Group says Balikatan, PH-US ‘basing’ talks threats to peace process

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/20 April) – The latest round of war games between the Philippines and the US and negotiations for American military “basing” in the country may dim prospects for renewed talks with the National Democratic Front, a peace group warned Friday.

“The GPH-NDFP talks is anchored on the principle of national sovereignty, as agreed by both parties in The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992,” Bishop Felixberto Calang, chair of the Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao, said in a statement.

Calang said the NDF had earlier suspended talks citing the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two countries and the inclusion of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, in the US list of terrorist organizations.

He explained that the Oslo Joint Agreement of February 2011 which paved the way for the resumption of the talks committed the Aquino government, among others, to seek means to remove the CPP-NPA from the US list.

“The spirit of the Oslo agreement which led to the resumption of the talks is that the Aquino government should be recognizing the importance of national sovereignty as a principle in the peace process,” Calang said.

“We were hopeful that the Aquino government resume talks on an optimistic note, supposedly a welcome departure from the hawkish stance of the Arroyo regime,” he added.

“But the Aquino administration appears to be a more docile puppy to United States interests than the previous Arroyo government,” the Inpeace official said.

“Now, a new US-PH military deal will again be a big obstacle in the talks. It is a clear case of interference in internal affairs as it will undermine the essence of the 1991 Philippine Senate decision to oust the US bases,” Calang said.

The bishop was referring to the Senate rejection of a treaty that would have renewed the Military Bases Agreement between the US and the Philippines in September 1991.

The US used to maintain permanent military bases in the country the biggest of which were the Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base.

In 1999 however the US reestablished its military presence through the VFA under which it has conducted several war games with Philippine troops called Balikatan.

On Monday, at least 6,000 US and Philippine troops opened the 28th Balikatan in Palawan, an island province facing the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.

China, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries have laid claims to the whole or parts of the Spratlys Islands.

Beijing has expressed displeasure at the latest PH-US military exercises. But the Philippine government denied the exercises were meant to be a show of force against China. (MindaNews)