philippines (with Filipino and other Asian forces) so that the US can continue to corner the Asian market for missiles, planes, weapons of mass destruction, radars , etc. , thus further fueling a regional arms race. No less than US Ambassador to Manila Thomas Hubbard expressed this when he stated that, “ …we hope the Armed Forces of the Philippines will look for US suppliers to play a major role in modernization.” (Rotary Club of Manila speech, Sept. 26, 1996). The Armed Forces of the Philippines is currently implementing a P330 billion pesos Modernization Program which US arms suppliers and industry hopes to corner with fat contracts.
Meanwhile, the Department of Energy of the Philippines has recently unveiled a plan to establish ten(10) nuclear power plants in various parts of the Philippines. In these two instances, Japanese big business may also be given a vital role considering the ability of Japan through its Official Development Assistance (ODA) to finance nuclear power plant sales and other related technologies. Furthermore, there is a tie-up between the US armaments/weapons industries and Toyota, Mitsubishi, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Honda, Uniden, Fujitsu, NEC, Hitachi, etc. in the production of sophisticated missiles and aircraft and other lethal weapons being marketed for export especially to Southeast Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei , Indonesia , Thailand and the Philippines.
Your conference and summit of the Japanese and Okinawan peace movements, I am sure, represents one more step towards greater coordination and consolidation of people’s organizations on a national scale in Japan and Okinawa. The Peace Forces of Japan and Okinawa, together with their allies in the Asian people’s movements such as in the Philippines, Korea and Indonesia and Thailand, are confronted with the following challenges as we enter the new millennium:
1.Fully expose and vigorously oppose “US global military commitments” or the unilateral role that the United States has placed upon itself as the rightful and sole global policeman with the authority to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries on behalf of US corporate interests or “strategic interests”. This unilateralism in global affairs has now become official policy. (Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, US Congress, Heariungs, THE USE OF FORCE IN THE POST COLD WAR ERA, March 3, 1993);
2. Struggle to establish Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone Treaties in the whole of Asia-Pacific region, and formulate legislation to implement or enforce this on our national territories and local communities, tapping the energies both of local governments and citizens’ movements;
3. Resist all forms of military alliances especially those that would legitimize the transit and deployment of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, etc.) as well as those that would legalize provocative military exercises by foreign military forces on our territories;
4. Strengthen our anti-nuclear solidarity, engage in the solid organizing of our local and national citizens’ organizations and alliances and enhance our capacities to carry out both independent and coordinated programs of action and forge strong solidarity links among ourselves and other anti-nuclear groups to further advance the world anti-nuclear movement.
Finally, the top priority of every citizen and public official should be to work for an enhanced quality of life for present and future generations. This is why we want a reduction of unproductive arms and military expenditures. Towards this end, let us continue to promote our nuclear-free resolutions and ordinances and let this spread to the national government. Each and every individual citizen must make a difference.
Let your voices be heard, because reform and transformation in the national body politic begins in the nation’s villages, local communities, cities ,municipalities and prefectures.
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in 2002