For many Filipinos, the 60th anniversary Mutual Defence Treaty is a sad reminder that the sun has yet to set over the nation’s long colonial history. Nearly seven decades after independence, the country still suffers from US dominance in almost every aspect of society. One US official put it this way in a leaked 2009 diplomatic cable: “No nation has the sort of special relationship with the Philippines that we do. No nation has our degree of access, acceptability or influence” (09MANILA612).
Under the Visiting Forces Agreement, a contentious mutual defence accord signed in 1999, US troops can enter the Philippines without a visa and without informing the Philippine public - or even the government - of the specifics of their activities.
If it is within their power to do so, why don’t the Americans - supposed harbingers of democracy worldwide - do more to end human rights abuses in the Philippines?
“They want advances on economic interests, investments in Mindanao and other parts of the country,” said Renato Reyes Jr, secretary-general of Bayan, a nationalist civil society group. “In the region, they want to use the Philippines as a base for power projection in southeast Asia, including projection of power towards China … it provides the US with a base in advancing its hegemonic interests in the region,” Reyes added.
WikiLeaks has helped confirm these arguments. A 2007 cable revealed that “based on incomplete data and unconfirmed reports, the Philippines may have untapped mineral wealth worth between US $840bn and US $1tn”, adding that “multinational firms are already eyeing areas in Mindanao for possible projects”.