U.S. Visits of Philippine Presidents
President Benigno Simeon Aquino’s visit to the United States may well become a watershed in Philippine-U.S. relations if for the first time he shows to our former colonizer and to the world that we do not conduct our foreign policy as pushovers. Can Aquino really uphold the interests of his real boss – the Filipino people – as he had vowed during his Inaugural Address? This remains to be seen.
Presidential visits to the United States by newly-elected Philippine presidents have usually become occasions to pay courtesy calls to the master-patron, much more like paying a visit to the Godfather who wants to be assured of loyalty from his subjects. These initial visits by newly-installed Philippine presidents have also been occasions for Filipino leaders to impress the American president and his proconsults of their reliability as U.S. allies among the coterie of rival elite leaders from the Filipino oligarchy to protect U.S. strategic and economic interests in the Philippines.
Further, Filipino leaders have in the past also used their U.S. visits to solicit more U.S. military assistance – both in the form of Foreign Military Sales Credits (FMSC) and outright military grants to beef up the local war machine for counterinsurgency, and to suppress social movements seeking to challenge the dominance of foreign and local elites. But this foreign military assistance solicited is usually more in the form of financing to buy more weapons and war materiel, which can only further add to the already bloated debt burden.
As for the solicitation of more foreign loans for their legacy projects, the visits are also an occasion for such borrowing sprees. It can only make one wonder why presidents can even treat these as part of their achievements as statesmen when the annual repayments will only add up to the reduction of the national budget targeted for health, education, and other basic social services.
I have also taken the view ALL foreign loan agreements and contracts with bilateral and multilateral financial institutions should be treated as international agreements subject to treaty ratification by the Philippine Senate. This may be the only way that there can be some form of transparency on these loan agreements that we never get to see but are made to pay.
Just a year ago, on September 22, 2009, the Philippine Senate, after extensively reviewing the 10-year old Philippine-U.S. Visiting Forces Agreement, approved Senate Resolution 1356 without a single objection “Expressing the Sense of the Senate that the Department of Foreign Affairs should seek to Renegotiate the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, and in case of denial, should give notice of termination of the VFA.” President Aquino, who was a member of the Philippine Senate then, was one of those who approved that Senate resolution.
It must be emphasized that, in view of the ten years of the implementation of the VFA, Senate Resolution 1356 was the result of an extensive review of the VFA by Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Joint Legislative Council on the VFA composed of the Senate and House Committee on Foreign Relations.
The Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement ( or VFA Commission) headed by retired General Edilberto Adan who is its Executive Director even submitted a report to the Senate with the title, THE VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT AFTER TEN YEARS: Serving the National Interest. The official report of the VFA Commission, if read without knowing that it came from a Filipino Commission with offices at the Department of Foreign Affairs, reads like a report from the U.S. Embassy or even by the U.S. Department of Defense. For, like the press releases of the U.S. Embassy in Manila, it attributes every facet of Philippine-U.S. relations to the VFA.
And rightfully, the Philippine Senate, in its Resolution 1356, rejected the glowing achievements of the VFA as bragged by the VFA Commission. Instead, the Senate exposed – through its Resolution – the ” fatal flaws of the VFA including the failure to specify the period of stay of visiting U.S. forces, the failure to define their activities that they can engage in Philippine territory”. The Senate became convinced that contrary to denials by the VFA Commission, U.S. troops are in fact engaged in combat, and that the U.S. Senate has not done its part to ratify the treaty to be in full force.
Philippine foreign policy was conducted with total subservience by the former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as manifested by its lapdog support to the so-called “U.S. War on Terror” which led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. The way Arroyo’s government behaved towards its own citizen who was the victim during the Subic rape case can only be described as shameful.
Now is the time for President Aquino to walk the talk. And show that he is different from his predecessor.
* Article by Roland G Simbulan – For a full professional background of Professor Roland G. Simbulan (Click Here)