VFA will separate nationalists from opportunists
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-10-06

Senator Miriam D. Santiago redeemed our national pride last September 23 when she enlightened Filipinos why the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States of America (US) should be renegotiated or terminated outright. The Senators present also made the admirable nationalistic deed of approving Sen. Miriam Santiago’s Senate Resolution 1356.

In her presentation, Sen. Santiago enumerated the many anomalies that should compel any self-respecting Filipino to terminate the VFA. These reasons include ambiguity (like no definition of key terms like visits, temporary and military exercises), violation of our Constitution and doctrinal confusion.

Sen. Santiago also cited the many one-sided provisions of the VFA like the non-approval of the agreement by two-thirds of the US Senate and the controversial custody issue as seen in the Nicole Rape Case. Sen. Santiago underscored the false premise that the VFA is a mere offshoot of the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) which is hardly reciprocal.

Comparing how the US rates, treats and rewards its other allies — Sen. Santiago exposed how low we are regarded in the US roster of aid recipients. We are not even in the annual Top 10 US aid recipients (Israel is #1 with $9 billion, Egypt is #2 with $6 billion, and Pakistan is #3 with $4.6 billion while Poland is #10 with $313 million).

We’re not even treated like Poland, a $313 million annual US aid recipient, even if US capability to engage China in a looming conflict will rely on its FOS (Forward Operating Sites) and CSL (Cooperative Security Locations) in Mindanao. In a US-China conflict, the US military presence must extend from the Pacific Ocean to the South China Sea.

With the world’s oil reserves fast drying up, the oil in the South China Sea (estimated to be as much as the oil reserves of Iran and Iraq, second and third biggest in the world) became a highly-coveted commodity to both the US and China. This is the second compelling reason why the US must operate in Mindanao and Southern Palawan.

Because China is now the biggest feared threat to the US, the Philippines can be considered as (if not more) strategic to US geopolitical interests compared to Israel. Considering the China factor, we can even claim to be more vital to the US than Israel to deserve at least a $9 billion a year aid from the US. But we are not reciprocated properly because of weak and servile Filipino leaders who kowtow to Uncle Sam’s every wish and whim.

Oddly, while Sen. Santiago’s Senate Resolution 1356 regarding the VFA deserved the support of every Filipino in order to assert our sovereignty as well as to restore national pride and dignity – Defense Secretary Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro wanted to impede the immediate VFA renegotiation or termination. In the STAR front page story of September 25 by Jaime Laude, Teodoro was quoted as saying that the VFA renegotiation or termination was ill-timed.

Teodoro proposed to defer the VFA renegotiation or termination until after the 2010 elections where he is one of the presidential candidates. “We should conduct a thorough study (of the VFA) after the political season is over,” Teodoro said. He added: “If it (review of VFA) will be done now, emotions and politics will get in the way.”

Despite what Sen. Santiago enumerated as the one-sided provisions and legal ambiguities of the VFA, Teodoro still thinks that the “benefits” we get from the VFA far outweigh the exposed disadvantages. Assuming that Teodoro is following his best lights - did it not occur to him that an enlightened and bold Filipino leadership which can negotiate a $9 billion annual aid package from the US will solve our budget deficit, security and military modernization problems?

What’s that again about judgment as top presidential criterion? How about nationalism and patriotism?

Under the VFA, we are like mendicants dining on the food scraps from Uncle Sam’s table. Why can’t Filipino leaders demand $9 billion from Uncle Sam like Israel before we agree to be the US strategic ally in this region? Why must Filipinos settle for scraps when the risks that we’re now taking for the US — becoming ground zero in a US-China war — will affect 90 million Filipinos?

We Filipinos should not resent but commend and emulate Israel’s leaders for knowing how to secure the right price for their service and allegiance to the US. The ones we ought to resent are the Filipino leaders who could not stand up to the US and demand what we truly deserve for the risks that we’re taking by accommodating them.

There is a rather disturbing possible hidden angle in Teodoro’s position on the VFA. It is the possibility that Teodoro is the one playing politics and is courting US help to engineer his 2010 presidential election victory.

At his Lakas Kampi CMD anointing, Teodoro played to the US gallery by waving the US ‘fight terrorism’ flag. Then he authorized the bombing in Mindanao during the recent Eid El-Fitr which resulted in the escalation and expansion of the conflict. These create the perception that we need the VFA and US presence.

“Hey Uncle Sam, get me elected by hook or by crook and your VFA is secured.” Is that what Teodoro is trying to say to the US?

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

[Click here for the Archive]

Home | As I Wreck This Chair | High Ground | Career Brief and Roots | Advocacies | Landmarks Copyright 2006 The Chair Wrecker by William M. Esposo