Joining a protest at the US Embassy to commemorate the rejection of the US-RP Bases Agreement, workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno called on President Rodrigo Duterte to push for the immediate pull-out of U.S. troops from Philippine territory.
“Workers agree with President Duterte. US troops must go! We are willing to support his plan to reorient the Philippines’ foreign policy if it means junking all unequal ties with the US,” said Jerome Adonis, KMU secretary general.
KMU demanded that Duterte junk the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), a bilateral treaty between the United States and the Philippines, which allowed the US to use existing camps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as their military base, store weapons, warships, and aircrafts, conduct joint exercises with Filipino troops, and bring-in defense contractors and other civilian personnel.
“Duterte should reject the US’ recolonization of the Philippines. He should not allow the US to permanently station their troops in our country using resources from Filipino workers’ and people’s taxes. He should reject the US’ plan to use our country as their base of operation in spreading their hegemony in Asia,” said Adonis.
Amidst Duterte’s strong anti-US stance, government agencies such as the DND (Department of National Defense) and the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) have cautioned that the status quo will remain unchanged, and the alliance with the U.S. will be maintained.
“It is a blatant violation of our sovereignty. The US wants to use the Philippines as a pawn in its military plans for the Southeast Asian region,” said Adonis. “Historically, allowing increased US military presence in our country has led to violations of human rights and escalation of conflict and violence.”
Duterte cited one such incident, which took place in Mindanao: the Bud Dajo massacre, which led to the deaths of an estimated 600 members of the Moro community at the hands of American soldiers. The KMU also pointed to many other cases where the U.S. military presence in the Philippines did more harm than good, from sexual assault cases like those of Jennifer Laude and Nicole, to increased tensions with China and aggressive counter-insurgency programs patterned after U.S. models.
“We join the Filipino people in calling for peace and sovereignty, in defending our rights and asserting our freedom from U.S. control,” said Adonis. “We challenge President Duterte to begin enacting and implementing concrete policy proposals to effect his proposed reorientation of foreign policy, to become more pro-Filipino instead of pro-America. Actions speak louder than words,” he added.
The labor leader meanwhile challenged Duterte to also reject US dictated neoliberal economic policies of pressing down workers’ wages and legalization of contractual employment.
“Duterte’s foreign policy shift must also be aimed at rejecting US dictated economic policies that subjects workers to worsening hunger and poverty. He can counter the US’ neoliberal attacks against workers immediately by implementing a National Minimum Wage of 750 pesos and ban all forms of contractualization, and in the long run should adopt national industrialization as his administration’s economic policy.” Adonis said.