The “Presidentiables” and Mindanao 2010-2016 (8) On foreign ownership,on US military

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews) — In September 2008, a month after the controversy of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) broke out, Speaker Prospero Nograles’ House Resolution 737 to amend Sections 2 and 3 of Article 12 of the Constitution “to allow the acquisition by foreign corporations and associations and the transfer or conveyance thereto, of alienable public and private lands” was reported to have been “gaining ground” with 108 congressmen co-authoring. Section 2 provides that the “exploration, development and utilization of natural resources should be in full control and supervision of the State, allowing only co-production, joint venture or production sharing agreements with a maximum of 60 percent equity in domestic or foreign ownership while Section 3 allows foreigners to lease for a period not exceeding 25 years, renewable for not more than 25 years, and not to exceed 1,000 hectares in area.

Nograles, according to a press statement posted in the Congressional website in mid-Septemer 2008, said he filed the resolution “because of his frustration in finding solutions that would end the four decades of armed conflict in some parts of Mindanao.”

How ownership of lands by foreigners would help the situation in Mindanao, Nograles said: “Many people are poor in Mindanao because of the insurgency problem and we have an insurgency problem because there are no investments coming in to help the poor. We have been trapped in this kind of situation for a long time now and there’s nothing we can do about it just because of two particular provisions in the Constitution,” he said.

“Arab investments can be best situated in Mindanao because the insurgency problem in the region is mainly Muslim-related. I think that even members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the ultra-fundamentalist Abu Sayyaf Group will not attack any Arab investment,” he said.

What do our Presidential aspirants say about the Nograles proposal? What is their stand on the presence of US military forces in the country, particularly in Mindanao?

On the Nograles proposal:

Aquino:
[I look at the example of Marinduque. They have a well established mining company there existing for decades upon decades, suffering a breach in the containment dike, poisoning a lot of the waters in Marinduque and you had the foreign firm suddenly pulling up stakes, transferring all their assets to the local partner and saying in effect, “bahala na kayo diyan.”

Philosophically, I would rather have a Filipino undertake this operation because at the end of the day, he stays here. The foreigner might not have di ba in Tagalog, the “malasakit” to ensure that future generations are not adversely affected by their operations. I think the first knowledge of strip mining is the devastation and the destruction I got from western companies specifically in America. If they did it to their own country, do we expect them to do any less in our country? So the provision of having Filipino partners is I think a minimum safeguard.

Estrada
No. Maybe on a case to case basis, like for example agricultural land should not be touched by the foreigners maybe only on those commercial and residential.

Gordon:
[Limited. I would imagine that] although they can not put it in their pocket and leave, there’s got to be certain restriction as in their owning the land for example. I’d like to see there that they don’t sit on (the land) or they don’t use it for land banking. They should be able to put in a required agricultural or economic inputs that they need to do without sitting on the land.

Perlas
Ridiculous. Nograles should not be doing that especially as he comes from Mindanao. He’s not gonna solve the peace and order problem. The whole problem in the past, both in Luzon Visayas and in Mindanao, is ancestral domain and land ownership. All the past revolutions of history had agrarian reform roots, land ownership roots. You’re not gonna solve something especially a lot of poverty by allowing these foreigners to gobble up this country, change our culture. It’s totally unacceptable.

Teodoro:
In certain areas, and with certain qualifications. Residential, commercial, industrial, and maybe tourist areas, pwede. But not agricultural and not mineral. Now in residential, it was pointed out to me that it may also create a shortage in the housing market. So I propose a cap, meaning to say a reverse cap that foreigners can own residential but maybe if the value is above 15 million, 20 million so that low cost housing opportunities will not be affected.

Villar:
Ang sa akin ano, ang gusto ko lamang ay mapag-usapan ng maayos ito, pagdebatehan ito at ibigay sa tao ang desisyon kung ano ano ang gusto nila. Mahalaga kasi na ma-ventilate muna itong mga issues na ito eh. Pag-usapan ng mabuti. Pakinggan natin ang mga arguments of foreign against, at pagkatapos gumawa tayo ng desisyon. Mahirap kasing may desisyon na tsaka mo pagdebatehan.

On US military presence in the country, especially in Mindanao

Aquino
Babalik na naman tayo doon sa idea na, it is in their interest to keep on meddling in our affairs. That’s one side of the debate. The other side of the debate is that having defense forces are really becoming extremely expensive and prohibitively expensive. Even America is hard put to get all of the weapon systems they want to apply. They have just cancelled, I think its called the F22 program. Do we realistically, we are an archipelagic country, you have our coastline bigger than that of the Americas, and then we don’t have the wherewithal to protect our economic interests, our people. I’m not even sure if we have a single fighter plane extant. So it makes sense to come into agreements and part of that siguro is having bases on a visiting forces agreement basis, not permanent basis but not only just America perhaps there are other countries, Australia comes to mind, that might want to have cooperative agreements with us and thereby mutual defense treaties and such. So we can have our defensive net at minimal cost or at least a least cost to our economy which has to be prioritized towards addressing the first freedom which is freedom from hunger.

(VFA should be) reviewed first.

Estrada

I was a Senator when I voted against the retention of the US military bases. That means to say anywhere in the Philippines because we cannot claim that we are a sovereign nation if we allow foreign bases to stay here in our country. They can be here only on a visiting agreement only but they can not be here permanently.

Gordon
If it is in the national interest I’m not against it. We can have Chinese troops here, we can have Russian troops we can have in the same manner that there are American troops in Japan, there are American troops in Korea there are American troops in Germany. So long as it is for the national interest. The biggest error that we have in maintaining the American presence here was fostering dependency. What should we have done is to make sure right away that we put the money that would otherwise go to defense, into commercial pursuits so that we use the American military umbrella to protect as we develop our education, our physical infrastructure, our ports, our airports, our commercial pursuits. But I don’t think Americans want bases here anymore anyway. I don’t see that’s a problem. However, I would welcome training with the Japanese training with the Singaporean and stuff like that.

Perlas
We have to actually redefine what is our policy with the US. This is so important because the US recognize that first of all if they want to actually have a kind of presence in the world that’s respected that they have to respect the identity, the culture, the vision, and aspirations of a people. They cannot make a country their outpost, their vassal, if they have any design for a US global empire.

Teodoro:
Well it’s been quite healthy. I for one, just as long as we are true to what they are here for, that is cooperation in counter terrorism, helping us strengthen our armed forces with the defense reform program and mutual cooperation in humanitarian assistance and disaster response. It is not only American military presence here but the cooperation between and amongst Armed Forces in the ASEAN regional forum… I mean it is very healthy for soldiers to interact and to train with each other. Soldiers do not fight. It is politicians that make soldiers fight. And the presence of US forces here because of constant training exercises is because also that we cannot devote substantial units and substantial amounts of time because we need them in the front lines. Now, the value also is because our soldiers are doing police work, actually internal security, is they can exercise their traditional roles, traditional military roles through the Balikatans.

Villar
Mahalaga sa akin na magkaroon tayo ng foreign policy na independent. At mahalaga para sa akin nawala tayong parang kapatid. Sa akin, meron na tayong mga treaty, mayroon na tayong mga agreements na pinasok, igalang natin. Pero beyond that, hindi naman tayo dapat pumayag na. Sa akin hanggang doon na lang tayo sa pinag-usapan. Sapagkat yun halimbawa ay treaty na, pinag-usapan na, wala naman tayong magagawa diyan kundi ang sundin na. Halimbawa, in fact kung kinakailangang reviewhin natin, reviewhin natin. Pero mahalaga sa akin na independent ang positioning ng Pilipinas. Lalung-lalo na tungkol sa China, at tungkol sa Amerika. [Last part tomorrow: Is the 2010 election a watershed?] (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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