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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July 4 Reflections on Philippine-American "Special Relations"

"Philippine history is often described as 300 years in a (Spanish) convent and 50 years in Hollywood." Stanley Karnow
(Reuters) - The Philippine military has revived plans to build new air and naval bases at Subic Bay, a former U.S. naval base that American forces could use to counter China's creeping presence in the disputed South China Sea, senior navy officials said.

The proposed bases in the Philippines, a close U.S. ally, coincides with a resurgence of U.S. warships, planes and personnel in the region as Washington turns its attention to a newly assertive China and shifts its foreign, economic and security policy towards Asia.

The bases would allow the Philippines to station warships and fighter jets just 124 nautical miles from Scarborough Shoal, a contentious area of the South China Sea now controlled by China after a tense standoff last year.


The RP–US Visiting Forces Agreement is a bilateral agreement between the Philippines and the United States consisting of two separate agreement documents. The first of these documents is commonly referred to as "the VFA" or "VFA-1",[1] and the second as "VFA-2" or "the Counterpart Agreement".[2] Both documents became effective on May 27, 1999, upon ratification by the Philippine Senate. [3] [8], [10] The United States government regards these documents as Executive Agreements not requiring approval by the U.S. Senate. 
The Agreement contains various procedural safeguards which amongst other things establish the right to due process and proscribe double jeopardy. The Agreement also prevents U.S. military personnel from being tried in Filipino religious or military courts[1][V 11]; requires both governments to waive any claims concerning loss of materials (though it does require that the U.S. honor contractual arrangements and comply with U.S. law regarding payment of just and reasonable compensation in settlement of meritorious claims for damage, loss, personal injury or death, caused by acts or omissions of United States personnel)[1][VI]; exempts material exported and imported by the military from duties or taxes [1][VII]; and allows unrestricted movement of U.S. vessels and aircraft in the Philippines [1][VIII].From Wikipedia




By Stephen Shalom
For hundreds of years, Philippine sovereignty was non-existent, with three and a half centuries of Spanish colonial rule followed by a half century of U.S. colonial rule. But even after formal independence in 1946, foreign domination continued. Washington threatened to deny full rehabilitation payments to its war-ravaged former colony unless Filipinos amended their constitution to give Americans and U.S. corporations special investment rights. This arrangement passed the Philippine Congress only after the ruling party illegally ousted several opposition legislators. The Pentagon, with the help of compliant Philippine officials, secured huge military bases—Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base—that for years served as the logistic hub for U.S. interventions from Vietnam to the Persian Gulf. Washington, not Manila, decided how these bases would be used and against whom, and the Philippine people were not informed of the presence of nuclear weapons on their soil. Year after year, U.S. officials routinely intervened in domestic Philippine politics, anointing and deposing presidents so as to protect Washington's economic and military position in the Philippines.

When, in 1972, a nationalist Supreme Court and Congress seemed to threaten U.S. corporate and military interests, the United States backed Marcos as he imposed martial law. A staff report for the U.S. Senate found that U.S. officials appeared “prepared to accept” that “military bases and a familiar government in the Philippine are more important than the preservation of democratic institutions” and thus Washington was “altogether uncritical” of Marcos's declaration of martial law. The United States provided the Marcos dictatorship with military aid and diplomatic support (as when Vice President George Bush Sr. toasted Marcos's “adherence to democratic principle and to the democratic processes”).

The opposition to Marcos—moderate and radical alike—saw that as long as U.S. military bases remained on Philippine soil, the United States would have a powerful incentive to manipulate or undermine Philippine democracy. So when Marcos was deposed in the People Power revolt of 1986, the new Constitution drawn up the following year provided that after the U.S.-Philippine military bases pact expired in 1991, “foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate”—instead of by executive agreement, as previously.

When a new bases treaty came up for ratification in 1991, U.S. officials lobbied heavily, but the Philippine Senate, reflecting nationalist pressures, rejected the treaty, ending 90 years of U.S. military bases in the Philippines. But even before the last U.S. soldier was gone in 1992, Washington began maneuvering to obtain continued access to the Philippines in another form. In 1999, Washington made limited progress in this regard when a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) was concluded between the two nations, over strong nationalist opposition; the VFA allowed U.S. forces back in the country for training missions. Under this agreement some joint U.S.-Philippine military exercises have been held, but they have been of short duration and held well outside the area of any actual military operations.


Philippine history is often described as 300 years in a (Spanish) convent and 50 years in Hollywood. Karnow, who worked for 30 years as a journalist in Asia, narrates the careers of several individuals who influenced the Philippines. His treatment of the indecisiveness of President McKinley over the issue of empire and of the egotistical General MacArthur make the work a definite purchase for libraries. Weaker in treatment is the post-independence period, where Karnow concentrates upon Marcos and Aquino, both of whom he knows. Particularly revealing is his account of the White House coming to terms with the Aquino election victory. Those who love swashbuckling history will enjoy this work.
- Donald Clay Johnson, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis 
From UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies
A Chicago Chronicle cartoon in January 1900 showed President McKinley preventing Uncle Sam from reading the "Forbidden Book" about the "true history of the war in the Philippines."  This book reproduces many of the cartoons that appeared in the American press about a war (1899-1914) with the Philippines that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos and 5,000 Americans.
On February 4, 1899, the United States went to war based on a false claim that Filipinos began attacking American soldiers in Manila.  The first shots were actually fired by an American soldier as Filipinos crossed a bridge, and historians would later discover a "prearranged plan" by the U.S. military to precipitate a war as soon as an incident was provoked.  Misled by false reports, the Senate passed (by one vote) a treaty to annex the Philippines.  President McKinley would later justify the war by claiming that God had counseled him to take the Philippines in order to civilize and Christianize the Filipinos.  What was really behind the annexation was the need for overseas markets and raw materials for American industry.
American opposition to the war grew as more and more American soldiers died and as revelations of military atrocities, torture of prisoners, killing of Filipino children, and concentration camps surfaced in media reports, military trials, and a senate hearing.  President Theodore Roosevelt prematurely declared the war over on July 4, 1902 but the last major battle was fought in 1913 and hostilities did not ceased until 1914.