• When did we vote to host US troops again?

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    The question must be asked because hosting US troops is going to be a key topic of discussion between President Barack Obama and  President Benigno Aquino 3rd when Obama visits Manila on  Monday for an overnight stay.

    The matter has been the subject of talks between representatives of our defense and foreign affairs ministries. And it has been bruited about here and abroad that an agreement was being rushed for possible signing when President Obama is in town.

    The question rankles because Sec. 25, Article XVIII of our Constitution explicitly provides:

    “After the expiration in 1991 of the Agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America concerning the Military Bases, foreign military bases, troops, or  facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a  treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so  requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a  national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a  treaty by the other contracting party.”

    In 1991, the RP-US military bases agreement expired, and  despite the herculean efforts of then President Corazon Aquino to  get the pact renewed, our Senate decisively voted to reject the  basing arrangement.

    Since the historic vote and treaty termination, I do not remember any effort to consult with the people and Congress for the forging of a new treaty or agreement that would allow the entry  of foreign troops and the reestablishment of US military bases in the  country. Indeed, the idea seems so unthinkable and unpopular that  no administration since Cory’s has dared to propose it – until now,  with her son PNoy at the helm.

    From what we can gather from the always imprecise and fragmentary statements from the Palace (its propaganda corps  cannot write complete and cogent statements), Washington and  Manila have been working double-time on the drafting of an  Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between our two  governments, under which the Philippines will agree to host the  “rotational presence” of US troops and military assets, and the US  will provide increased military assistance to our government to  help modernize the AFP.

    As to why such presence is necessary at all, the administration has never explained. We the people are expected to deduce this from the recent gyrations of President Aquino.

    A figleaf for  Aquino’s boasting

    If Palace communicators were more articulate and truthful, they would tell us that the agreement is being pushed by our  government because of President Aquino’s open wrangling with  China over shoals in the South China Sea or what he calls the West Philippine Sea.

    Since PNoy has been very provocative in this spat, to the  extent of calling the Chinese president a “Hitler,” it has belatedly  occurred to him that his taunts could provoke aggressive moves by  China. And he feels the need for ironclad assurances of US military support, beyond just the text of the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty.

    If opening the nation’s gates to foreign troops is chiefly aimed at providing a figleaf on PNoy’s saber-rattling, this is  irresponsible and unworthy of the President. The nation needs a more compelling reason for laying aside national pride and dignity.

    US pivot to Asia

    Our foreign affairs and defense secretaries should also come clean about the reason why the US is keen about basing troops and military assets on Philippine soil.

    They must explain that the rotational scheme is a key  component of the US pivot strategy and “rebalancing” of forces in  the Pacific.

    That pivot strategy does not include protection of  Philippine rights over Scarborough Shoal, and the nine islands and  reefs we claim in the Spratly Islands, our continental shelf, and our  200 Mile Exclusive Economic Zone.

    While the US has assured Japan that their mutual defense treaty covers also the disputed Senkaku Islands, we cannot expect a similar assurance regarding our claims to the Spratlys.  Then also, our public should be told that the pivot strategy has looked sluggish and shaky of late. With the problems ushered in by the Ukraine and Crimea crisis, Europe is now urging the US to  re-pivot to Europe. And there are serious worries about US budgetary constraints. Obama’s budget seeks to shrink the  military to the point at which it would no longer be able to fight more than one regional conflict at a time. The budget also proposes  laying up half the cruiser fleet and the carrier George Washington,  which, from its home port in Japan, anchors US power projection  in the Pacific.

    Meanwhile, China, steadily rising in power, is building the capacity to use its carrier forces in combination with cyberwar and  military-space programs to destabilize American allies in the  Pacific and make other nations—such as India—more reluctant to  forge closer alliances with the United States.

    Some in Asia are saying that Obama still has to shape a coherent message during his current Asian tour. A real “pivot” would be backed up with real power.

    Before committing to an enhanced defense cooperation  agreement or treaty, we should politely ask Mr. Obama: What’s in it  for us? What do we get in return.

    Aquino must make the case for US troop presence  Aquino and his advisers will say that the agreement being  proposed is only an executive agreement—in the view of both  governments.

    That will not void the constitutional requirement, which says that only a treaty with the other party can allow the entry of  foreign troops, and then only if the Senate ratifies the treaty or if  the people vote for the treaty in a referendum, should Congress  require it.

    To return to the question in my column title, we have not been asked to vote on hosting US troops in our country again. No treaty or agreement has been presented to our representatives in  the Senate for ratification.
    In the case of the new agreement being bandied about, there hasn’t even been a public discussion and debate of the idea. The President has not presented his plan to the nation.  It’s no wonder that we are now seeing a loud public debate on the streets in the form of rallies and protests outside the US  embassy.

    It’s also to be expected that radicals will try to use President Obama’s visit as a not-to-be-missed opportunity to recharge their batteries and diminished brand.

    It took us many long years of patient negotiation and relentless agitation to finally get rid of foreign military presence in  our country, and to recover Subic Bay and Clark Field as part of the  national territory and the national patrimony. Why would anyone  of sound mind wish to undo this noble achievement of our people?

    yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

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    9 Comments

    1. Wes Rollolazo on

      The Constitution is worthless IF the Philippines is TAKEN by China because there is no one to come to its defense. It is only world opinion that is stopping China from being more aggressive. There is no Philippine force that can match or stand up to the might of China. Whether we want to accept it or not, WE NEED THE HELP OF THE U.S.

    2. Thank you for posting the question. Let me preface my comment by saying that I love our Inang Bayan. The people are very resilient no matter how much we have suffered. The answer to your question has been explicitly pointed out in your article: “when the Congress so requires..” Have members of Congress deem it necessary to hold a national referendum? If you want to support your point by stating facts, please do so. Kindly state the statistics in reference to the economy, political position, global security. I concur with taking pride in a noble achievement. Define this for the people. Do not be brash in your judgment. Diplomacy and strategic and forward thinking night do you good in the long haul.

    3. YOU SIR SPEAK AS A FOOL AND AN IDIOT. I SUPPOSE YOU WOULD BE ONE TO COMPLAIN WHEN THE USA WAS THERE FOR THE PHILIPPINES IN TIME OF CALAMITY SUCH AS THE LAST TYPHOON THAT DESTROYED TACLABON.

    4. I BELIEVE THE U.S. MILITARY BASES WILL PROVIDE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF
      JOBS FOR MY FILIPINO COUNTRYMEN. THE BASES WILL ALSO PROVIDE MILITARY STABILITY FOR OUR COUNTRY. JUST THINK ABOUT IT…. OUR PEOPLE NEED JOBS AND OUR COUNTRY NEED MILITARY STABILITY… SO TO THOSE WHO READ AND ARE AGAINST THIS….PLEASE SET ASIDE YOUR PRIDE AND EGO… “THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU!”
      “THIS IS FOR OUR THE FILIPINO PEOPLE AND OUR COUNTRY.”

    5. I partly agree with your comments, however, let us not be part of the problem and instead be part of the solution. What are your suggestions to benefit us and our other neighboring allied nations. We only see the hole of the needle and being blind sided of the other larger holes. What have you done to support and assist the Yolanda victims for example and the other disasters that occurred in our motherland? Additionally, have you done positive actions to deter China in trying to obtain part of our dear motherland? I bet you 100 to 1 that if disasters and invasions occur and the United States of America does not do anything to help us, you will be one of the many who will crucify U.S.A. for not doing anything. These individuals protesting against U.S.A. are either being incentivize to participate or like one of the TV broadcasters said on the air, individuals who have applied for U.S. Immigration Visa several times but were consistently denied. What if, these individuals are given the opportunity to migrate perhaps they will grab the opportunity and forget about their principles if they even have any on the first place. Let us do a sanity check here, can we really stand alone? I am not getting personal here, I am just looking at the big picture of things that have occurred and might reoccur in the future when you and I have passed this way. Once again, let us be part of the solution. We have the right to vote but also willing to accept the consequences of that vote.

    6. We as a nation are really stuck between a rock and a hard spot. We need to choose the lesser of the two evils. Are we going to capitulate to China’s bullying and lose our seas, shoals and reefs or let the US military come in. There is no negotiating with China, there is negotiation with the US, but we need to be really smart and use this as an assurance that they will help militarily when all hell breaks loose. Are we going to ask our headline grabbing Senators for their permission? If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on the US!

    7. I think there are security agreements between the US and Philippines that does not require consultation with Congress. I noticed that there are few Filipinos who vehemently against the US, that says they are exploiting the country, but when disaster comes and inflict great devastation, who comes first and help? even without being ask. I am really tired of hearing this complain over and over, it gets old and become meaningless to most after a while. I do not have to tell you that dishonesty, bribery and corruptions are rampant in the country which makes the government unable to improve the lives of the poor. I am happy that President Aquino has the courage and the guts to run after your plunderers. I wish there is a way that he can continue to lead the country until all these thieves and other criminalities are minimized. I hope for the sake of the majority of Filipinos, that the next President will continue the good work he has accomplish thus far, or better, unlike the previous leaders before him. From my reading and hearing about potential Presidential candidates, I have not notice anybody that I can recommend, except perhaps the present Mayor of Davao City. I like his ways of discipline and leadership. Going back to the subject of the US presence in the country, forget about voting in congress relative to constitutionality of the agreement to be singed when President Obama arrives. Propose for a plebiscite that all Filipinos can vote to restore all American Bases so they can help the country better, either for defense and when the country is hit by another Yolanda. Besides the Philippines is a democratic country that the majority can decide who they want to be allied with and not hampered by the minorities..

    8. As usual.By the same author i might add.Another anti American bashing.
      Be careful what you wish for sir.Look back in history,who fought beside you in WW 2?
      Yes,we were told on Dec 28 1991 to be gone by the end of ’92.And we were gone.
      And Mister author when did the Chinese start their little mini invasion?.1993 to be exact.Coincidence? Not a chance