The Philippine government should not use the devastation brought by super typhoon Yolanda to justify the US’ increased rotational presence (IRP) in the country, lawmakers said on Thursday.
Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate and Kabataan Party-list Terry Ridon hit Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario’s statement on Monday as “insensitive” and an “insult” to those who perished in the onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda.
“This is a grave insult to the memories of those who died, including the survivors whose unspeakable grief and loss are being used by the government as a smokescreen for the increased rotational presence of US military in the country,” Zarate said. “They should not use the misery of our people in justifying this constitutionally-infirmed military agreement.”
On Monday, del Rosario was quoted as saying that the response of the US in the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda “demonstrates the need for this framework agreement that we are working out with the United States for increased rotational presence because it accentuates the purpose, one of the purposes, the main purpose of the framework which is to make humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and response a very major aspect of the agreement.”
Zarate noted that del Rosario’s statement just proved that the recent aid provided by the US has “strings attached.”
“Our officials are acting like US lackeys always at the beck and call of their masters,” he added.
Meanwhile, Ridon said in his privilege speech on Wednesday that instead of pushing for the IRP, the government should instead create an international disaster response treaty.
“The crafting and signing of international treaty that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity while providing immediate relief is – to this humble representation’s view – a more noble cause to pursue rather than a new treaty that would allow greater foreign intervention in our great nation,” Ridon said
There must be an international legal framework for disaster response, Ridon said, for the respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress are in a dilemma if how long should the US troops stay following their response to the wreckage brought by Yolanda.
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone believed that the American forces should only stay until December.
The US provided an overwhelming response in the Yolanda aftermath. It gave a total of $51.857 million humanitarian assistance, in cash and in kind, and sent its flagship carrier, USS George Washington, with a total of 6800 military and navy personnel.
The Philippines now has a key role in the rebalancing of the US in Asia and the Pacific as the emerging China is becoming a threat to the world’s superpower. JHOANNA BALLARAN