Of Meat in The Grinder and Of Cannon-Fodders: EDCA and Its Looming Dangers

 

By Prof. Mario Ferdinand Ayano Pasion, CPA, MA, PhD

 

There have been many articles written about the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) but only a few of them discussed – in depth – its Constitutional infirmities and its threats to our country, especially to the economy, to the environment, to our society and to our people.  And so, let us take a look at what the Constitution mandates about foreign military troops and facilities, which is what EDCA is all about, and the looming dangers that EDCA brings with it. There are currently five existing locations provided under EDCA in Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu and Palawan. In November, 2022, former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief Lt. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro said there were five additional proposed sites under EDCA which include two (2) in Cagayan, one (1) in Palawan, one (1) in Zambales and another one (1) in Isabela. Sources said one of the five additional proposed EDCA sites was not approved due to “political issue.”

Article XVIII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution regarding “Transitory Provisions,” on its Section 25, states that, “AFTER the expiration in 1991 of the Agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America concerning 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 STATE.” (Emphasis supplied)

What are the requirements of the Constitution before foreign military bases, troops and facilities can be allowed to exist inside Philippine territory? 1. A new treaty, after 1991, between the Philippines and the other contracting State; 2. Concurrence by the Philippine Senate; 3. When the Philippine Senate and House of Representatives so requires, ratification by a majority vote in a referendum; and, 4. Recognition by the other contracting State that it is indeed a Treaty that it entered into with the Republic of the Philippines.

Let us go over this provision one-by-one. Fist of all, the clause begins with the phrase, “After the expiration in 1991.”  This simply means that right AFTER the year 1991, which means 1992 and beyond, there comes into force a conditional prohibition under the Constitution as far as foreign military bases, troops and facilities in the Philippines is concerned. But first, let us acknowledge the fact that it is very clear in the aforementioned Constitutional phrase that it is not going back in time (not retrogressive) but is actually talking about the future – AFTER 1991 (progressive).  And so, therefore, we can all see that it is likewise very clear that this Constitutional clause is not talking about the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America but about a NEW treaty to be entered into by both countries AFTER THE YEAR 1991.  This means that not a single foreign military base, not a single foreign military troop, and not a single foreign military facility shall be allowed inside Philippine territory until, and only after, such a NEW TREATY has been entered into and ratified as such by both the Senate of the Philippines and the Senate of the United States.  As you may notice, we are stressing here the phrase – “NEW TREATY.” 

To repeat, as far as the Constitution is concerned, no foreign military base, no foreign military troop and no foreign military facility, can exist inside the Philippines without first a NEW TREATY being agreed upon and ratified by both the Philippines and the United States. And the $64,000 question is this: When the Philippine government entered into the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), was there, prior to them both, a NEW TREATY entered into by the Philippines and the U.S., AFTER 1991? And the resounding answer to this question is “NONE”!  There was no new treaty, after 1991, before the VFA and EDCA was entered into by our government. Therefore, both the VFA and EDCA lack the prior Constitutional and legal requirements for their existence and so they are both null and void ab initio.

Aside from the Constitutional and legal infirmities of EDCA, it furthermore poses threats to our environment since it is just a repeat or rehash of what already happened in the former U.S. military bases in Subic, Zambales and Clark, Pampanga.

Let us allow the Americans themselves through their “Stars and Stripes” publication, to talk about U.S. military pollution in the Philippines being linked to deaths. Let us take a look at what Travis J. Tritten wrote about this as early as February 2, 2010.

“CLARK AIR BASE, Philippines – The U. S. military is long gone from bases in the Philippines, but its legacy remains buried here. Toxic waste was spilled on the ground, pumped into waterways and buried in landfills for decades at two sprawling Cold War-era bases. Today, ice cream shops, Western-style horse ranches, hotels and public parks have sprung up on land once used by the Air Force and the Navy; a benign facade built on land the Philippine government said is still polluted with asbestos, heavy metals and fuel.

Records of about 500 families who sought refuge on the deserted bases after a 1991 volcanic eruption indicate 76 people died and 68 others were sickened by pollutants on the bases. A study in 2000 for the Philippine Senate also linked the toxins to “unusually high occurrence of skin disease, miscarriages, still births, birth defects, cancers, heart ailments and leukemia.” Philippine government efforts never gained traction. Philippine President Joseph Estrada formed a task force in 2000 to take on the issue, but it fell dormant and unfunded after he was ousted a year later.

The Navy pumped 3.75 million gallons of untreated sewage each day into local fishing and swimming waters at Subic Bay, according to a 1992 report by what was then known as the General Accounting Office. The bases poured fuel and chemicals from firefighting exercises directly into the water table and used underground storage tanks without leak detection equipment, the agency found.

At least three sites at the Subic Bay Navy base, two landfills and an ordnance disposal area, are dangerously polluted with materials such as asbestos, metals and fuels, the Philippines government found after an environmental survey there. Clark Air Base was a staging area during the Vietnam War. Its aviation and vehicle operations contaminated eight sites with oil, petroleum lubricants, pesticides, PCB and lead, according to a 1997 environmental survey by the Philippine government.

Before the U.S. closed the bases, it drew up a rough bill for cleaning the hazardous pollution. Though they never tested the water or soil, the Air Force and the Navy estimated cleanup at each could cost up to $25 million, the average cost of handling the most polluted sites back in the United States, according to the GAO.

Records of the families, published by the Philippines Senate, said 144 people were sickened at Clark, 76 of whom died. It said at least 19 children were born with disabilities, diseases and deformities between 1996 and 1999. Tests in 1995 by the Philippine Department of Health confirmed wells on Clark were contaminated with oil and grease, a by-product of decades of military use.

In a village near Subic Bay, Norma Abraham, 58, holds an X-ray showing the lung disease that killed her husband, Guillermo. Her husband worked through the 1980s and early 1990s sorting the Navy waste that went into local landfills, which are the most polluted sites at Subic Bay. The lung ailment plagued him through his life and after an X-ray in January showed he was terminally ill with lung disease, he died on May 29, Norma Abraham said. His disease, which mirrors asbestosis, is the most common ailment and killer among the 70 or so families who worked with the Navy’s waste, according to the villagers.

The aborigines rarely get quality medical treatment and do not keep birth or death records. But they compiled a list for Stars and Stripes of 41 people who they believe died over the years from toxic exposure.

Any real chance for an environmental clean-up was scuttled by the two governments in the agreement that gave the Philippines billions of dollars in base infrastructure and real estate in return for absolving the United States of any responsibility for the pollution. As a result, the United States has no legal responsibility or authority to conduct a clean-up.

Dolly Yanan keeps the records and photos of the gray-faced, emaciated and disabled children believed to have been poisoned by U.S. military pollution in the Subic Bay area. The records count 38 deaths from disease between 2000 and 2003.

The Philippine Senate inquiry and task force in 2000 led to no action, and a lawsuit designed to force a U.S.-led environmental assessment survey, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco, was thrown out in 2003.”

And so, what is the guarantee that these things will not happen again in the “Philippine” military bases that are now designated under EDCA as the sites for the establishment and stationing of U.S. military bases, troops and facilities, more particularly in Cagayan Valley, the so-called “Philippines’ Last Frontier” with its lush forests and pristine waters?

On the economic threats of EDCA to our country and people, it is clear that our adherence to our so-called “special relations” with the U.S., particularly in military relations, brings with it our government’s obedience and subservience when it comes to the sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Russian oil, natural gas, wheat and fertilizers.  It is these sanctions which have created artificial “shortages” of gasoline, diesel, LPG, kerosene, aviation fuel, natural gas (used in generating electricity), wheat and fertilizers in the world, including in the Philippines, which has led to the skyrocketing of the prices of these products with the law of supply and demand taking effect which led to the domino effect of likewise increasing the prices of electricity, transport fares, bread, rice, sugar, vegetables, fruits and other plant-based food due to non-availability of cheap Russian sources of fertilizers, oil, natural gas, wheat, etc.

If our country is not a neo-colony of the U.S., like India and China, we would not be obeying the U.S. dictates on these sanctions regime. India and China continue to buy cheap Russian oil (gasoline, diesel, LPG, kerosene, aviation gasoline, etc.), natural gas, wheat and fertilizers for the benefit of their respective peoples and consumers.  Despite of the tremendous pressures being applied on India and China, the leaders of these two countries prefer to give priority to the needs of their peoples than give-in to the pressures of the U.S. and the Collective West.  This is why the inflation rates in both India and China are significantly lower than that which prevails in the Philippines today to the detriment of the Filipino people and consumers/commuters.

The social costs of hosting foreign military bases, troops and facilities, on the other hand, have already been witnessed by the Filipino people and not new to us. Up to now, we can still see in our midst the so-called Amerasians who have been abandoned by their American soldier-fathers and are still living in poverty and isolation and shame brought about by the stigma of society against them. The countless cases of sexually-transmitted diseases, including AIDS, have also wreaked havoc on the communities which hosted American troops whose hunger for sex and depravity know no bounds.  How many sex workers have been killed by these American sex addicts?  Can we ever forget Lance Corporal  Joseph Scott Pemberton who was practically whisked-away from his Camp Aguinaldo detention cell to an airplane straight to the U.S.? And he is just one among the many who have “mistaken for a pig” many Filipinos such that they killed the latter as mere animals, and without remorse! And so, we say to the locals in the various EDCA sites in the Philippines, be wary of foreign soldiers in your localities!

CAGAYAN Vice Gov. Melvin Vargas Jr. said any move to allow US troops in military facilities in the province must go through public consultations.

“It is an issue that requires extensive public consultations,” Vargas told The Manila Times on Wednesday. “We only have one voice in Cagayan. Are we ready for any situation wherein we will be hosting US military facilities in the province?”

The Philippines and the US earlier announced that they have reached an agreement to allow American troops to use four additional bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

The agreement allows US forces to pre-position and store defense material, equipment and supplies in these areas.

The four new locations have yet to be revealed. However, earlier negotiations between the US and the Philippines have identified Palawan, Zambales and Isabela, as well as two sites in Cagayan as potential locations of American military bases. According to our sources, there are 2 sites in the province of Cagayan being eyed by the Americans for the stationing of their troops and facilities. One is Naval Base Camilo Osias in Sta. Ana, the other is inside the Cagayan North International Airport in Lal-lo.

“We are still waiting for the scheduled consultations that will happen in our province. Hopefully, different sectors will be invited. I will be one of those who will attend to be able to learn more about the plan,” Cagayan Vice Governor Melvin “Boy” Vargas said. He added that Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba has expressed reservations on the province’s hosting of American bases.

“This is due to the possibility that it will create tensions with neighboring countries, particularly China. Personally, he (Mamba) said he will not ‘close the door,’ but he needs to learn more about the program and how it will be introduced. Surely, there would be both advantages and disadvantages,” Vargas said.

“When it comes to [military] exercise it is a welcome development for us and the province as a whole. But it will be a different story when there will be a US military facility that will be installed in the province.” The military exercise, if it pushes through, will probably be conducted in Sta. Ana, which Vargas said is “somewhere downstream of Cagayan.” Vargas said for people to accept the plans to establish US military facilities in different parts of the country, the government only needs to be “truthful as well as transparent because we cannot control the sentiments of the people.”

Cagayan Gov. Manuel N. Mamba, who is a medical doctor by profession and therefore an advocate for peace, claimed that defense officials did not consult him regarding the setting up of two EDCA sites in his province. “We do not want to be an enemy to any country. We will defend the Philippines from our enemies even with sticks and stones. But we will not be foddered to a fight that is not our own,” Dr. Mamba said. Senator Maria Josefa Imelda “Imee” Marcos agreed with Mamba. “We Ilocanos are our nation’s soldiers. (But) We are not volunteering to fight wars that are not our own.”

At the Senate, Sen. Imee Marcos wondered whether the US intends to use the four new EDCA sites to defend Taiwan in case China invades it. The senator raised this point on Wednesday when she conducted a public hearing on the four additional EDCA sites as chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. “What is our fight with Taiwan? I don’t understand. Why are we doing all these military exercises in Luzon which is a stone’s throw away from Taiwan?” Senator Marcos asked defense officials invited to the EDCA inquiry. “Is the new expanded EDCA addressing the escalation of tension in Taiwan not the Philippine interest in the West Philippine Sea? We are going to fight for another country, the US. Is that correct?” Galvez maintained that the EDCA sites will be used more as staging platforms for humanitarian activities.

Senator Marcos also voiced concern that the EDCA sites may become targets of attack, especially from the enemies of the US. Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Andres Centino admitted that “military camps will always be a target for adversary.”

And so, finally, should we still mention the fact that these foreign military bases, troops and facilities inside “Philippine” military bases have not been subject to any full inspection by any Filipino, not even by the Philippine President? We all know that the U.S. maintains its stand that it will never confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons in all its military bases and facilities all over the world, including in its submarines and ships and airplanes.  This stand of the U.S. violates the anti-nuclear weapons provisions of our sacred Constitution.

Russia, China, North Korea, and other enemies of the U.S. know exactly where these U.S. nuclear weapons are within the Philippine land and sea territories and are ready to strike these with their own nuclear weapons anytime they decide to do so. In short, these U.S. military bases, troops and facilities, inside “Philippine” military bases, are magnets of attacks once a war breaks out between the U.S. and its enemies! And who will suffer? The Filipino people.  As far as our President is concerned, just like President Manuel Quezon, he and his family will just be brought to the safety of the U.S. before actual shooting takes place.  The rest of us will merely be cannon-fodder or meat in the grinder!

 

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