Anti-War Advocates Urge RP Lawmakers To Look Into US Bases In Mindanao

August 28, 2007 at 3:20 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A US soldier examines the foot of a Muslim villager during a medical mission in Marawi City in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 28 Aug) – An independent anti-war coalition on Tuesday urged Filipino lawmakers to investigate the presence of U.S. forces in southern Philippines.

The Stop the War Coalition, which is composed of people’s organizations, NGOs, social movements, women’s, students’, religious, youth and other organizations, said the presence of US troops and small American military bases in the country must be investigated because it violates the Constitution.

“We at the Stop the War Coalition call for an immediate independent investigation as to the constitutionality of allowing the establishment of US bases in Mindanao,” it said in a statement sent Tuesday to the Mindanao Examiner.

“We urge our elected legislators to call for an independent investigation into the issue and demand that they be given access to inspect the bases, and to summon US and Filipino officials to explain. We call for the Abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement. We demand an immediate end to the war in Mindanao and an end to US intervention in the war,” it said.

The Bangkok-based Focus on Global South, an international research institute that monitors US military activities in the Philippines, said an American-based construction unit has been spending $14.4 in Mindanao.

It said the US Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) had in June 6, 2007, awarded a six-month $14.4-million contract to a certain “Global Contingency Services LLC” of Irving, Texas for “operations support” for the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P).

According to its own website, the NAVFAC is the unit within the US military that is in charge of providing the US Navy with “operating, support, and training bases.” It “manages the planning, design, and construction and provides public works support for US Naval shore installations around the world.” Among their business lines are “bases development” and “contingency engineering.”

The JSOTF-P is the unit established by the US Special Operations Command that has been stationed in the southern Philippines since 2002 and which Focus on the Global South believes has established a new kind of US basing in the country.

Global Contingency Services LLC is a partnership between DynCorp International, Parsons Global Services, and PWC Logistics. The $14.4 million contract is actually part of a bigger $450-million five-year contract for Global Contingency Services to “provide a full range of world-wide contingency and disaster-response services, including humanitarian assistance and interim or transitional base-operating support services.”

A US Embassy official admitted that the American government has commissioned the construction of facilities across Mindanao for US soldiers, but insists the projects are not permanent military bases.

Karen Schinnerer, US Embassy deputy spokesperson and deputy press attaché, said the American construction projects are for “medical, logistical and administrative services” to be used by the American soldiers. She said the structures are “definitely not permanent US bases.”

US soldiers will use the facilities only on a temporary basis for them to “eat, sleep, and work,” she said.

Earlier on Friday, an official from the Philippine commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement said that the US was not building bases but living quarters for troops training local soldiers.

US troops are currently deployed in Zamboanga City, Jolo and Tawi-Tawi islands in the Sulu Archipelago and Maguindanao province in southern Philippines, where local soldiers are battling terrorism.

They have their own base inside Philippine military facilities where US troops maintain communication and intelligence facilities which are only accessible to the Americans, although sometimes senior Filipino military generals tour the facilities on special permission from US military.

A Philippine Air Force base in Mactan island in Cebu province also is being used as base to a fleet of US Orion reconnaissance planes, while US ships in international waters are where unmanned spy aircrafts are flown to conduct reconnaissance missions over the southern region.

Last year, villagers in Jolo island recovered an unmanned aerial vehicle called “Predator” which crashed in the hinterland. The crash of the spy plane was never reported by the US military and kept secret until the craft was found. A similar aircraft also crashed at sea off Zamboanga.

And as Schinnerer said, there are facilities—however, they are temporary quarters and not a military base. She added that the US government does not even have plans of leading any kind of military operations against rebels in Mindanao.

Schinnerer said the US troops are in Mindanao upon the invitation of the Philippines.

“We will work with the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] as it is by invitation of Philippine government to work beside them we work on the medical services,” she said, adding that the project has been contracted privately.

Stop the War Coalition also urged other independent groups to protest the presence of US facilities in the region.

“Because of the ongoing war in Mindanao, Stop the War Coalition believes that US basing in the country and its involvement in the war will complicate the situation and move us away from peaceful and just solutions to the problems.”

“Stop the War Coalition believes that neither the US nor the Philippine government has the incentive to tell the truth about the US bases in Mindanao. We therefore call on all Filipinos to oppose these bases, call for their abolition, and demand the withdrawal of US troops from the country,” it said.

But many Filipinos in areas where the US troops are operating said they are supporting the presence of the Americans, who are involved in humanitarian missions and development projects.

US troops have built roads and schools and bridges in southern Philippines and at the same time helping the local military defeat terrorism. (Mindanao Examiner, with reports from the Manila Times)


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