President Barack Obama: Clean Up, Pay Up! US Troops, Get Out!

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President Barack Obama: Clean Up, Pay Up! US Troops, Get Out!

This petition had 37 supporters

The upcoming visit of US President Barrack Obama in the Philippines is clearly to lobby to the Philippine government for de facto military basing rights and increased US troops presence in the country. This is in the context of growing dominance of US in the country and Southeast Asian region.

 

President Obama endorsed early in 2012 a document that outlines a new US military strategy that features the “pivoting” or “rebalancing” of 60 percent of its armed forces (mainly maritime) to the Asia-Pacific region by 2020. Rebalancing means increased US military exercises, more frequent port calls by US ships, increased presence of rotational troops, and greater access to bases and facilities.

 

The Philippines ousted the US military bases from the country in 1992. But the permanent presence of US troops in PH has continued and has been justified by one-sided agreements such as the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA). According to reports, there have been 357 port calls by US warships from 2007-2012. Six hundred US Special Forces have been based in Mindanao since 2002 through rotational deployment.

 

The US Pivot towards Asia and the Pacific results to greater intervention and military presence in PH. Already we are seeing a steady spike in US naval presence in PH, with at least 88 port calls recorded in Subic Bay in 2012 spiking from 54 in 2011, and with at least 72 in just the first half of 2013 alone. Meanwhile, PH President Benigno ‘PNoy’ Aquino III continues to engage in negotiations with US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel for greater bases access specifically in former US naval base in Subic Bay and increased rotational presence of US troops in our country.

 

In the Philippine experience, this policy of allowing PH territories and facilities as a staging ground for US military operations has not only usurped national sovereignty and territorial integrity, but has caused the massive destruction and pollution of our environment as well. As of 2004, the toxic wastes left by US forces when the US Bases were discontinued has afflicted 2,460 victims of which 1,060 have already died.

 

As recent as 2012, a single US navy contractor ship dumped 4,000,000 liters of hazardous sewage and toxic bilge water in Subic Bay’s waters. Under the VFA, Philippine authorities cannot inspect US ships for hazardous and toxic materials, and a cable released by online whistle-blower WikiLeaks revealed uranium bricks, a nuclear material, were smuggled in the Philippines from US. It must also be noted that these port calls and military exercises are alarmingly close in proximity to various marine protected areas and other critical marine ecosystems.

 

Last January 17, 2013, the US minesweeper USS Guardian ran aground and destroyed 2,345 square meters of 10 meter-deep coral reefs in the protected area known as the Tubbataha Reef. to grow back, significantly and negatively affecting fisheries productivity and tourism in the area. The US Navy has not explained why they were present in a protected area, and the US government says it will pay damages but not clear how and when. Not long after, a Chinese poaching vessel, the Min Yong Lu, also ran aground and destroyed an additional 3,902 square meters.

 

Before this, a stand-off between China and the Philippines was sparked last yearChina’s growing aggression in the West Philippine Sea is seen as part of a brewing competition for regional dominance in the Asia-Pacific between China and the US and its allies.

 

We, the undersigned individual leaders and advocates of various non-government organizations, people’s organizations, academic institutions and social movements involved in environmental advocacy and the defense of our national sovereignty and patrimony, unite today on the following calls:

 

• We oppose what is essentially the return of US bases in the Philippines through the increased rotational presence of troops and the current bases access agreement being currently negotiated by the US government, which will provide greater access to our domestic facilities for military personnel that cause massive pollution and environmental destruction;

• We demand justice and compensation for the victims of US toxic contamination in their former military bases and human rights violations in the country. The US government must be made responsible for the clean-up and rehabilitation of damaged environments such as the Subic Bay and Tubbataha Reef, and must be compelled to immediately pay the P60-million fine for damaging Tubbataha Reef;

• We unite in the belief that the peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region can be achieved through peaceful and diplomatic means and not through increased maritime aggression and militarization of our seas;

• We call on the Aquino government to repeal and reject all previous, current and upcoming bilateral military and territory agreements between the Philippines, US and its allies such as the VFA, MDT, MPSA and the proposed base access agreement.

 

Make polluter US troops pay!

No to US bases in the Philippines!

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