News / Asia

In Philippines, Obama Visit Stirs Critics of Plan to Boost US Troops

The women's advocacy group Gabriela is one of the lead organizers of anti-American military protests like this one in Manila ahead of President Barrack Obama's visit, April 23, 2014. (Simone Orendain/VOA)
The women's advocacy group Gabriela is one of the lead organizers of anti-American military protests like this one in Manila ahead of President Barrack Obama's visit, April 23, 2014. (Simone Orendain/VOA)
Simone Orendain
A pending agreement for more American troop rotations to the Philippines continues to have strong support in the country, which is facing territorial challenges from an increasingly assertive China. But in the days leading up to President Barrack Obama’s visit to Manila, some opponents are being more vocal. 
 
The Philippines military, business sector and local media generally have a favorable view of a proposal that would see more American military ships and planes stopping in the Philippines. But the mostly left-leaning groups who oppose it point to historical grievances.
 
Youth militant leader Vencer Crisostomo pushes against a police shield to get closer to the U.S. embassy in Manila ahead of President Barrack Obama's visit to the Philippines, April 23, 2014. (Simone Orendain/VOA)Youth militant leader Vencer Crisostomo pushes against a police shield to get closer to the U.S. embassy in Manila ahead of President Barrack Obama's visit to the Philippines, April 23, 2014. (Simone Orendain/VOA)
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Youth militant leader Vencer Crisostomo pushes against a police shield to get closer to the U.S. embassy in Manila ahead of President Barrack Obama's visit to the Philippines, April 23, 2014. (Simone Orendain/VOA)
Youth militant leader Vencer Crisostomo pushes against a police shield to get closer to the U.S. embassy in Manila ahead of President Barrack Obama's visit to the Philippines, April 23, 2014. (Simone Orendain/VOA)
Renato Reyes, Secretary General of the New Patriotic Alliance party and organizer of anti-American protests ahead of Obama’s visit, said since the late 1800’s when the U.S. colonized the Philippines, American troops have had a major presence in the country.  Reyes said historically Philippine laws have had “no teeth” when U.S. military were found to be in violation.
 
“The pattern is that they always find a way to circumvent our laws and to place themselves above Philippine laws and in the process they practically violate our sovereignty.  So this agreement that they are going to sign brings back a lot of those old problems of when we had U.S. bases in the country,” Reyes said.
 
American military outposts have been in the Philippines since colonial times and after World War II they were expanded.  But in 1991, the Philippine Senate moved to shut them down in response to strong domestic pressure.  Reyes says hosting the U.S. military “violated our sovereignty, left a lot of toxic waste that has not been cleaned up [even] until now and worsened prostitution.”
 
In 1999 the country entered into a visiting forces agreement with the U.S., which has since sent regular rotations to the country’s south to train local troops in counterterrorism tactics.
 
Philippine negotiators say under the proposed new arrangement there would be no permanent U.S. bases, in accordance with the Philippine constitution.  And the accord would not last longer than 20 years.  They also pushed for access to whatever temporary structures Americans have within Philippine outposts.
 
Anti-American military protesters head toward the U.S. embassy in Manila ahead of President Barrack Obama's visit to the Philippines, April 23, 2014. (Simone Orendain/VOA)Anti-American military protesters head toward the U.S. embassy in Manila ahead of President Barrack Obama's visit to the Philippines, April 23, 2014. (Simone Orendain/VOA)
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Anti-American military protesters head toward the U.S. embassy in Manila ahead of President Barrack Obama's visit to the Philippines, April 23, 2014. (Simone Orendain/VOA)
Anti-American military protesters head toward the U.S. embassy in Manila ahead of President Barrack Obama's visit to the Philippines, April 23, 2014. (Simone Orendain/VOA)
That has not appeased opponents. The secretary general of the women’s rights group Gabriela, Joms Salvador, said the agreement amounts to “strategic basing” for the U.S. which has set its policy sites on Asia, where China’s military continues to grow.
 
“We are deeply concerned that this whole thing is getting the Filipino people dragged into… the military power-play that the U.S. is doing and it’s also inviting the danger of war to our people,” Salvador explained.
 
The Philippines, which is perceived by many to be militarily weak, is in a heated territorial row with China about a number of small islets in the resource-rich South China Sea.  And there is some strong support for having the U.S. around to counter China’s stepped up assertion of its claim to nearly the entire sea.  Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims in the region.
 
Management Association of the Philippines Vice President Rafael Alunan said in recent years China has kept the Philippines out of three economically vital shoals and reefs that are within the country's 370 kilometer exclusive economic zone.
 
“I personally welcome that new security pact because it will help our country protect its honor, territory and resources as we strive to build up our national defense in the face of the clear and present danger that China has been posing to the region,” said Alunan.
 
Manila-based political analyst Ramon Casiple said the usual voices that speak out against U.S.-Philippines military ties do have the support of the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who wants to review the agreement.
 
“There are serious arguments there like the nationalist argument, the prostitution problem, the usual impact, basically, on internal politics here.  But I don’t think they are of a proportion that can threaten the agreement itself,” stated Casiple.
 
The agreement, which will not need Congressional approval, is expected to be signed during Obama’s visit next week.  Renato Reyes said once the details are made public, opponents plan to file a petition against it with the Supreme Court.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Katina Cooper from: Santa Barbara, Ca
April 28, 2014 9:55 AM
Haven't we spent enough billions on overseas bases? How many more billions will we spend rebuilding the Philippines bases for American troops? Maybe we should spend those billions rebuilding our roads and bridges first, and feeding the school children in this country.

by: Ian from: USA
April 27, 2014 1:27 PM
I have a suggestion:
The Philippines government could arm these communist string puppets and ship them out to the Scarborough shoal .
There, they could demonstrate once and for all whether they will defend the sovereignty of Philippines or they will turncoat and joint their communist Chinese master .

by: Bill
April 27, 2014 7:47 AM
Toxic waste? Have you ever looked into "any" of the waterways surrounding Manila? Now that's pollution!!

by: pinoybrit from: UK
April 26, 2014 5:22 PM
Pinoys are genetically closer to the Chinese vs Americans. Perhaps his excellency President Aquino have forgotten who facilitated his father's death?
How gullible ang Pinoy! The US bases brought a lot ofdiseases in the land! For those who are totally blinded by American propaganda wake up!
In Response

by: John Philip from: US, CA
May 09, 2014 1:05 AM
That is one fallacy .. to assume that all Filipinos are genetically closer to chinese..

What about the mestizos that grew up in the Philippines? Natives living the barrio?

U.S. bases bring economic development and US$ to the area where they are located.

Drop the pride - ur probably one of those filipinos that is not even from Subic, Zambales, Clark etc - because if you were - you would be partying and rejoicing on the streets because work is back in the city..
In Response

by: Ian from: USA
April 27, 2014 1:45 PM
The Filipinos are not genetically related to the Han Chinese at all. They are Austronesian group (which includes the non Han Taiwanese aborigines)
In Response

by: Anonymous
April 26, 2014 5:49 PM
Were it not the Americans that liberated us from the imperial powers at be (Spanish) during the late 1800's? Were it not the Americans that brought us a standardized educational system? Were it not the Americans that taught us English? Which to this day puts us ahead of our other Asiatic neighbors because it makes us more marketable than them. The Spanish could have cared less because to them the Filipino people were just slaves to work their fields in the haciendas and tools to curb the sexual needs of their friars. The Chinese DONT care about the well being of the Filipino people because they only care about the enrichment of their nation and encroachment on other countries (i.e. Japan, Taiwan, Korea,Vietnam and the PHILIPPINES to name a few) territories proves that they DONT care about the sovereignty of others. Please do some research and you will quickly find out that the Americans only had our best interest in mind.

by: jwillwon3 from: usa
April 26, 2014 9:19 AM
you can`t please everyone, but those opposing people should remember, who gave them their independence, who pushed the Japanese away, do they want China to move in and rule? who is the first to come to the Filipino aid when any problems occur? Give a little Love back to all the Love given to the Philippines from the US and go put flowers on the Graves of my forefathers who are buried on your soil !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In Response

by: Ben from: USA
April 27, 2014 2:17 AM
Superunamused,
What you said about the Constitution of the Phillippines isn't entirely true. Foreign troops are forbidden unless a treaty is approved by the Philippine Congress, which is the path that America is pursuing.

Here is a quote from Article XVIII, Section 25 of the 1987 Constitution:

"...foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State."
In Response

by: superunamused from: Manila Philippines
April 26, 2014 2:05 PM
As an expat living in manila I've sensed no hatred towards Americans.

To educate yourself, they are against troops of ANY nation on their soil. Their constitution forbids it.

So... if something violates the USA constitution, does that not make you angry?

They are very grateful for our help with the Japanese. But they are not grateful for violations to their constitution. Think of it as a neighbor, who saved your daughter from getting hit by a car, but later that day came over and burned down your garage. You're very grateful that they saved your daughters life... but srsly? Why you breaking mah Shiitee?

by: jc from: Antique
April 26, 2014 4:46 AM
They are all stupid communists! God Bless The Philippines and the United states!

by: hansarang from: davao
April 25, 2014 7:55 PM
This groupof people should also rally against China to be fair, talking about imperialism, how about Chinese in the Philippines? Go and get information from the laborers. How much are their wages? Are they in the minimum pay? Many of our laborers are exploited. When China exceed their claim of their territory to Scarb. SL....what is the reaction of these groups? If our government can't stop this group, the conflict of Ukraine will also happen to us.

by: Juanito from: Manila, Philippines
April 25, 2014 1:37 PM
I would like to say, that this group of people does not represent the majority sentiment of Filipinos. They are, in fact, a minority. These leftist (communist) group is tied to the New People's Army, the armed rebel group of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which is funded by China. Please ignore them! 85% of Filipinos love Americans and very much welcome their presence in our country. We will never forget the help the US has given us after typhoon Yolanda ravaged the Visayas region.
In Response

by: John Philip from: US, CA
May 09, 2014 1:08 AM
Juanito -

Those are the people that cause the traffic in EDSA - in the picture they look like alot but in truth less that 10 people - max 20..

Drivers esp. going through the area of embassy normally honk and curse at them for being a nuisance..

But its not their fault..the one to blame is THE REPORTER and PHOTOGRAPHER - publishing news not worth mentioning because there probably was not a murder or a Headline incident that occured that day
In Response

by: Dennis from: Manila
April 25, 2014 7:25 PM
These leftist groups are minority...and quite annoying!!! Please place into this perspective: according to the local news, there were only 50~100 protesters. Manila has 10 Million people, the whole Phil is ~100 Million. But in the international news, they appear to be significant. They even caused unnecessary traffic during their activity which also invited backlash from a lot of motorists.

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