• Mamasapano: Symptom of a bigger reality

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    AS the impact of the Mamasapano Massacre reverberates through the halls of power in Malacañang, it gives us a glimpse of the depths of corruption and manipulation, as well as foreign intervention, that is happening in our country today. As the government’s official story unravels due to the sustained interest of the people, we find that the issue goes beyond Mamasapano. The incident itself is symptomatic of the problems that plague our country.

    We see in Mamasapano the direct foreign intervention in our political and economic activities as reports of US troops directing a supposed civilian police action surface in media. The presence of foreign troops in the country, despite clear constitutional limits, is not accidental nor is it just for the arrest of Zulkifli bin hir, alias Marwan.

    The presence of US troops in the country is a product of the long running violation of our national sovereignty under the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement and lately the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement which was signed by President Aquino. These agreements make it possible to bring back long term operations of US troops in the country thus making our whole territory one big US base.

    We also see in Mamasapano the long term interest of the elite and foreigners in exploiting our natural resources especially those found in the Liguasan marsh. A Wikileaks report of a US embassy cable in 2006 has noted that the 288,000 hectare Liguasan Marsh that is shared by the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat is a veritable treasure trove of natural gas and oil deposits. The Wikileaks report cites the interest of the US in Mindanao and their efforts to reduce the tension in the area which requires “much work on the ground — and significant quantities of well designed foreign assistance.”

    The same US embassy cable notes that “[i]nterest [in Mindanao]has grown significantly since a December 2004 decision by the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Mining Act. Companies that are up to 100 per cent foreign owned may now pursue investments in large-scale exploration and development of minerals, oil, and gas.”

    The upcoming 20th anniversary of the 1995 Philippine Mining Act on March 3 is a good time to reflect on the opening up of our whole country, not just Mindanao, to foreign plunder which robs us of mineral resources that is critical to national development.

    Going beyond Mamasapano, the reasons that we continue to be underdeveloped as a country is also not an accident. Our denationalization is a direct result of the subscription of the current government, as well as the past ones, to deregulation, privatization and other neoliberal policies. Despite the large ticket funding for some research and development activities such as Project Noah and theAutomated Guideway Transit System, the economic policies of the current administration remains decoupled from the capacity of our local talent and skill to contribute to national industrialization. We remain dependent on importing much of our goods necessary for economic activity and rely on OFW remittances and the export of raw materials and agricultural products for income. The lack of an industrial policy to shore up our domestic industries to address local needs perpetuates this dire situation.

    As an example, the DOTC chose to increase MRT and LRT rates in order to sell and privatize these train lines instead of relying on locally built solutions. The government can in fact do this development on its own if it allocates the presidential pork in the 2015 budget such as the P501 Billion special purpose fund and expand mass transit lines up to eight times the winning bid of the LRT line 1 extension. To put it in terms of kilometers of train lines, this P501 Billion can build 85 kilometers more of the LRT instead of letting private companies enjoy the long term profits of a mass transit solution.

    The same is true for other utilities such as power and water. The government chose to privatize these basic utilities and abandon its duty to provide us with reliable and accessible infrastructure for our daily needs. With electricity for example, we are at the mercy of power firms, more than half of them owned by only three companies. The same is true for fuel, as we have seen that prices are still high despite a big drop in imported fuel costs.

    Mamasapano is just a symptom of the bigger reality.There are many more issues that we can trace to government’s wrong policies and blind obedience to foreign interests. It is imperative for all of us to demand truth and accountability from those who are in power not just in the case of Mamasapano but inseeking immediate economic relief and wanting long term national development for all.

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    9 Comments

    1. i see you hate the US, but why bring your issue here. because they helped trained the SAF and gave equipment? common. the real issue is Pnoy’s lack of leadership. don’t mixed it up with your hate of the US.

    2. Crisostomo Ibarra on

      No wonder we can’t find peace in Mindanao, it’s due to greed not their so called Moro heritage.

      Here’s the article regarding the oil rich deposits in Mindanao, dated 08/20/2011.

      The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will not let go of mineral-rich ancestral lands in Mindanao, particularly an expanse known as the Liguasan Marsh, according to a “sensitive but unclassified” cable message of the United States’ Manila Embassy to Washington D.C.

      A Bangkok-based freelance journalist posted on his blog the supposed WikiLeaks-sourced diplomatic cable message sent in February 2006 when the US ambassador to Manila was still Kristie Kenney.

      The US Embassy cable said, “MILF Vice-Chairman of Political Affairs Ghazali Jafaar has referred to the Liguasan Marsh as a “legacy from our forefathers” and stated that the Bangsamoro people…would not part with their lands in the marsh.”

      It noted the MILF even established a “Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) to lead, manage, and determine developmental efforts, including in the Liguasan Marsh.”

      The US Embassy recalled that in the late 1990s the Philippine National Oil Company and Malaysia’s state-run oil firm, Petronas, found natural gas and oil in five sites in the marsh, which covers a massive 288,000 hectares in the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat.

      “According to the PNOC, the estimated natural gas deposits in Sultan Sa Barongis alone would be enough to fuel a 60MW combined cycle power plant for 20 years,” the embassy cable said.

      “However, the PNOC and Petronas suspended operations in the Liguasan Marsh area due to threats from the MILF and extortion by local mayors and political warlords,” the transmission added.

      MILF stronghold

      The US Embassy pointed out that the Liguasan Marsh “remains an important MILF stronghold, home to an estimated 280,000 Muslims, and an area where members of the terrorist Jemaah Islamiya have historically conducted training and sought refuge.”

      Several powerful Mindanao political clans have “competing land ownership claims” in the marsh, according to the US Embassy.

      “The clan of former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zacaria Candao has already staked a claim to 40 percent of this land, while other clans — including the Mangudadatus and Pendatuns — have claimed at least 50 per cent ownership,” the cable noted.

      The Ampatuan and Alamada clans were also mentioned as having land claims in the Liguasan Marsh.

      The US Embassy said the various land claims “will make exploitation of these resources difficult.”

      “Multinational firms are already eyeing areas in Mindanao for possible projects,” as of the early 2006, the US Embassy said, noting that those interested in mining and energy exploration in the Philippines grew significantly since the Supreme Court declared the Mining Act constitutional.

      The embassy noted that firms up to 100 percent foreign-owned may now invest in large-scale search for oil, gas and minerals.

      Back in 2008, the head of the Moro National Liberation Front — the organization from which the MILF splintered — Nur Misuari had pointed out that the Liguasan Marsh holds billions of dollars in gas.

      Last year, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has embarked on restoring the ecosystem of the Liguasan marsh.

      Candao clarification

      In an email to GMA News Online, Bai Maleiha Bajunaid Candao said the reference to her father, Datu Zacaria Candao, in the US Embassy diplomatic cable is “baseless and unfounded.”

      “For the record, my father, Datu Zacaria Candao, has not filed any claim of the Liguasan Marsh in the past nor has he authorized any member of the Candao clan or any third party to lobby or make a claim of Liguasan Marsh on his behalf,” Candao’s daughter said.

      She said her father “openly addressed this problem during his incumbency as a major issue that has to be resolved between the Government of the Philippines and the MILF”.

      “As a staunch advocate of peace in Maguindanao, the former Governor would support all talks between the Philippine Government and the MILF to settle the conflict over Liguasan Marsh,” she also said.

      — Earl Victor Rosero/MRT/VS/LBG/TJD, GMA News

    3. First three sentences pa lang ng article na eto, maka-kaliwang pananaw na agad eto. Kahit anong banat mo sa America, ang policy na America sa global terrorism, they will intervene in the domestic and military affairs of any nation. Pakistan nga, nag operate sila ng walang walang paalam sa Pakistani government. Obviously, the US provided the following: (1) Training for the SAF (2) Mga gamit ng SAF (3) Pabuya sa nag tip ng kinaroroonan ni Marwan (4) Drone…..Kapag nakialam talaga ang America sa terrorismo sa Pilipinas, uulan ng bomba sa Mindanao….mas matindi yon! Actually, okey na yong saling pusa sila sa Mamasapano operation.

      Kapag nakialam ang America, parang noong nag operate sila kay Osama Bin Laden, wala ng paalam sa Pakistani government. Kapag kasing lakas tayo ng China, puedi tayong pumalag sa America….at sa kanilang policy bilang global police.

      • Ang Pakistan nagpapabayad ng mahigit $1billion a year para maka operate ang mga Kano dun. Tayo, nagpapabayad ba tayo para tapaktapakan nila?

      • winth due respect, the issue should focus on MILF terrorists not on american imperialist, here we go again, if so why not deal a little topic about the CHINESE Invasionist,,clear bias indeed.

    4. The original U.S. Bases agreement signed in 1947 had a life term of 99 years. Marcos succeeded in reducing that to 25 years, renewable every 5 years, and what’s more demanded and got rent of $80- $120Million a year, instead of the usual aid to which the Americans would always have strings attached before releasing. One of those 5 years came up in 1991, and you know what the Senate did to it. If Marcos had not outsmarted the Americans during his time, the Senate would have had no bases agreement to review that year, and the Americans would still be shooting Filipinos inside the bases today as if they were wild boars. And thats why the West did not like Marcos, because he always drove a hard bargain. Compare that to the yellow regimes that came after him who, except for yellow hate object Erap, behaved like a cheap concubine in heat and capitulated to foreign interests without any resistance, happy to get only a lollipop in exchange. If these yellows are not kicked out and the government handed over to true Filipino patriots we are doomed to become slaves in our own country.

    5. I agree that we all demand truth and accountability from those in power. The truth about the massacre and what we did is important. The truth about the taking away power from the MNLF and handing it over to another faction, the MILF, also needs explaining. The truth about why an unconstitutional bill (BBL) was submitted to Congress is also reqired. The truth behind so many irresponsible things that have happened needs to be told.

      The US and the PH are allies in the war on terrorism. We already know the US knew where the two terrorists were hiding in the PH and they wanted to pursue and capture them, but the PH refused and assigned the task to the PNP. So the US offered any and all information and assistance we needed. We don’t need to know more about the US involvement. They were not the ones responsible. They only watched on the orders of the PH.

    6. Thank you for this article.

      We have to remind our leaders and our people so that they could see the bigger picture and the consequences of their decisions. There is really no impediment why we cannot develop like our progressive Asian neighbors but our colonial mentality.

      Let us continue the conversation.