A labor group has expressed misgivings to the plan by the Philippine military to let American troops stay at the Ulungan Bay Naval Base in Palawan and the naval facilities to be built in Oyster Bay, also in Palawan, in accordance with the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
“Workers find it unacceptable that our hard-worked for taxes will be used for the saber-rattling activities of both the US and Philippine military,” said Gie Relova, leader of the socialist group, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP).
Among the contentious features of the EDCA is the provision giving American forces access to and use of designated areas owned and controlled by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) without the US ever paying rent.
“It is our belief that the taxes unjustly deducted from us every pay day is meant for the nation’s development and will be repaid to us through public services. In this case, it seems that the US will benefit from it more than us,” Relova said.
“Warmongering is not only unproductive but it places the nation in the middle of a collision course between warring imperialist nations. If they badly want those bases, finance it out of their paychecks but not ours,” Relova said.
The government has reportedly allotted P500 million from the Department of Energy to develop the Ulugan Bay base, with P313 million earmarked to improve the pier, harbor and support facilities at Oyster Bay in preparation of the arrival of the warships recently purchased from South Korean and Indonesian military contractors.
Relova said the EDCA was not only unconstitutional because Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin signed the agreement with his US counterpart without the green light from the Senate as required by the 1987 Constitution.
It also displayed the government’s shameful bias for US military interests other than the interests of its poor countrymen, he said.
“The recent removal of P7-10 billion government subsidies and the consequent fare hike of the Light Rail and Metro Rail Transits could have been avoided if only the government placed the interests of the people as its priority instead of ingratiating the US State Department” Relova said.
“Spending for national development with direct positive impacts on the poor such as the sectors of education, housing, transportation and post-harvest facilities should be on top of the list of the government. Failure to do so shall further its political isolation from the majority of our countrymen, he said.
The BMP said that at the start of 2015, it will launch street rallies to denounce the government’s puppetry and ineptitude to the clamor for economic and political reforms.