Today marks a turning point in the history of the Light Rail Transit 1 or LRT 1. The train system is up for privatization. The consortium led by the Ayala group and Metro Pacific of Manny V. Pangilinan will operate the train system for 32 years. They will also be building the extension of the train line to Cavite.

But unlike the beleaguered MRT3 which so often makes the news due to technical glitches and major ccidents, the LRT 1 is doing quite fine under government control. It is not deep in debt. Its revenues even subsidize sister train line LRT2. Yet the Aquino government believes that the LRT 1 should be placed in the hands of private corporations. This, after the government spent P1.8 billion for the rehabilitation of the LRT 1 and LRT 2.

What happens when the train line is privatized. For starters, the LRT 1 will no longer be run like a public service. It will be run just like any other business operated by Ayala and MVP. It will be no different from Maynilad, Manila Water, Smart, Globe and Meralco.

Here are 8 things commuters and the public should know about this P65 billion privatization deal that will be in place for 32 years.

  1. The contract allows private operators a 10.25% fare increase every 2 years and a 5% increase upon the completion of the extension project.
  2. If the fares set by government are less than the fares demanded by the private operators, government will have to pay for the difference. This is called the Deficit Payment.
  3. Commuters or the government will pay for surges in electricity rates. Under the agreement, this is called the Differential Generation Cost. This lays the basis for another fare hike or another government payment.
  4. Fares will also be adjusted based on the prevailing inflation rates.
  5. Government pays for the real property taxes for the 32 year duration of the contract. This can reach up to P64 billion for the term of the contract.
  6. The concessionaire will only pay the government 10% of the Concession Fee of P9.3 billion up front after the signing of the contract. The rest of the concession fee will be paid starting on the 5th year of the contract. This means that the payments for the concession fee will be coming from the operations of the existing train lines. Ginisa tayo sa sariling mantika.
  7.  Around 964 employees of the LRTA are in danger of losing their jobs as they will only be absorbed by the private operator for 6 months.
  8. Government puts up a P500 million blocked account to ensure that it would be able to pay all of the profit guarantees it gave the private operators.
  9. The consortium of Ayala and Metro Pacific is now a train monopoly that controls the operations and maintenance of the LRT Line 1, the extension project, the automated fare collection system and even the common station in Trinoma. They will be in a unique position to dictate fares and everything else related to running the train system.

Government has not learned from the experience of MRT and many other privatization deals gone sour. In the end, it will be the public and the commuters who will shoulder the burden of Aquino’s folly. ###

Train overshoots station in the this photo from PhilStar.com

 

  1. The MRT was a BLT project where private investors will build the system while government will operate it. As a BLT project, government will pay the private investors equity rental for 25 years, after which government will supposedly own the train system. When the project started with the MRTC, the investors included Fil-Estate group of the Sobrepena’s, Ayala Land, Anglo Phil Holdings, Ramcar Inc, Greenfield Development Corp, Antel Land Holdings and DBH Inc
  2. The private investors from the Metro Rail Transit Corporation only invested $190 million from 1995 to -1997. The rest of the project was financed through $488 million in loans that the government of the Philippines fully paid by 2010. It was the Philippine government who was actually shouldering the majority of the cost of the project.
  3. Despite their relatively small investment, the private investors were guaranteed a 15% return on their investment by the government. DOTC estimated this to be a total of $2.4 billion from 2000-2025, or nearly 13 times their original investment. The BLT agreement assures the private investors that they will be paid, no matter what, even if there is no upgrade in the system or if ridership falls.
  4. According to the government, we have paid the private investors of MRTC a whopping $779 million or P32.5 billion in equity rental payments (ERP’s) from 2000-2013. That’s already more than 4 times their original investment. And according to the government, for the period in question, no new trains and significant upgrades in passenger capacity were installed.
  5. Since the ERP’s were guaranteed payments, the private investors securitzed some 77.7% of the future payments. The MRTC shareholders basically sold the rights to collect payments from the Philippine government. Some of the original private investors already cashed in on their future income and used the proceeds from the bond sales to get even more profits. This has given rise to a complicated ownership structure which even involves Manny Pangilinan’s Metro Pacific.
  6.  To corner the profits from advertising and commercial space development, the private investors created a spin-off company called MRT DevCo. This firm received most of the commercial profits from advertising, space development from the MRT system. While in other countries advertising revenues were used to subsidize fares, in our case, the revenues go straight to the pockets of the private investors. In fact, the DOTC is locked in a dispute with MRT Dev Co because the private firm owes government some P1.8 billion.
  7.  From the onset, the train system was maintained by private firms paid by government. During the first 10 years of the contract, maintenance of the train system was handled by Sumitomo, a Japanese firm that was also one of the banks that lent money to finance the project. We paid the private firm around P100 million a month, which is way higher than the P20-30 million a month paid for the maintenance of the government-owned LRT1 and LRT 2.
  8.  After two extensions, the contract with Sumitomo was not renewed. The DOTC proceeded to bid out the interim maintenance contract. Unfortunately for the riding public, the interim contract involving CB&T and PH Trams was mired in controversy after it was discovered that one of the officials of the private consortium was an uncle of the wife of then MRT GM Al Vitangcol. Again it was the taxpayers who paid $1.43 million (P61 million) a month to this private firm at a time when so many maintenance problems in the train lines were recorded. When the contract expired, another bidding took place and this time APT Global won the one-year maintenance contract worth P685 million or around P57 million a month. It was during APT’s term that the worst MRT accident took place after one of the trains overshot the terminal in Pasay Taft.
  9.  Seeing that the 15% guaranteed ROI will only place the government deeper in debt, the Arroyo regime, through Land Bank and DBP, bought 80% of the economic interests of MRTC, including bonds and other instruments representing future payments. This meant that government banks are now entitled to collect 80% of the ERP’s that government itself was paying.
  10. While government bought 80% of the economic interests in MRTC, it is not the same thing as buying ownership of the train system. The original private investors, through MRT Holdings, still claim to be the ones who own the train system. MRT Holdings still own shares of MRTC and even managed to sue the Philippine government over the purchase of new trains.
  11. Government is willing to spend P53 billion, to “buy back” MRT 3, but with the future intent of privatizing its operations and maintenance. Meanwhile, MRT Holdings thinks P53 billion for the buy out is not enough and will not give government ownership of the train system.
  12. MRT Holdings wants to be the one to purchase new trains because it thinks that it can charge the government another 15% for the installation of new passenger capacity. Government is right in rejecting this arrangement by the private investors. However, government officials involved in the purchase of trains also want to profit from the transaction through kickbacks. Remember the incident involving the Czech ambassador and Inekon?
  13. Despite the problems besetting the MRT, government has a pending proposal to raise the fares of the train system from P15 to P28 (North Ave to Taft) or an additional P8 per trip based on the average distance traveled by commuters.
  14. Both the government and the private investors are to blame for the woes faced by commuters. Over the years, the BLT contract and the privatization policy have caused unbearable burden on commuters and taxpayers. The truly sad part is that government, while seeking to “buy-out” the MRT, still seeks to privatize it eventually, bringing us back to where we started. 

It is time for the government to take over the MRT 3, and fix the problems  of capacity and poor maintenance. A government take-over costing billions will be all for naught if it’s direction is re-privatization.  Government should invest in the train system as a necessary mass transport system benefiting taxpayers and the economy as a whole. Government must not abdicate on its role of providing this service to the public, even as we continue to call on government to stamp out corruption within its operations. 

 

 

The real reason for DAP

Posted: July 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

A lot has been said about the Disbursement Acceleration Program especially after the Supreme Court came out with its unanimous decision declaring acts and programs under DAP and NBC 541 as unconstitutional.

A lot has also been said about the good intentions of DAP.

But what was the real intent of the DAP? Was it really aimed at stimulating the economy? Think-tank Ibon believes DAP was economically irrational and disputes that claim that DAP was a stimulus program that had a significant impact on the economy.

So if DAP wasn’t all that, what was it for? Why was it introduced by the Aquino government?

From documents submitted by the DBM to the Supreme Court, it would appear that economic stimulus was never really the intent of DAP. Centralizing and controlling funds were. It was never about the economy. It was all about giving the president control and discretion over billions of pesos, using this as his own slush fund to influence other branches of government and to serve as a well of corruption for those in power.

Why do we say this?

Two DBM memoranda issued on October 12, 2011 and December 12, 2011 indicate that the practice of centralizing unreleased appropriations began as early as November 25, 2010 or barely five months into the term of President Benigno Aquino III.

According to the two memos, the President declared as “savings” some P21.544 billion in unreleased appropriations for “slow moving projects and programs for discontinuance” in November 2010. The so-called “savings” were centralized under the office the President and were cleared for use for “other priority projects.” This happened BEFORE there was even a DAP.

The defenders of DAP will argue that such a move was necessary then because there were presumably questionable projects that were part of Arroyo’s enacted national budget. Remember that Aquino took office on June 30, 2010, after the budget had already been enacted.

However, the unconstitutional practice of declaring as “savings” the “unreleased appropriations”, as well as unprogrammed funds, would continue until 2011 and 2012, even under the budget supposedly scrutinized by Aquino and formulated under the ‘daang matuwid’.

So if the presumption was that there were no more anomalous projects under this regime, why not release appropriations for projects? What was the government’s definition of “slow-moving projects” that funds would not be released? Why allow the withholding of funds?

Meanwhile, since billions were not being released for government projects, there were already reports that the government was under-spending. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda even claims that the slowdown in GDP growth was already being felt during the last quarter of 2010 and way into the start of 2011.

When Aquino declared as savings P21.544 billion in unreleased appropriations from 2010, he did not immediately spend the amount even if he approved its use for “priority projects”.

He waited until he could centralize more funds at which time the slowdown would be more pronounced or felt.

On October 2011, Aquino and Abad placed more funds under the control and discretion of the president. This included P12.336 billion from the 2010 unprogrammed funds, P30 billion in unreleased personal services appropriations for 2011, and P482 million in unreleased appropriations for “slow moving” and discontinued projects for 2011. Also placed under presidential control were P7.7 billion for realignment within agencies.

The P30 billion unreleased personal services appropriations could have come from the failure to hire now personnel or the streamlining or firing of government employees. Certain funds for the benefits or bonuses of government workers normally given at the end of the year were centralized and declared as savings.

Towards last quarter of the year, the slowdown and underspending were becoming more apparent and so government thought it was the perfect time to introduce a “stimulus program”.  Nearly a year of government underspending became a convenient justification for DAP

By October 2011 when the DAP was first introduced, Aquino already had discretion over P72.1 billion in DAP funds which he could appropriate for projects not found in the national budget and for augmentation of special purpose funds like the PDAF of lawmakers. The practice would continue for the next two fiscal years as savings would be declared midyear, for projects that were not completed or finally discontinued.

On December 21, 2011, Aquino approved additional projects worth P13.3 billion.

On June 27, 2012, Aquino signed and approved another Abad memorandum seeking the “omnibus authority to consolidate savings/unutilized balances and their realignment. The approved projects amounted to P32 billion, including P2 billion for Tarlac roadworks and another P8.3 billion “various local projects”. Aquino also approved the withdrawal of unobligated balances of NGA’s for “slow moving projects”, declaring them savings and authorizing their realignment.

On September 5, 2012, Aquino signed and approved Abad’s September 4, 2012 memorandum seeking the “release of funds for other priority projects and expenditures of government.” Projects for this period amounted to nearly P6 billion.

On December 21, 2012, Aquino approved the release of P33.3 billion in DAP funds, once again chargeable against “available savings and the 2012 Unprogrammed Fund.” This again included the item “other various local projects” this time amounting to P2.79 billion.

In May 2013, Aquino approved more DAP releases amounting to P10 billion. This included again an item called “various local projects” amounting to P4.6 billion, the biggest item for the period.

Lastly, on September 25, 2013, Aquino approved the release of P10.534 billion in funds for the Task Force Pablo Rehabilitation plan, supposedly for livelihood, resttlement, infrastructure and social services.

From November 2010 to September 2013, Aquino had wide discretion over P177 billion, which included funding projects not identified in the General Appropriations Act as well as funding projects outside of the Executive.

It was only on January 29, 2014 that the Solicitor General and the DBM secretary declared before the Supreme Court tha the DAP was already terminated at the end of 2013, supposedly because the goals of stimulating the economy have already been met. The announcement that DAP was terminated was aimed at declaring moot the petitions filed before the SC.

However, the SolGen and the DBM maintained that the “authority” to declare and pool savings and use such savings for priority projects identified by the President still remained. This simply meant that while there was no more DAP, the program can be resurrected in the future, under different circumstances, but with the same end of centralizing funds under the control of the President and spending these funds as presidential pork. One wonders, had the SC not declared the DAP unconstitutional, a new incarnation would take place just before the 2016 elections, when the President would need to secure the victory of his LP llies.

The real reason for DAP was fund control. All along the chief executive wanted to have discretion over billions of pesos of funds. DAP was no doubt the president’s special all-purpose fund that could be allotted based on the sole discretion of the chief executive. With the DAP, the president usurped the congressional power of appropriation.

The DAP did not meet its own criteria for disbursing projects; namely  their multiplier impact on the economy and infrastructure development, their beneficial effect on the poor, their translation into disbursements. Instead, DAP would end up in projects not at all beneficial to the poor, and with little impact on economic growth. In the worst cases, DAP would end up lining the pockets of corrupt officials, as can be seen in the DAP funds that went to bogus Napoles NGO’s.

There can be no good faith if there was an intent violate the law, all because of one’s bid to centralize funds and usurp the power of a co-equal branch of government.

Whenever the President would speak on DAP, such as on July 14 and in his upcoming SONA on July  28, let us remember one thing: DAP is presidential pork. In order to enlarge this pork fund, government took away funds from other projects and from its own employees from 2010 to 2013. In order to fulfill DAP’s role as pork, it was dispensed as a bribe or incentive to lawmakers and was used to grant favors for local officials and served as a well of corruption for those in power.

The authors and implementors of DAP thus have to be made accountable. The President has to be made accountable. On Wednesday, we will file an impeachment complaint.  ###

 

 

 

noynoyAquino’s much-awaited DAP speech is upon us. The speech will be televised live tomorrow, July 14, 6pm, and can be viewed on all major networks. After disappearing from public view for 10 days after the DAP decision was issued by the Supreme Court, and after rejecting the resignation of Budget Secretary Butch Abad,  Aquino finally decides to address the nation. 

The last time the president spoke on the subject, we were caught by surprise as he interrupted primetime programming without much of a warning for viewers. This time around, we have some time to ready ourselves. 

 

What is the best way to watch such a highly anticipated speech that is expected to focus on the DAP? Here are some ways.

1. Watch it with a group, with your organization, or family. Watching it alone may cause severe anxiety and possible anger management issues.

2. Choose a place. Public viewing let’s you see the spontaneous reaction of the people. Watch it at the jeepney terminal, tindahan sa kanto, covered court, palengke etc. We will be watching at Plaza Miranda by the way.

3. Eat ahead and be ready for possible loss of appetite after the viewing. 

4. Bring a sign. Every time you feel insulted by the speech, raise the sign.

5. Make your opinion heard after the speech is concluded. Wag kimkimin ang galit at sama ng loob. Huwag ding pigilan ang tawa at baka mautot. Ilabas ang tunay na saloobin ng mamamayan. Maudlot man nya ang primetime viewing, nasa atin namang manonood ang huling salita. Tandaan, mahalaga ang opinyon mo. Mahalaga ang pakikisangkot mo.###

Sa gawain ko sa org, minsan din akong napagkakamalang ibang tao. Heto ang ilan sa mga nakakatawa at nakakatuwang halimbawa. #truestory

1. TV/Radio talent – Minsan sa jeep may lumapit at nag-abot ng maliit na papel, “Ser, pakibati naman misis ko sa programa nyo,” sabi nung tao. “Ano po, wala po akong programa,” sagot ko. “Ah hindi po ba kayo si Joe D’ Mango?” sabi nya.

2. “Reporter po ba kayo?” – Madalas mangyari ito. It raw yung Joseph Morong effect o di naman kaya’y epekto lang ng malabong signal sa TV.

3. “Uy, si Teddy Casino” – Marahil dahil si Teddy ay talagang kilalang lider masa, “Teddy Casino” na rin ang generic na katawagan sa ilang mga aktibista. Ika nga, household name.

4. “Si ano yan, sa Anakbayan/ Akbayan / Anakpawis / Bayan Muna etc” – Madalas na reference ang militanteng organisasyon na kinakatawan natin, kahit minsan hindi eksakto yung pangalan ng organisasyon. Nakatatak na kasi sa isipan ng madla ang mga grupo, dahil na rin sa ilang dekadang pakikibaka. Dun lang sa pangalawa ako di matunawan. Isang malutong na “HINDI PO!”

5. “Bakit po wala kayong security? Di ba congressman kayo?” – Hindi po, aktibista lang po.

6. Basketball player – Minsan sabi ng security sa checkpoint ng UP, “Di ba basketball player kayo?” Nasa loob kasi ako ng sasakyan. Kung bumbaba siguro ako, nagbago isip nya.

7.  Sorry po wrong number – Minsan may tatawag para sa interview. “Hello po, pwede po makausap si Fr. Robert Reyes?” Meron ding malupet na “Hello, ito po ba si Chief Justice Renato Corona?”

8. “Magkasama/classmate/kapitbahay tayo sa …” – Minsan may makakasalubong at mag-uusap kayo sa inaakala mong shared experience ninyo. Babatiin ka ng “Uy kamusta na? Dun ka pa rin sa inyo?” etc. Saka mo maiisip na hindi pala kayo pareho ng pinag-uusapan, na hindi pala kayo classmate/kapitbahay/ka-probinsya etc. Awkward.

 

Sa mga pagkakataong ito, isa lang ang magiliw kong sagot. “Sa BAYAN po ako.”

“Ang BAYAN po ay isang alyansa ng iba’t ibang organisasyon. Iba pa po ito sa Bayan Muna na isang partylist group,” ang madalas ding dagdag na paliwanag.

Bukas Mayo 5 ang ika-29 na anibersaryo ng organisasyong ito. Maligayang kaarawan sa Bayan, ang Bagong Alyansang Makabayan!

Photo from Bayan USA

 

The Philippine negotiators of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement are working overtime to spread lies and misinformation about the recently signed military agreement. They want to make it appear that we are not on the losing end and in fact have everything to gain from the agreement. It is important that we debunk these arguments and expose the EDCA for the one-sided pact that it is.

 

  1. The Myth that EDCA is mutually beneficial – The EDCA has been described as mutually beneficial for the US and PH. It is portrayed as something we need to modernize our backward AFP. In fact, because of the supposed mutual benefits from the EDCA, the PH government has decided that we should let the US troops use of facilities for free and our utilities tax-free. What does the US stand to gain? A lot. The US gains free access to PH lands and waters, existing AFP camps and other facilities, for the stationing and rotational deployment of troops, giving the US a platform for power projection in the region, as well as a launching pad for possible military intervention. And they get this at the cheapest possible price. The Philippines on the other hand is supposed to benefit from this pact through the modernization of the AFP. However, nowhere in the EDCA does it state how the AFP will modernize through the frequent war games, the storage or prepositioning of weapons and other forms of interaction with US troops. The agreement does not say how the AFP will acquire X amount of weapons, ammunition, vehicles, vessels and technology as benefits for the use of our facilities. In fact, all relocatable or movable items owned by the US forces will be brought back to the US, leaving us with only empty buildings. Prepositioned materials which include weapons shall be for the exclusive use of US forces and can be moved out of the country anytime. Finally, if indeed US military presence will lead to modernization, we should have accomplished this a long time ago when we had US bases for 44 years and the VFA for 15 years now.

 

  1. The Myth that we are in control – Philippine negotiators say that the EDCA is different from the RP-US Bases Agreement because we are in control. US troops are here upon the consent of the PH government. The Philippines retains ownership of the facilities and the Philippine base commander or the designated representative has access to the US facilities. The Philippines also retains primary responsibility for security. All these look good on paper. The reality however is that the US will retain operational control of the “agreed locations” and shall “exercise all rights and authorities” to ensure their operational control. This includes putting in place security measures that would necessarily limit access to their facilities. Philippine access will have to comply with the “safety and security requirements” that will be imposed by the US.  There lies one of the great ironies under the EDCA. We entered an agreement that allows the US unlimited access to our facilities while limiting our access to theirs.  A historical footnote: In 1979, when the RP-US Military Bases Agreement was reviewed, the US bases were placed under the formal control of the Philippines, and were considered US bases within Philippine facilities. They were even placed under a Filipino base commander. The Philippine flag also flew in these bases and the Philippine government was to provide security along the bases’ perimeter. None of these acts diminished the fact that the bases still violated our sovereignty. Lastly, the idea that US troops are here upon our consent and invitation is just a fee-good provision that does little to mitigate the one-sidedness of this pact.

 

  1. The Myth that EDCA is a deterrent against China – This myth is related to the first myth of mutual benefits. The argument is that the EDCA will help us modernize our AFP thus enabling us to stand up to China’s incursions. Since the EDCA will not help our AFP modernize, we are left with the next best thing; that is for the US to come to our defense if attacked by China. However, nowhere in the EDCA does it say that the US will come to our aid if attacked by China. Neither does this assurance appear in other agreements like the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty. In fact, when US President Barack Obama was asked the same question during his Manila trip, he did not give any categorical answer nor firm commitment.

 

  1. The Myth that EDCA does not require Senate ratification – PH negotiators say that the EDCA is not a basing treaty therefore does not require Senate ratification. It is merely an implementation of existing treaties like the MDT. Sec. 25 of Art. XVIII of the PH Constitution states that “foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate… and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.” So long as it involves foreign troops or facilities (even for the sake of argument they are not bases), the agreement must go through the Senate. EDCA deals with the activities of foreign troops including their right to put up their own facilities in the so-called agreed locations. To be valid under our Constitution, EDCA should have been ratified by the Philippine Senate and recognized as a treaty by the US Senate.  So why didn’t they just do that? The Executive was rushing the signing of the secretly negotiated agreement in time for the Obama visit. Bringing it to the Senate would mean a long, tedious process of public hearings and debates. Also, the Executive wants the agreement so badly it was not sure if it wanted to take the risk of subjecting the EDCA to the 2/3 Senate vote requirement stated in the Constitution.

 

  1. The Myth that these are not bases – Related to No.4, PH officials say the EDCA does not deal with bases and thus does not require Senate concurrence. First point we should consider is how the US will operate these “agreed locations”. Article III, Sec. 1 of the EDCA grants US force and private contractors access to “agreed locations” where they can conduct a broad range of activities including but not limited to; training, support, refueling of aircraft, bunkering of vehicles, temporary maintenance of vehicles, temporary accommodation of personnel, communications, prepositioning of equipment, supplies and materiel, and even deploying forces and materiel. Those are the operations of a base. But these are different from the old bases in Clark and Subic, they say. The US military pivot now calls for flexible basing opportunities that are not necessarily in the mold of formal bases like Clark and Subic. Second point we should consider is permanence. An indefinite number of US forces will be rotated in the country, meaning, at any given time, there will always be US troops stationed on our soil. The prototype of this is the US Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines, 600 US Special Forces who have been based in Zamboanga since 2002 supposedly providing counter-terrorism training to PH troops. Third, US forces will be allowed to put up permanent structures, which imply that the presence of US forces will be for the long haul. Fourth, the agreement itself enables the permanent presence of US forces because the EDCA is in effect indefinitely, beyond the so-called 10 year term. Yes, the EDCA will remain “automatically” in effect even after 10 years, unless it is terminated by one of the parties.

 

We need to expose and shatter the myths being propagated by the Aquino government regarding the EDCA. The Aquino regime did something worse than the sell-out of our sovereignty. It gave it away for free. It betrayed the Filipino people. None of us were consulted. None of us even saw the contents of the pact before it was signed.

We don’t need to wait 10 years. For our sake and those of the future generations who stand to experience life under another US military occupation and a back-slide to colonialism, we have to scrap the EDCA now. ##

 

 

Photo from DZRHNews

 

  1. The scope is very broad. Article II, Sec.4- The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement ((EDCA) provides US forces “agreed locations” where they can conduct a broad range of activities. The agreement does not set any limits on what areas throughout the country could be accessed by US troops, how many troops can be allowed in these areas or facilities, and for how long these troops will be allowed to stay. For all intents and purposes, the entire country can host US troops. US forces can access and put up facilities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, making the agreement broader in scope compared to the 1947 Military Bases Agreement where bases were confined to Clark and Subic. There is also the question on the limits of the activities that can be undertaken in the “agreed locations”, for example, if the US would operate secret prisons or rendition sites in the Philippines, which would be contrary to law.

 

  1. The EDCA will mean permanent US presence – Article I, Sec.1 (b)- US troops will be given authority to access “agreed facilities” on a rotational basis. The agreement does not define what “rotational” means. In practice, under the VFA rotational deployment would mean the changing of personnel deployed in an area, resulting in the permanent presence of the troops. In Mindanao, 600 US Special Forces are being rotated, resulting in their permanent presence in the island since 2002. Rotational presence is euphemism for permanent presence. The provision that the EDCA will not lead to permanent presence or basing is worthless.

 

  1. The US will operate facilities as military bases and will drag us into overseas conflicts- Article III, Sec. 1 – The EDCA grants US force and private contractors access to “agreed locations” where they can conduct a broad range of activities including but not limited to; training, support, refueling of aircraft, bunkering of vehicles, temporary maintenance of vehicles, temporary accommodation of personnel, communications, prepositioning of equipment, supplies and materiel, and deploying forces and materiel. From the description above, the “agreed locations” will be operated as US military bases. One new feature of the EDCA is that it explicitly allows the Philippines to be a staging ground for US operations overseas.  This could range from being a launching pad of drone strikes, and other offensive operations that would make the Philippines involved in US conflicts abroad.

 

  1. The entire country could be an operating base- Article III, Sec. 2 – The Philippines shall assist transit or temporary access by US forces to “public land and facilities (including roads, ports and airfields), including those owned by local governments, and to other land and facilities (including roads, ports and airfields). Again, the entire country can be used by US forces, making the EDCA much broader in scope than the previous RP-US Military Bases Agreement. It bears stressing that the pact does not define what “temporary access” means, except that it is distinct from “transit” or US forces just passing through.

 

  1. US forces will get a lot of perks under the EDCA. Article III, Sec.3 – US forces shall have access to “agreed locations” “without rental or similar costs”. So not only will US troops get unlimited access, they can also stay here rent-free. Article VII, Sec. 1 – US forces and their private military contractors can use utilities such as water and electricity but will be tax-exempt, with their supposed taxes being paid for by the Philippine government. Article 7 Sec.2- US forces will also be allowed radio frequencies free of charge.

 

  1. The illusion that we’re in-charge. Article III, Sec.4 – US forces will retain “operational control” of the “agreed locations” and will have authority to undertake construction of permanent facilities and improvement of existing facilities as well as put in place their own security measures. In Article 3 Sec.5, Philippine authorities shall have access to the entire area of the “agreed locations but this will be subject to the “safety and security requirements” agreed upon by the parties. Based on this, PH access to the US operated facilities will still have to go through “safety and security requirements” set by the US.  The Philippines will retain ownership of all facilities, at least on paper. Agreed locations, including permanent facilities built by the US will be turned over to the PH once the US no longer uses them. There is the possibility that the US will be compensated for the improvements and construction that they will undertake. So yes, on paper we own these facilities but these will only be returned to us if the US no longer has use for them, and we also might have to pay the US some form of compensation.

 

  1.  The Philippines as weapons depot. The US will be allowed to preposition equipment in the “agreed locations” and facilities (Article IV, Sec.1). These prepositioned equipment and war materiel shall be for the exclusive use of the US. These include, but not limited to, supplies for humanitarian assistance and disaster response. Weapons and other possible hazardous materials may be among the items that can be stored in Philippines. The country will become a huge weapons depot, where Filipino troops become glorified security guards for the US forces and their equipment (Article VI, Sec 2). Surely this does nothing to help modernize the AFP.

 

  1. Our hands are tied. – Under Article XI, the PH cannot bring disputes arising from the agreement to any local or international court or third-party arbitration. All disputes will be settled exclusively through consultations by both parties. This effectively ties the hands of the Philippines and as a Atty. Sarah Arriola pointed out, grants immunity to US troops before the ICC. In cases such as environmental damage similar to the Tubbataha reef grounding of the USS Guardian, the EDCA does not provide guidelines for compensation (Article IX on the environment). Even in the event of the unintentional release of hazardous materials or waste, or an oil spill, the EDCA says the US will take action contain the hazard. However, the EDCA is silent on damages. (A side note, Article IX Sec.3 implies that the US will indeed be bringing in hazardous materials and hazardous waste into the country.)

 

  1. The EDCA gives almost the same treatment as regular US forces to private defense contractors.  Contractors can have “unimpeded access” to the “agreed locations” and to the prepositioned materiel and supplies (Article IV, Sec.4). US private contractors are notorious worldwide for their violations and for shielding the US government from accountability. EDCA will see a rise in the number of private contractors operating in the country. Article VIII Sec. 1 allows US forces to hire private contractors without restriction as to choice of contractor, supplier or person who provides materiel, supplies and services. These same private contractors are also tax-exempt when it comes to the use of utilities such as water and electricity.
  2. The agreement is in effect indefinitely. While Article XII Sec 4 says that the agreement is in effect initially for 10 years, “it shall continue in force automatically unless terminated by either Party.” Now given the indefinite nature of the agreement, and the rotational presence of US troops all over country, free of charge by the way, the EDCA is worse than the RP-US Military Bases Agreement.

The EDCA is an affront to our sovereignty. It highlights our unequal relations with an imperialist power. The EDCA violates the 1987 constitution as it ensures permanent presence of US troops and the return of US bases under a broader, more flexible and more insidious arrangement and that this is done absent a treaty. As for the supposed benefits, nowhere in the agreement does it state how the AFP will actually modernize through the so-called joint exercises, rotational deployment of US troops and the prepositioning of weapons and materiel. Indeed, the benefits are close to nil. It is the US who stands to gain from the pact as it gets a stable foothold for power projection and military intervention in Southeast Asia.

 

Our duty is to fight this agreement, to fight the new US military occupation of our land.

 

Photo from Manila Bulletin