Uphold National Sovereignty in the Philippines! Junk EDCA! U.S. Out of the Philippines!

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For Immediate Release
Press Statement
April 28th, 2016

Reference:
Laura Emily E. Austria, Vice-Chairperson, Anakbayan New Jersey
Monica Macaro, Anakbayan New Jersey
Brenda Guzman, Anakbayan New Jersey
(470) 309-2265, anakbayannj@gmail.com

Uphold National Sovereignty in the Philippines! Junk EDCA! U.S. Out of the Philippines!

April 28th, 2016 marks the second anniversary of the signing of the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the US and the Philippines. EDCA, as a supplement to the controversial Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), allows the US to rotate troops for extended stays in the Philippines; to build and operate facilities on Philippine bases; and to store and position non-nuclear weapons and other war materials on these bases. This agreement was intended to strengthen the alliance between the Philippines and the US and foster peace and stability in the region. On March 6th, 2016, both countries agreed on five locations of military bases to station US troops.

Anakbayan New Jersey condemns EDCA and stands firm on our position that EDCA is an unconstitutional and one-sided military agreement. We believe that increased U.S presence threatens the sovereignty of the Philippines by allowing the US greater access to Philippine natural, financial, and human resources without the promise of stability or peace. “The militarization of our families’ communities caused by the EDCA is a major concern for Fil-Ams. Abuses of the local populace criminality, and red light districts sprout up wherever US bases are.” stated Jonathan Zirkle, Anakbayan New Jersey’s Educational Officer.

As an ND youth-and-student organization based in the US, Anakbayan New Jersey also condemns President Obama and the National Security Council for implementing this unfair agreement. With the US having the largest military budget of any country, we disapprove of the US using its and Philippine citizens’ tax dollars to fund its military expansion rather than for citizen-oriented programs and services. Because of a fundamentally-broken education system and increasing financial inequality, many young US citizens are also forced to look to the military to fund their higher education or to find employment. Decreased funding for public K-12 schools and rising tuition and fees for colleges and universities creates a strain for young students, and ROTC programs take advantage of this artificial urgency. Furthermore, American government officials continue to promote the US-Philippine alliance as a “friendship” to hide the colonial history of US occupation and distract from the unequal tendencies of programs between the countries.

American troops also continue to violate the rights and welfare of Philippine people, namely the murder of transwoman Jennifer Laude at the hands of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton under the protection of the US and Philippine governments. Pemberton was ultimately found guilty of homicide, rather than the more severe charge of murder, and was sentenced to 6-10 years in jail by the Olongapo Regional Trial Court. Because the Philippine government’s interests ultimately align with the US, the Philippine judicial system is willing to give US troops lighter sentences for crimes, as well as bribe victims and their families to lower their charges. Incidents like these will persist under EDCA as more troops will continue to rotate through the Philippines and threaten the lives of the Filipino people as militarization continues to escalate.

Often, people argue that the Philippines needs the US to fend off China as they target places like the Spratly Islands in order to reap massive economic gains by obtaining strategic territories. However, this is not the way to assert national sovereignty. “The only way we can defend our country from the bullying of China and other foreign aggressors is to stand up for ourselves and uphold Philippine sovereignty,” argues Ruthie Arroyo, Anakbayan New Jersey chairperson. “Since Noynoy Aquino has miserably failed to uphold the interests of the Filipino people, the next president must make defending Philippine sovereignty a priority, including the repeal of EDCA, national industrialization, and advancing our people’s capacity for defense.”

As Anakbayan New Jersey, we recognize that militarization through anti-people agreements like EDCA only serve to meet the needs and interests of the U.S and Philippine governments at the expense of its own peoples. Militarization is perpetuated through Army, Air Force, and Marine JROTC programs. These programs are housed in high schools and target inner-city students of color that do not have as many economic or educational opportunities as their other peers. Militarization is especially rampant in Mindanao, where large concentrations of Lumad peoples live. Lakbay Lumad USA: The Continuing Journey of Mindanao’s Indigenous Peoples for Peace with Justice is touring throughout the United States during April and May 2016 in order to bring over and highlight the Lumads’ stories. Indigenous Lumad leaders are participating in this tour because militarization has affected their lives through displacement and repression. Anakbayan New Jersey invites you to hear their stories on May 21st from 12 PM-5 PM at Christ Church in the UES as they raise awareness to the international community of the conditions back home that have only worsened through treaties like EDCA that continue to promote anti-people policies in order for the few to profit.

Militarization in both Lumad communities and in inner-city high schools also highlights the issue of accessibility to education. In this vein, Anakbayan New Jersey continues to promote Anakbayan-USA’s Education is a Human Right campaign because we recognize that everyone deserves access to a quality, comprehensive, and pro-people education. High school ROTC programs are weaved as a way out for young people of color to obtain a college degree and expand their economic opportunities at the expense of their life. Simultaneously, the Philippine military continues to invade and terrorize Lumad children at their own schools, interfering with their education. These students are obtaining a comprehensive education where they learn to farm the land and become familiar with their rights. Because this threatens the interests of the Philippine government, the Philippine military has taken the lives of the Lumad and its leaders in the guise of red-tagging. Anakbayan New Jersey calls for an end to militarization, exploitation, and repression of the people. We uplift the struggles of the Filipino people — especially the Lumad peoples — as they continue to struggle to assert their right to self-determination and call for a pro-people government that serves the needs of its people instead of killing them in the name of profit.

JUNK EDCA! JUNK VFA! US OUT OF THE PHILIPPINES!
STOP THE KILLINGS!
JUSTICE FOR JENNIFER LAUDE!
###

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