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Critics say US using Philippines for its own agenda vs. China

A geopolitics expert, a progressive lawmaker, and members of fishermen's and progressive groups on Thursday weighed in on recent developments in the US-Philippine military alliance, saying that the US is using its military clout and superiority to restrain the growing power of China, and that the Philippines could be dragged into tensions between the two powers.

“Yung deployment ng US troops dito sa pamamagitan ng mga EDCA bases, lahat ito malinaw naman na nakatuon sa estratehiya ng US. Ang US gusto niya sagkain 'yung paglakas ng China,” analyst and UP professor Roland Simbulan said at the Pandesal Forum at the Kamuning Bakery in Quezon City.

(The deployment of US troops here through the EDCA bases clearly focuses on the US strategy to restrain the growth of China.)

He added that the recent meeting between Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and US President Joe Biden in Washington was, for him, "a joint US-Philippine agreement to violate in this regard the 1972 joint China-US Shanghai Communiqué and also to violate correspondingly the Philippine-China opening of diplomatic relations where we in fact recognized that Taiwan is a part of China."

China views democratic Taiwan as part of its territory, and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary.

Last month, after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen met with US Speaker Kevin McCarthy, China launched three days of military exercises around Taiwan in which it practiced encircling it and sealing it off.

“Tayo talaga ay madadamay [We will be dragged into the conflict],” Simbulan said.

In response, US Embassy Press Attaché Kanishka Gangopadhyay said that the Marcos-Biden meeting "reaffirms the longstanding, ironclad alliance between the United States and the Philippines, which has contributed to peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and around the world for more than 70 years."

"For decades, we’ve worked together to promote peace, prosperity, and stability across the region, and we’re growing that effective partnership in scale and scope every single day," he added.

China opposition to EDCA

The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the US grants US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities, allows them to build facilities, and pre-position equipment, aircraft and vessels.

In February, the Department of National Defense announced a deal that gave American troops access to four more bases in strategic areas of the country, with the aim of accelerating EDCA's full implementation.

Three of the four newly designated EDCA sites are in northern Philippines, near Taiwan.

Days after the Chinese exercises around Taiwan, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian said that the Philippines should "unequivocally oppose" Taiwan independence instead of offering the US access to its military facilities near the Taiwan Strait if it cares about the 150,000 OFWs on the self-ruled island.

The statement sparked outrage and condemnation from several sectors, with Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas saying Huang "crossed the line" and Senator Risa Hontiveros declaring that Huang should be recalled by Beijing.

The Chinese embassy said that Huang had been "misquoted."


At the Pentagon on Wednesday, the US and the Philippines released the first ever bilateral defense guidelines, seen as a reaffirmation that "an armed attack in the Pacific, including anywhere in the South China Sea, on either of their aircraft or armed forces—which includes their Coast Guards—would invoke mutual defense commitments under the 1951 Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty."

The guidelines are also seen as an upgrade to the Philippines and the US’ security ties by “institutionaliz[ing] key bilateral priorities, mechanisms, and processes to deepen alliance cooperation and interoperability across land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace.”

At the Pandesal Forum, International League of Peoples' Struggle general secretary Liza Maza called the guidelines a “sellout.”

Maza said the Philippines will open its strategic security and defense plan to the US, but that the sharing would not go the other way.

“Tayo ba open ba sa atin ang strategic and tactical security and defense plan ng US? Of course not,” she said.

(Is the strategic and tactical security and defense plan of the US open to us? Of course not.)

Maza also called a “bribe” the development aid that the US will give to the communities where the EDCA sites are being built.

“Bigyan mo ng ilang proyekto para maalis mo 'yung mangingisda, tanggalin mo 'yung mga community doon para magamit mo 'yung site para sa military agenda mo,” she said.

(The projects are there so they can remove the fisherfolk and communities and they can use the site for their military agenda.)

She said these developments are worrisome, adding that the Philippines and US have a "toxic" relationship.

Fishers group PAMALAKAYA spokesperson Ronnel Arambulo said they do not believe that the US will help the Philippines when it comes to China's aggression against Filipino fisherfolk—and that the US will only "provoke" China.

“Ito ay magiging dahilan pa para doon sa probokasyon sa China na pwede maipit pa rin ang mangingisda at lalo pang mang-harass ang Chinese government, partikular diyan sa West Philippine Sea,” he said.

(This will lead to the provocation of China where fisherfolk will be caught in the crossfire and China will harass them even more in the West Philippine Sea.)


Meanwhile, House deputy minority leader ACT Teachers Representative France Castro said the US is using the tension between China and Philippines in the West Philippines Sea to increase the number of EDCA sites.

Instead of de-escalating the situation, Castro said, the US is aggravating it “so the West Philippine Sea may reach a flashpoint.”

She suggested demilitarizing the area.

“Ang US naman in-exploit niya yung strategic location ng ating bansa to advance its geopolitical agenda to the detriment of the Filipino people,” Castro said.

(The US is exploiting the strategic location of our country to advance its geopolitical agenda to the detriment of the Filipino people.)

GMA News Online has also reached out to the Department of National Defense for comment. — BM, GMA Integrated News