News / Asia

Philippine Public Divided on Increased US Military Visits

FILE - Protesters hold placards as they demonstrate against the ongoing negotiations between the U.S. and the Philippines in front of the military headquarters in Quezon city, metro Manila, Aug. 15, 2013.
FILE - Protesters hold placards as they demonstrate against the ongoing negotiations between the U.S. and the Philippines in front of the military headquarters in Quezon city, metro Manila, Aug. 15, 2013.
Simone Orendain
Many in the Philippines, including the country’s president, have said they expect a deal to be reached soon between their government and the United States that would see more American troops visiting the Philippines. With a strong push for the proposal from many sides, ordinary Filipinos are split on whether more U.S. troops in the country is a positive.
 
Michael Ferros said that he is in favor of having more U.S. troops in the Philippines.  The sales executive in Manila’s business district said “it’s because of China.”
 
“If there’s the U.S. troop[s] here, I think they will not penetrate Philippines.  Like before when U.S. [was] in Subic they could not bully other Asian countries,” said Ferros.
 
Ferros pointed out that the U.S. has “the most capable Navy” in the world and they should have their old base back.  Subic is situated off the South China Sea.
 
Two other respondents agreed with Ferros out of a dozen who consented to talk to VOA.  Two thirds of the respondents in the informal survey said the U.S. should visit more often.
 
The U.S. had several bases in the Philippines for nearly a century, until nationalistic sentiment sent them packing in 1992.  But since 2001, U.S. troops have returned on a rotational basis under a visiting forces agreement.  The U.S. military says that on any given rotation, there are more than 400 troops in the country’s south. 
 
Philippine negotiators have made clear any new agreement to have more U.S. troops visit would adhere to the Philippine Constitution, which does not allow outside military installations. Late last year the Philippine Defense secretary said they also wanted full access to planned temporary facilities of the U.S.
 
Ramon Casiple with the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform in Manila said while there is widespread support for the proposal, the question of access has been a sticking point in negotiations.
 
“The Philippines is wary about granting such exclusive control.  The problems with American bases before, remember, was the treatment of civilians and crime-related incidents… which the U.S. is not particularly keen on being passed through the Philippines side,” said Casiple.
 
Facing a territorial dispute with China, the Philippines with a severely lacking military wants to have a “minimum credible defense posture.”  To do this, Manila says, it needs to stand alongside the U.S., which is a mutual defense treaty ally. 
 
The U.S. is looking to expand its reach in the Asia-Pacific region where China’s influence has grown significantly. It wants more frequent military visits to the Philippines where it can dock ships, land planes and have equipment ready for use.
 
The Philippines and China are squabbling over tiny islands in the South China Sea, which the Philippines claims are part of its 370 kilometer exclusive economic zone.  In recent years, the country has been kept on the periphery of at least three outcroppings as China stepped up patrols in the waters it claims. China's claim is based primarily on ancient maps.
 
Manila has filed a case against Beijing with a United Nations arbitration tribunal, calling China’s claim excessive.  Beijing does not recognize the filing. 
 
Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have stakes in the resource rich sea.  
 
However, even if there is a perception that China poses a threat, not everyone wants the U.S. military to come around more. 
 
Roderick Caceres, a tour guide at a Manila Bay park, said the Americans are simply using the Philippines.
 
Caceres said U.S. troops come often for military exercises, yet China was able to take some islands. "So China is not afraid of them,” he said.
 
Romnick Iglesias, an unemployed teacher, said the Philippine military could benefit from more training with U.S. troops, but disagreed that the Philippines needs outside help to deal with China.
 
 “It’s advisable to have negotiations only, because it’s just between the Philippines and China,” said Iglesias.
 
Another respondent also said bilateral dialogue was the most peaceful option.
 
Congressman Walden Bello supports the arbitration case, and said it shows China does “not have a leg to stand on.”  But he has consistently opposed having more American troops in the country.
 
“The dynamics of your polity and your society and your economy becomes subject to the strategy of the superpower.  And that’s basically what’s going to happen,” said Bello.
 
Bello said that even if the agreement does not need Congressional approval, some lawmakers plan to scrutinize it and raise concerns.
 
Manila negotiators said the next meeting with their Washington counterparts is scheduled for next month.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More