What her mother was stopped by the Senate from doing, President Aquino has managed to do two decades later: Incorporate the Philippines into the United States’ global military strategy.
President Cory Aquino tried hard in 1991 to have a new treaty with the US allowing it to maintain its military bases, primarily that in Subic Bay that had been a strategic base of the US Pacific Fleet. The Senate, though, despite Aquino’s overwhelming popularity and political power at that time, rejected Cory’s demand, against which she even tried to undertake a mini-People Power street action.
Her son Benigno 3rd, now President, didn’t bother to get the Senate’s approval, and got his defense secretary to sign a military agreement with the US ambassador, called the “Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.”
For such a 10-year agreement that binds the country even beyond his term and which conscripts the nation—obviously not without risk—as a cog in imperial America’s global defense network, Aquino didn’t even bother to consult the Senate, whose approval of any treaty with other nations the President enters into the Constitution requires.
As of this writing, the actual treaty hasn’t even made public. What the Foreign Affairs department has released is merely a sanitized “question and answer” material that doesn’t even support its assertions with references to provisions of the treaty. Why can’t it even include as annex the actual signed treaty? (News Editor’s note: The government made the document public on Tuesday.)
It’s mostly a propaganda sheet, and we can’t be sure if it accurately interpreted the agreement’s provisions. For example, the Q & A emphasized, as if to say the people want it anyway: “A recent Social Weather Station survey showed at least 7 out of 10 Filipinos support measures to strengthen the country’s defense capabilities and that the Philippines may ask its partners in achieving this objective.”
No wonder, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago who chairs the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee was irked and exclaimed, “The Senate has not been given the courtesy of being furnished a copy. I feel as if I have been slapped or ordered to melt into the wallpaper.”
The senator would go ballistic if she were told who undertook the negotiations with the US for the treaty.
2nd rate PH negotiators
The Philippine panel was headed by Defense undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, who appears to have had such a mediocre career that there isn’t any background on him available in the Internet, other than being appointed to his post weeks after Aquino assumed office in 2010.
The other members were Ambassador Lourdes Yparraguirre, Ambassador Eduardo Malaya, Justice undersecretary Francisco Baraan 3rd and Defense assistant secretary for strategic assessments Raymund Jose Quilop.
Ambassadors Yparraguirre and Malaya are mere fixtures. Yparraguirre is our current ambassador to Austria, and Malaya to Malaysia. They were given the extra task as members of the panel when DFA assistant secretary for American Affairs Carlos Sorreta was suddenly yanked out of the panel last month.
Having scant expertise in military affairs or in military treaties, and joining the panel only several weeks ago, the two ambassadors were obviously mere stamp-pads for the pact.
While known to be sympathetic to the US, having been educated and assigned there, Sorreta though is known to relish going over things with a fine toothcomb.
Was he pulled out to speed up the pact as Obama was scheduled to arrive the following month? Indeed, US Ambassador US Philip Goldberg had to deny to the press that Sorreta’s axing was done to get the draft pact finalized by the two panels.
These are the people who negotiated with a superpower for a military treaty?
In contrast, the US negotiating panel was headed Ambassador Eric John , who is the State Department’s senior Advisor for Security Negotiations and Agreements in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. John is known as the US’ principal officer for international security arrangements and treaties. US Ambassador Goldberg, a former state undersecretary for intelligence with a reputation for playing hardball, was rushed to assume his post here to add muscle to the US negotiating panel.
That the military agreement was hurried for President Obama’s visit—US press called it his sole concrete achievement in his Asian tour—is obvious in that the defense department’s website even yesterday had only one news item on it: “PH-US to resume talks on enhanced defense cooperation.”
The most important part of the treaty—at least going by Aquino’s and his officials verbal calisthenics and the “Q&A” issued by the DFA— is that US military will be allowed to build facilities in Philippine military camps to warehouse its supply and war materiel (except for nuclear weapons) that it will “pre-position” and for its troops, as the Q&A put it, to enter the country “on temporary and rotational basis that will be held in Armed Forces of the Philippines’ facilities.”
Aquino officials claim that such crucial provisions indicate that the US has bent backwards to respect our Constitution that bans military bases. That’s complete hogwash.
No wonder Obama was so defensive in claiming that the pact is not designed to contain China. It is part of the US’ new global war strategy: Maybe the enemy is North Korea, but then it could also conceivably be China.
The features of the pact are essential elements of the US global war strategy, which had changed in a big part due to the lessons of the Gulf and Iraqi wars. One lesson is that America’s military might require massive pre-positioning of its armed forces’ war material and supplies. It’s the old lesson of Napoleon Bonaparte: “An army marches on its stomach.”
Help fill US troops’ stomachs
In the new US global strategy to which Aquino’s military pact closely hews, the Philippines will help fill the American troops stomachs, as it were, by being a territory where its supplies will be pre-positioned. This is the new buzzword in US global war strategy.
America’s old global super-power strategy with its network of military bases around the world had been designed during the Cold War, which would have really involved massive nuclear strikes on the USSR and China by missile submarines (think “Subic”) and bombers (think “Clark”). That kind of war among nuclear powers obviously would not have taken long.
In contrast, the lesson from the Gulf wars as well as the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions was that the wars the US would wage in the 21st century would be long conventional wars that would require long, and massive supply lines. The US had also learned from the Vietnam war that the longer the war takes, the more likely will public opinion go against it, forcing US leaders to end the war quickly.
The sudden refusal of the Turkish parliament in 2001 to allow the US to attack Iraq using its air bases had become a huge logistics problem for the Americans, and was purportedly one of the real reasons for the delay in its invasion.
As the US Government Accountability Office in a September 2005 report to the Congress Committee on Armed Services explained it:
“With fewer troops permanently stationed overseas, prepositioned stocks of equipment and supplies have become an integral part of the Department of Defense’s ability to project forces into conflict areas faster. The importance of prepositioned stocks to the US military was highlighted during recent operations in Iraq. The military used equipment and supplies stored at land sites in the region and offloaded much of the stocks from its prepositioning ships.
“The availability of the sites gave the United States the facilities it needed to assemble forces for combat.
“Recognizing the importance of the department’s prepositioning programs, Congress has made significant investments in these programs. In recent years, the services have collectively used over $1 billion each year to operate and maintain their prepositioning programs; by fiscal year 2005 this amount had declined to about $724 million, since a large portion of these stocks were used to support military operations in Iraq. However, billions of dollars in future investments will be needed to recapitalize equipment and develop future programs. The recently published National Defense Strategy indicates that prepositioning will continue to be an important aspect of DOD’s defense posture in the future.”
That office was referring to defense department’s March 2009 document entitled “The National Defense Strategy of the United States of America” which summarized the US new global war strategy for the 21st century.
Calibrated stance vis-à-vis China
Obama’s “pivot to Asia,” its calibrated stance vis-à-vis China’s expansionist claims in the South China Sea, and Aquino’s “enhanced” defense agreement with the US are all derived from this March 2009 document.
The document even identified as one of the US military’s four “forward regions” —or areas where its military might must be felt— “the East Asian Littoral”, which is where China claims a huge swathe of, covered by its infamous 9-dash line, also called China’s “Ox’s Tongue” territory.
I’m sure the Chinese are avid readers of documents on the new US global defense strategy, and it would be obvious what Aquino’s military pact with the US is.
Nice job, President Aquino. We just raised a few notches up the tension between our country and China. I hope we get something out of it, as there isn’t any mention at all that the agreement requires monetary compensation for the use of our armed forces’ land and facilities.
What Obama just said in their joint press conference was that he’ll ask his officials to organize a US business contingent to the Philippines at some time. Great, and thank you, Mr. Obama.
I’ll explain more the US new global strategy and how Aquino’s pact is a mere execution of that on Friday, with verbatim quotes from US military literature.
FB: Rigoberto D. Tiglao