Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan condemned on Thursday the ratification of an agreement between the Philippines and Australia that will allow their troops on Philippine territory.
Bayan said the agreement will do nothing to upgrade the Philippine military and violates national sovereignty.
“The claims that the Australian SOVFA will boost PH security against China is a patent lie. That is the same lie being peddled to justify permanent US military presence in the country. These so-called military exercises do not result in the modernization of our armed forces,” Bayan said in a press statement.
Bayan, which has been calling for the cancellation of a visiting forces agreement and a mutual defense treaty with the U.S., said the Armed Forces of the Philippines is still weak despite more than a decade of the PH-U.S. VFA.
The PH-Australia Status of Visiting Forces Agreement lays down guidelines on the treatment of visiting troops, including jurisdiction over troops who break the law of a receiving country. The agreement also gives visiting forces temporary use of land and sea areas for combined training and other activities.
Bayan noted the agreement with Australia does not require it “to take the Philippines’ side in the dispute with China so it is untenable why this is even being invoked to justify the SOVFA ratification.”
The SOVFA will just turn the Philippines into even more of a military hub for foreign countries, the group warned.
The Senate, voting 17-1, concurred with ratification of the agreement on Tuesday. It had been awaiting ratification since 2008.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said ratification will “not only pave the way for us to improve our defense mechanisms, (but) will also solidify our decades old relationship with Australia, especially in the fields of trade and industry.”
Senator Teofisto Guingona III, who voted for ratification, made clear, however, that the SOVFA “does not say that we have to fight with Australian troops if they are at war and it does not say that Australian troops must fight with us if we are at war with other countries.”
He said it would be misleading to say “we have to vote for this Agreement because Australia will help us in time of serious armed conflict.”
Senator Joker Arroyo, the lone dissenting vote, said the move seemed to have been meant to portray Australia as a potential ally in the South China Sea. “Let us not grab at straws,” he said then.
The Palace called ratification “an important step in enhancing our national and regional security.”
Bayan said, however, that the Philippines must develop an independent foreign policy and not rely on countries like the U.S., Australia, and Japan. “Only by eliminating our dependence on these countries, and by realizing that our national interest is not the same as theirs, can we be a truly sovereign nation,” the group said.