House Resolution 1020 by Bayan Muna, Gabriela and Anakpawis Partylist Reps Re: Balikatan in Bicol


Republic of the Philippines

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Quezon City

FOURTEENTH CONGRESS

Second Regular Session

HOUSE RESOLUTION NO. 1020

______________________________________________________________________

INTRODUCED by Reps. SATUR C. OCAMPO and TEODORO A. CASIÑO (Bayan Muna),

LIZA L. MAZA and LUZVIMINDA C. ILAGAN (Gabriela), and RAFAEL V. MARIANO (Anakpawis)

______________________________________________________________________

RESOLUTION
DIRECTING THE COMMITTEES ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND NATIONAL DEFENSE AND SECURITY TO JOINTLY OR SEPARATELY CONDUCT AN INQUIRY, IN AID OF LEGISLATION, ON THE IMPACT OF THE RP-US BALIKATAN JOINT MILITARY EXERCISES TO OUR NATION’S SOVEREIGNTY AND THE SAFETY OF THE PEOPLE IN THE BICOL REGION

WHEREAS, the Bicol region has the distinction of having the last Filipino General to surrender during the Philippine-American war – General Simeon A. Ola – who along with other patriots, fervently defended the region and the whole country against the American colonizers;

WHEREAS, a new type of invasion is happening in Bicol in the form of the RP-US Balikatan (Shoulder-to-Shoulder) exercises that will see thousands of US troops enter four provinces of the region from February 25 to April 30, 2009;

WHEREAS, Balikatan 2009 is to be the 25th annual event of its kind under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) of 1951 and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). Both the US and Philippine national governments claim that this event shall comprise “humanitarian missions” in Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon and Masbate;

WHEREAS, the Balikatan exercises and the VFA violate our national sovereignty because they cause the prolonged presence of foreign troops on Philippine soil despite the absence of any basing treaty;

WHEREAS, the VFA, as crafted and implemented, does not specify or limit the number of US troops allowed entry into the Philippines or delineate the areas and activities in the country that the “visiting” troops can have access to for a particular time frame. The VFA allows US troops to enter military camps, civilian facilities and even areas of actual internal armed conflicts such as Sulu and Basilan provinces;

WHEREAS, the VFA does not specify or limit the duration of the stay of the “visiting” US forces. The agreement’s vagueness in this respect allows the continuing, even if rotational, presence of US troops in the Philippines;

WHEREAS, the VFA does not explicitly prohibit activities that violate our Constitution, such as direct combat involvement of US forces. The VFA allows the US to deploy an unlimited number of troops, for an unspecified duration, anywhere in country for a broad range of activities that may not be limited to “joint exercises;”

WHEREAS, since the “visiting” US troops are not required to present visas like other foreign visitors, there is really no way under the VFA for the public to know how long they actually stay, when they will leave and when they would return;

WHEREAS, the presence of US troops, even if on a rotational basis, has become permanent. For example the structures in Camp Navarro in Zamboanga have been ‘permanently occupied’ by US Special Forces, 365 days a year, for almost six years now;

WHEREAS, there are several “exercises” and activities between US and RP armed forces throughout the year, all of which are said to be approved by the Mutual Defense Board. However, there have been many conflicting statements from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other government officials on whether or not the current batch of US forces (both in civilian clothes and in combat fatigues) in the country are covered by any joint exercise;

WHEREAS, according to Major Ramon Zagala, AFP spokesperson for the annual Balikatan, about 6,000 US troops will join 2,500 Filipino soldiers in “humanitarian missions” and “civic actions” from April 16 to 28 with the main part of the exercises to take place at Filipino military bases north and south of Manila;

WHEREAS, Maj. Zagala also said that the US government would spend at least US$2 million on the exercises and would bring in a number of warships and aircraft, including F-16 fighter planes into the country. He also added that US military medics and engineers would also conduct clinics and build schools and other basic infrastructure in the Bicol region;

WHEREAS, the terms “humanitarian mission” and “civic action” have become the standard response of both the AFP and the US embassy every time US forces get involved in incidents that are not covered by the VFA, such as operating unmanned spy planes, or being part of AFP military convoys that engage in combat missions;

WHEREAS, the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) by US forces in Mindanao and now in Bicol have been reported in media. The Mindanao Examiner reported that a UAV crashed in Jolo, Sulu (February 2006); an unmanned spy plane reportedly crashed in Mount Tumatangis in Jolo (November 2005); and a Predator-type drone crashed in the sea off Zamboanga City (March 2002);

WHEREAS, various media reports have said that “the US military has a fleet of various unmanned spy planes, from palm-size remote-controlled aircraft to bigger and sophisticated high-altitude, long-range, remotely piloted vehicles designed for long-endurance photographic reconnaissance and electronic surveillance missions, and as attack aircrafts;”

WHEREAS, the AFP has defended presence of US spy planes. Maj. Gamal Hayudini, a spokesperson for the AFP Southern Command, told the Zamboanga Journal that “there is nothing to fear about the US drones. It is being used to survey areas where humanitarian activities will be jointly undertaken by US and Philippine troops.” This does not answer who controls the surveillance equipment, grants authority for its use and who are the targets of spying;

WHEREAS, the use of these UAVs are not limited to surveillance activities. They can also be used as lethal offensive weapons, such as the cases of US forces in Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan;

WHEREAS, on January 29, 2009 around 6:30pm, a US UAV drone crashed between the towns of Esperanza and Pio V. Corpuz in Masbate province;

WHEREAS, sometime in January 2009, a US naval officer visited several hospitals in Albay province, asking health care personnel if they had orthopedic facilities. This also shows that US are preparing to do “war games” and possibly participate in direct combat operations with the AFP;

WHEREAS, “humanitarian missions” and “civic actions” are part of the “communications strategy” being employed by the US armed forces to justify their continued presence in the country as stated in the Strategic Communication document of the US Pacific Command (PACOM) Pacific Joint Training Strategy. Such activities are undertaken “to educate elected officials, opinion leaders and the public on the importance of military training; build public trust and support of training activities; portray the cost of readiness and potential impact of not being ready…and highlight the military as good stewards of the environment;”

WHEREAS, humanitarian missions are not the main activities of US Special Forces in previous joint exercises in Central Luzon, Mindanao and Panay. It will not be different in the exercises to be launched in Bicol. They are merely part of a “communications strategy” that is subsumed to strategic US military thrusts. In the US Pacific Command Joint Training Strategy 2007, the umbrella plan for activities such as the Balikatan, it stated that “the overarching goal of the Pacific Joint Training Strategy is to ensure U.S. forces are ready to respond promptly and effectively to any and all contingencies that may confront our nation;”

WHEREAS, it has been ten years since the VFA came into effect. Under this agreement, especially from 2002 to the present, various illegal and criminal activities involving American troops have placed the general safety of the local people into question;

WHEREAS, there is a pressing need to look into the current tack of the AFP interpreting foreign policy and the application of relevant treaties and agreements with regard to the Balikatan exercises;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, AS IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED, that the Committees on Foreign Relations and National Defense and Security, jointly or separately, conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the impact of Balikatan exercises to our nation’s sovereignty and the safety of the people in the Bicol region.

Adopted,

SATUR C. OCAMPO TEODORO A. CASIÑO LIZA L. MAZA

Bayan Muna Party List Bayan Muna Party List Gabriela Womens Party

LUZVIMINDA C. ILAGAN RAFAEL V. MARIANO

Gabriela Womens Party Anakpawis Party List

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