May 8, 2012
Asia Times

US-Philippines Joint Operations Raise Grassroots Suspicions

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) argues that the US government's main interest is to gain access to a huge reservoir of untapped natural gas

by Noel Tarrazona

ZAMBOANGA CITY - While United States troops mounted joint military exercises with their Filipino counterparts in an annual show of force in the Philippines held as part of the two sides' Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), civil society groups staged the largest anti-American protest here in nearly a decade.

Grassroots Filipino suspicions are rising about America's ultimate intentions for the country, a former US colony and major military outpost, as Manila and Washington forge closer strategic ties to counterbalance China's expanding regional influence and growing assertiveness in the South China Sea. Local groups have accused US troops of abuses against civilians in pursuit of its global war on terror, while politicians warn the Philippines risks becoming a proxy theater in the intensifying competition between the US and China for regional preeminence. . . .

Amirah Lidasan, leader of Patriotiko Mindanao (Patriotic Mindanao), . . . has argued that the US government's main interest in the ongoing peace talks between Aquino's government and the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is to gain access to a huge reservoir of untapped natural gas at Liguasan Marsh, a 220,000 hectare area in the Mindanao River Basin along the provinces of North Cotabato and Maguindanao. . . .


Noel Tarrazona, a resident of Canada, is a journalist and humanitarian worker currently based in Mindanao.

Swish Kris Amir Butler, "An Enduring Freedom for the Moros," The Wisdom Fund, February 15, 2002

"Philippine Autonomy Deal Scrapped," BBC News, August 21, 2008

Alex Newman, "Filipinos want US soldiers out,", September 2, 2009

[The decades-old conflict has claimed more than 120,000 lives and severely stunted the economic development of the country's second-largest and most resource-rich island.--Bong S Sarmiento, "Giving peace another chance in Mindanao,", January 28, 2011]

Joe Penney, "The 'War on Terror' rages in the Philippines: In 2002, the US launched Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines; nine years later, the campaign there continues,", October 5, 2011

Martin Jacques, "The Beginning of a New World Order," New Statesman, April 18, 2012

Sergio de la Tura, "Mindanao examines rebel siege scars,", October 2, 2013

"Filipino Muslim rebels hand over assault weapons to reinforce peace deal," Associated Press, June 16, 2015

Noel Tarrazona, "'Manila imperialism' to end as Duterte hires Mindanaoans to run the country,", May 18, 2016

[China’s immediate response was rejection of the ruling as illegal and furthermore meaningless. Meaningless, because in any arbitration, both parties must agree to submit to arbitration, and China did not agree to participate.

Illegal, because both countries are signatories of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and as signatories, the legally binding agreement is that the parties would negotiate on any matters of dispute.--George Koo, "'Is South China Sea FON issue prelude to another Gulf of Tonkin Resolution?,", July 14, 2016]

back button