Senator Joker Arroyo, at a hearing of the Legislative Oversight Committee
on the Visiting Forces Agreement said US forces have been overstaying
in the country for “more than 100 years.”
He said US military aid to the Philippines is only around P5 billion a year, and not
all of it is given in cash.
The current budget of the Armed Forces of the Philippines stands at P90 billion.
In comparison, US military aid is a drop in the bucket.
Senator Gregorio Honasan also saw US military aid as a sore point.
He said the Philippines is not even included in the top 10 recipients
of military aid from the US.
The senator said Israel gets US$9 billion a year
and Egypt US$6 billion. In contrast, the Philippines
only gets US$50 million (P2 billion) for letting US soldiers come over.
This, despite a long military history between
the two countries.
Bases in Subic and Clark were staging grounds
for US forces during the Vietnam War and Cold War.
“We have always been the first line of defense,” he said.
Honasan said the Philippine National Police even prepared
intelligence reports warning of a terrorist attack on America
a year before 9/11.
Although Arroyo was adamant about abrogating the Visiting Forces Agreement,
Honasan said he would wait for a government review of the
treaty before deciding.
Initial reports of that review are due out this month,
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa said at the hearing.
Ochoa is also chairman of the Presidential Commission
on the Visiting Forces Agreement.
“The Aquino administration believes that the VFA
remains in the national interest and is important and useful,”
Ochoa said, however, that a review of the 11-year-old agreement
is timely, especially over issues like custody of US soldiers
who commit crimes while in the Philippines because of the VFA.
But for Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, talk of independence and sovereignty
is useless without a strong military.
Enrile, who served as defense minister under then President Ferdinand Marcos,
said he will support ending military treaties with the US if the
Philippines can stand on its own.
Otherwise, he said, protests about Philippine sovereignty
being trampled are just “meaningless and nothing.”
“Can you match the military capability of Singapore?
Indonesia? Malaysia? Taiwan? Surely, you cannot match China,”
he said of Philippine security forces.
Senator Teofisto Guingona III, who also wants the VFA abrogated,
offered a suggestion. He said Malacanang could look into getting
into military treaties with another powerful neighbor: China.
Sometimes the paper I work for doesn’t use my stories
as submitted, probably for cause. I’ll post them here,