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US military bases are back, but don’t call them that

What his mother in 1991 couldn’t do despite her aura then as the saint of democracy—which was to continue having US military bases in the country—President Benigno Aquino 3rd appears to have achieved.

The Supreme Court ruled the other day that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA)—which the Philippines under Aquino signed with the United States to let the superpower use camps and other places in the country to accommodate its troops, vessels, aircraft and war materiel—is not unconstitutional as it merely implements the Visiting Forces Agreement ratified by the Senate as a treaty in 1999.

Let’s cut the bullshit and call a spade a spade. EDCA’s gist is for the US to have “operational control” (paragraph 4, Article III) over “agreed locations” in the country in our military camps. What are “agreed locations”?

These are locations where US military forces may conduct the following activities (Paragraph 1, Article III): “transit, support, and related activities; refueling of aircraft; bunkering of vessels; temporary maintenance of vehicles, vessels and aircraft; temporary accommodation of personnel; communications; prepositioning of (military) equipment, supplies and materiel; deploying forces and materiel. (Emphasis mine)

In short, the EDCA’s “agreed locations” are “facilities for the storage of military equipment and the training of soldiers.” But that is a word-for-word dictionary (or even Wikipedia) definition of “military bases.”

They could cordon off a part of Clark Airbase, and get the government to agree that it is an “agreed location” under EDCA, and overnight, we would see an airbase for B-1 Stealth bombers and F-16 fighters there, in case hostilities break out with China, or with North Korea.

The EDCA could also designate as an “agreed location” a pier in Subic to host “temporarily” – for six months, even – a fleet of Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarines, to threaten China to stop building facilities on atolls in the South China Sea. In fact, two such submarines in the past two weeks arrived in Subic, perhaps checking out their new base aka “agreed location.” (A military spokesman said that one “agreed location” they would want is the Ulugan Bay in Palawan to face the Spratly area. He wishes.)

Under EDCA, it won’t be a military base, just an “agreed location.” US attack submarine docking at Subic
Under EDCA, it won’t be a military base, just an “agreed location.” US attack submarine docking at Subic

This points to the most scandalous implications of EDCA. If the US went to war against any country, we would automatically become its ally as the Americans would be using their “agreed locations” here as military bases from which to launch any strike against a hostile country. Of course, in the process we would also immediately become targets of America’s foes.

I would think it proper for us, if we were to be annihilated by some nuclear bomb, to at least have the integrity and dignity as a sovereign nation of declaring our own war with our chosen enemy.

Don’t call them military bases
The US, of course, is a genius in wordplay. For instance, it is “Pivot to Asia,” rather than “Asserting US hegemony in Asia.” The US has over 500 – yep, 500 – installations in Iraq, which are the most armed places on earth. Not a single one is called a military base. Instead, they are called “camps,” “forward operating bases,” “command outposts,” and “firebases.” The US’ and its allies’ huge military base around the Baghdad airport is “Victory Base Complex.” Here, the US installations will be called “Agreed Locations.”

The US’ idea of non-permanent bases is actually an integral part of its global strategy in the 21st-century era of high-tech military equipment. The strategy requires less of the permanent, expensive bases of the 1960s, such as the Clark or Subic Air Base vintage, but more of the “forward operating sites,” as Pentagon jargon calls these, which could be rapidly transformed into bases when needed.

Dubbed “lily pads” by the Pentagon, “such sites would allow rotational or periodic access for training purposes, while also providing readily expandable facilities with pre-positioned equipment,” states a study of the European Center for Security Studies. This was, the study pointed out, America’s “new, cost-effective (read: cheaper) basing paradigm” in the 21st century.

To project its military power in Eastern Europe after the collapse of the USSR, the US struck agreements with Bulgaria and Romania in 2006 and 2005, respectively, for the establishment of such forward operating sites. In fact, the EDCA is practically a cut-and-paste job from the Bulgarian and Romanian pacts (See www.manilatimes.net/ph-us-pact-bad-copy-of-bulgarian-romanian-treaties/94564).

For President Obama’s “pivot-to-Asia” policy, the US now has EDCA, which will make the Philippines its forward operating site in the region, obviously positioned against the only other military power in the region, China, just as Bulgaria and Romania were, in their case, against Russia.

It is a national shame that the Senate was refused the right to approve or reject the EDCA. In contrast, the heads of the states of Romania and Bulgaria had such deep respect for their Constitutions that they asked their legislatures to ratify their EDCAs.

It is a shame for the High Court to ignore the Senate’s resolution, signed by the majority, asking it and the President to have the EDCA ratified by the Senate.

It is, of course, clever of the Americans to call their new military installations under the EDCA merely as “agreed locations” since our Constitution’s Section 25, Article XVIII very clearly states:

“Foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate.”

But in this country, who cares about the Constitution and the Supreme Court?

The Court had declared Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Plan, the hijacking of the budget, as unconstitutional and even called for those responsible for it to be charged. Has anybody been charged?

The Supreme Court ruled the pork-barrel scheme, called Priority Development Assistance Fund unconstitutional, and even issued an order stopping its implementation in 2013 while it was deciding the case. Aquino simply tweaked the documents and Congress authorized even bigger pork-barrel disbursements, with a new name, of course –”Bottom-Up Budgeting.”

The Supreme Court five years ago ruled that Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) had gone far beyond the foreign ownership limit of 40 percent, with its foreign equity component having reached 60 percent, and therefore, was violating the Constitution. But the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission – not the Commission itself – reversed the Court’s ruling through a sheer memorandum. Using that memo, PLDT ignored the High Court’s decision. So did Globe Telecom.

What’s become of our country?