September 14, 2011
Anti-US bases activists and campaigners held a gathering today to mark the 20th anniversary of the Philippine Senate’s rejection of a new bases treaty with the United States. Twenty-years ago in September 16, amid intense public pressure and protests, 12 Philippine senators voted to reject a new treaty.
Umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, the League of Filipino Students and Gabriela were at the forefront of the efforts to oust the bases. Past and present leaders of these and various cause-oriented groups gathered at the University of the Philippines College of Law to remember the hard-won victory of booting out the US bases in the country.
Bayan said that the United States continues to maintain an extensive global network of more than 700 military bases in more than 60 countries worldwide. US troops are also deployed in around 156 countries engaging in various military operations, overt and covert.
The group said that it was important for the country to remember this “historic act of patriotism and sterling achievement in the assertion of our national sovereignty.” Among the speakers in the forum/gathering were Nathaniel Santiago, former LFS chair and Bayan secretary general, Gabriela chair Liza Maza and anti-bases campaigner Prof. Roland Simbulan.
“We should be proud of this accomplishment. Not many countries in the world can say that they successfully booted out foreign military bases. We did it through consistent struggle, through the mass movement that spanned several decades. It was a rare occasion for Philippine lawmakers to stand up for national sovereignty and national interest,” said Bayan chair Carol Araullo.
“The younger generation should know of this historic moment when the Filipino people triumphed over decades-long foreign imposition. It was a major victory against US imperialism in Southeast Asia,” she added.
Bayan however lamented that the people’s victory of the US bases continues to be undermined by what it described as “lopsided agreements” such as the Visiting Forces Agreement.
“While US bases have left, US troops remain in the Philippines through the VFA and the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement. Truth is, US troops have been permanently stationed in Mindanao since 2002, when the US initiated Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
“The Aquino government has uncritically accepted the permanent and continuing presence of US troops in Mindanao. These foreign troops have set up forward bases in Zamboanga and smaller facilities in Jolo and Tawi-Tawi. They are no longer visitors and are engaged in military operations. They are stationed in the country 365 days a year. This is a reversal of the gains we made in eliminating US bases in the Philippines,” Reyes added. ###