Posts Tagged ‘Balikatan’


Reply to Questions from Renato Reyes, BAYAN  Secretary General

By Prof. Jose Maria Sison

Chairperson, International League of Peoples’ Struggle

April 20, 2012

Renato Reyes (RR): I hope that you can answer briefly the following questions re China, Philippines and the assertion of national sovereignty. We have an all-leaders meeting this Saturday and we are trying to get views on how to deal with the issue of China’s incursions on Philippine  territory, the Aquino regime’s response and US intervention.

Jose Maria Sison (JMS):  First of all,  as a matter of principle, the Filipino people must assert their national sovereignty and Philippine territorial integrity over the issue of Spratlys (Kalayaan) and other islands, reefs and shoals which are well within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) defined by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).  According to the Philippine reactionary government, it  submitted on time to the UN the necessary scientific and technical grounds to define the Philippine 200-mile EEZ under UNCLOS.

The  UNCLOS is the strongest legal basis for the definition of the territorial sea and EEZ of the Philippine archipelago..  Also,  archaeological evidence shows that the islands, reefs  and shoals at issue have been  used by inhabitants of what is now the Philippines since prehistoric times. But the Philippine reactionary government muddles the issue and undermines its own position by making historical claims that date back only to a few decades ago when pseudo-admiral Cloma made formal claims to the Kalayaan group of islands.

Chinese historical claims since ancient times amount to an absurdity as this would be like Italy claiming as its sovereign possession all areas previously occupied by the Roman empire.  The name China Sea was invented by European cartographers and should not lead anyone to think that the entire sea belongs to China.  In the same vein, neither does the  entire Indian Ocean belong to India.

RR 1:  How do we view the incursions and aggressive behavior of China in territories claimed by the Philippines? Is this aggressiveness proof that China has imperialist ambitions and should be criticized as an imperialist power?  What is the relationship between China’s revisionist regime and its apparent desire to flex its muscles in the region?

JMS: The Filipino people and progressive forces must  oppose what may be deemed as incursions and what may appear as aggressive behavior of China with regard  to the territories belonging to the Philippines.  But so far China’s actions and actuations manifest assertiveness rather than outright military aggression. The Philippine reactionary government should desist from self-fulfilling its claim of China’s aggression by engaging in an anti-China scare campaign.

The Filipino people and progressive forces must consciously differentiate their position from that of the Aquino regime, its military subalterns and its Akbayan special agents who pretend to be super patriots against China but are in fact servile to the interests of US imperialism and are using the anti-China scare campaign to justify the escalation of US military intervention in the Philippines and US hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region.

At any rate, China must not violate Philippine national sovereignty and territorial integrity,  the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Code of Conduct it agreed to with the ASEAN.  The apparently aggressive or assertive acts and words of China are in consonance with its own premise of national sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as with the bourgeois character of the Chinese state that may indicate an imperialist tendency or ambitions.

The Chinese state is blatantly a capitalist state.  Only occasionally does it  claim to be socialist so as to cover up its capitalist character as the revisionists in power systematically did in the past.  Whatever is its character, the Chinese state must not infringe or threaten to infringe Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity. When it does, it opens itself to criticism and opposition by political and diplomatic action.

RR 2:  On the other hand, would criticism of China serve the US ploy of increasing its military presence in the region by supporting the claim that China is indeed a major threat to Philippine sovereignty?  Would such criticism serve to support the claim that China is indeed a major threat while obfuscating the US continuous undermining and violation of Philippine sovereignty? How important is it that the Left join in the assertion of Philippine sovereignty against incursions by China?

JMS:  Criticism and opposition to any actual incursion by China is consistent with the assertion of national sovereignty and does not serve the US ploy so long as we expose at the same time why and how the Aquino regime’s posture against alleged incursions by China are meant to serve US goals in the region.

We must be alert to and oppose the malicious efforts of the US and the Aquino regime to hype China as an imperialist aggressor in order to allow the No. 1 imperialist to further entrench itself militarily in the Philippines and realize its strategy of encircling China and enhancing its hegemony over East Asia and entire Asia-Pacific region.  You should take critical notice of the fact that the agents of US imperialism like Aquino, his military sidekicks and his Akbayan hangers-on are presenting themselves as superpatriots against China while they allow the US to increase  to increase the  presence of military forces and activities under the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Balikatan exercises and various other pretexts.

It is a matter of principle to invoke national sovereignty and territorial integrity against China’s claims on certain islands, reefs and shoals that belong to the Philippines.  But we should expose and oppose the US and the Aquino regime for actively undertaking what are obviously anti-China provocations and propaganda aimed at justifying the escalation of US military intervention and further entrenchment of US forces in the Philippines, as part of the strategic scheme of the US to preserve and strengthen its hegemony over  the Asia-Pacific region, particularly East Asia.

Further, the US imperialists are increasing their pressure on China to privatize its state-owned enterprises, to restrain its  bourgeois nationalist impulses, to yield further to US economic and security dictates and to further promote the pro-US or pro-West bourgeois forces within China.  In comparison to the Philippines, China is a far larger country for imperialist exploitation and oppression.  Having more economic and political interests in China than in the Philippines, the US is using the Philippines as a staging base for actions aimed at  pressuring and influencing China rather than protecting the Philippines from China.

The US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty does not contain an automatic retaliation provision.  The  US has used this treaty as the basis for the Visiting Forces Agreement and for the escalation of US military intervention in the Philippines.  But in case of attack from any foreign power, the Philippines has no basis for expecting  or demanding automatic retaliation from the US.  The treaty allows the US to act strictly in its national interest and use its constitutional processes to bar the Philippines from demanding automatic retaliation against a third party that attacks the Philippines.

The US and China can always agree to cooperate in exploiting  the Philippines.  In fact, they have long been cooperating in exploiting the Philippines.  The  Chinese comprador big bourgeoisie in both the Philippines (Henry Sy, Lucio Tan and the like) and China (within the bureaucracy and outside) are trading and financial agents of the US and other imperialist powers.

RR 3:  The Aquino government has availed of diplomatic venues to resolve the dispute. Meanwhile, the Chinese incursions continue.  The Philippines is a weak country militarily and has no capability for securing its territory. What would be the requirements for the Philippines to be able to effectively assert its sovereignty (not limited of course to questions of territory)?  Briefly, how can the Philippines develop a credible external defense?

JMS: Rather than entertain hopes that the Aquino regime would defend Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Filipino people and progressive forces must resolutely and militantly  expose and oppose the puppetry,  shameless mendicancy  and  the hypocrisy of the regime in pretending to be for  national sovereignty and territorial integrity against China while inviting and welcoming increased US military intervention in the Philippines and using the country as a base for strengthening US hegemony in the Asia Pacific region.

Only the Filipino people and revolutionary forces can gain the capability to secure, control and defend their territory by  fighting for and achieving national and social liberation in the first place from US imperialist domination and from such reactionary regimes of the big compradors and landlords like the Aquino regime. Otherwise the US and their puppets will always be the bantay salakay at the expense of the people.

When the Filipino people and revolutionary forces come to power, they will certainly engage strongly among others in metal manufacturing, ship building and fishing in close connection with securing the Philippine territorial sea and exclusive economic zone.

They shall have internal political-military strength and socio-economic satisfaction. And they shall develop international solidarity and  use diplomatic action against any foreign power that violates Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity.

At the moment, the US and Aquino regime are engaged in a calibrated anti-China propaganda campaign in order to  justify and allow the US to control the Philippines and East Asia militarily.  We are being subjected to an anti-China scare aimed at further strengthening the dominance of US imperialism and the domestic rule of its reactionary puppets like Aquino. Right now, we must give the highest priority to fighting these monsters.

The Filipino people and the progressive forces must complain to the entire world against any incursive act of China and at the same time against the maneuvers of the US and its Filipino puppets to use the anti-China campaign to further oppress and exploit the Filipino nation and people.  By the way, the Aquino regime blows hot and cold against China. In fact, it is vulnerable to China’s manipulation of Philippine exports to China like some semimanufactures and agricultural and mineral products.

When the Filipino people and revolutionary forces win, they shall be able to bring up through official  representatives  the issues concerning the UNCLOS to the UN General Assembly and the Hamburg-based International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.  They can encourage  the cooperation of  certain countries like Russia and Norway to avoid unwelcome impositions  from US, UK and Netherlands in the exploration and development of oil and gas in the areas of the Philippines.

Even at this time,  approaches  can be made to China to avoid confrontations and tensions over the territories that belong to the Philippines and to engage in  all-round cooperation for mutual benefit, especially for the  advance of national independence, the industrial development of the Philippines and the termination of the  extremely oppressive and exploitative US hegemony over East Asia, which victimizes both the Philippines and China.

RR 4: What approaches would you like the Philippines to make towards China? Were such approaches taken into account in the 2011 NDFP proposal to the Aquino regime for an alliance and truce? In this regard, what can the Left do in view of the rabid servility of the Aquino regime to the US.

JMS:  China has been known for its policy of dealing diplomatically solely with the state (rather than with the revolutionary forces) in any country  and  for its flexibility in considering the needs and demands of that state or country.  It is not as imposing and as aggressive as the US in diplomatic and economic relations with other countries.  It tries  to comply with what it professes, such as the principles of independence, non-interference, equality and cooperation for mutual benefit.

Thus, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines has proposed to the Aquino regime strategic alliance and truce in the context of peace negotiations.  It has challenged the Aquino regime to make a general declaration of common intent with the NDFP to assert national independence and end unequal treaties and agreements; expand democracy through empowerment of the workers and peasants; carry out national industrialization and land reform; foster a patriotic, scientific and pro-people culture; and  adopt an independent  foreign policy for world peace and development.

A key part of the NDFP proposal is for the Philippines to approach China and other countries for cooperation in the establishment of key industrial projects for the national industrialization of the country.  Certainly, it would be greatly beneficial for the Filipino people that the Philippines is industrialized and ceases to be merely an exporter of raw materials, semi-manufactures and migrant workers, mostly women.

But the US agents in the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and in Akbayan and Aquino himself supplied information on the NDFP proposal to the US embassy and Washington.  They proceeded to cook up the anti-China scare campaign in order to undercut the proposal and serve US imperialist interests.  It would be absurd for BAYAN, Bayan Muna and MAKABAYAN to join  the rabidly pro-Aquino Akbayan or even compete with it in the anti-China scare campaign that draws away attention from US imperialism as well as justifies US military intervention and aggression in the Philippines and the whole of East Asia and the Asia-Pacific.

The people should know that the agents of US imperialism in the Aquino regime have used various malicious  and cruel tactics to block the road to a just peace.  The tactics  include the abduction, torture and extrajudicial killing of NDFP consultants in violation of JASIG and the continued imprisonment of hundreds of political prisoners in violation of CARHRIHL.

RR 5: How would you describe the contradictions between the US and China? On one hand, the US is wary of the rise of China as a military power and has sought to encircle China, yet on the other hand, the US economy is closely linked to China’s. and China is said to be the biggest creditor of the US.

JMS: There is unity and struggle between two capitalist powers in the relationship between the US and China. The US is not yet really worried about China having the military strength that can be projected outside its borders.  It is more worried about China’s military strength being able to defend China, fend off US imperialist dictates and threats and combat separatist forces in Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang.

The US strategy of encirclement is calculated to keep China as a friendly partner in the exploitation of the Chinese and other peoples. The US and China have already more than three decades of being close partners in promoting and benefiting from the neoliberal policy of globalization.  The super-exploitation of the Chinese working people, China’s  trade surpluses and huge indebtedness of the US to China are matters well within the negotiable relations of two capitalist powers, which would rather go on taking advantage of the working people rather than go to war against each other.

The efforts of China to find its own sources of energy and raw materials and markets and fields of investment can be at times irritating or even infuriating to the US (when the conflicts of interest occur as in Iran, Sudan, Libya and Syria).  But the capitalist powers can settle their relations with each other at the expense of the working people and underdeveloped countries, until the crisis of the world capitalist system further worsens to the point that a number of capitalist powers accelerate their aggressiveness and even become fascist in their home grounds. ###

On April 19, activists aligned with the national democratic movement are expected to picket the Chinese embassy in the Philippines. Prior to this, militant and anti-imperialist groups have expressed strong opposition to China’s bullying in Scarborough Shoal. A resolution opposing China’s incursions has been filed by progressive partylist groups in the House of Representatives. China’s latest statements however show that it is adamant in asserting its questionable claims on Scarborough Shoal.

We oppose in no uncertain terms the incursions and aggressive behavior of China towards Philippine territory. The aggressive moves are the undeniable results of China’s bourgeois leadership who now appear to have imperialist ambitions in the region.

As a matter of principle, the Filipino people must assert Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity against all efforts to undermine them. In the same spirit, we staunchly oppose both the Aquino regime and the US when they use the dispute as justification for the expanded and increased presence of US troops in the Philippines. US intervention is also a violation of our national sovereignty. In fact, it is the US who has the worst track record in undermining Philippine sovereignty.

Meanwhile, we express solidarity with the oppressed peoples of China who are fighting China’s capitalist ruling class as well as US imperialist exploitation. At the end of the day, China’s bourgeois ruling elite and US imperialism, despite their contradictions, are united in advancing the interests of the capitalist class against the interests of the Chinese and Filipino oppressed classes.

As we fight efforts to undermine Philippine sovereignty on all fronts, we believe that both the Chinese and Filipino people share a common aspiration for genuine peace and development in the region.   Image

In today’s news reports, the word “vandalism” has been used to describe the protest action by militant youth and students at the US embassy yesterday, April 16. The alleged “vandalism” pertains to the paint-bombing and removal of letters from the seal of the US embassy in Manila. One report headlined as “Police caught sleeping as vandals attack US embassy”. (Notice how the usual “militants” tag has been dropped in favor of “vandals” ).

The word “vandalism” is derived from the Germanic Vandals who ransacked Rome and were said to have defaced or destroyed much of the “beauty” of the Empire that was founded on slavery and colonization. Wikipedia says that “The term Vandalisme was coined in 1794 by Henri Grégoire, bishop of Blois, to describe the destruction of artwork following the French Revolution,” The introduction of the term builds on the notion that those destroying art, like the Germanic Vandals, were “barbaric”.

During the Paris Commune, French artist Gustave Courbet proposed before the commune the dismantling of the Vendome Column, a symbol of Napoleon’s empire. Back then, it was a celebrated act of “vandalism”. In certain situations like the Paris Commune, “vandalism” became an act to protest the symbols of the power and conquest. Similar acts would be repeated in history as the portraits of the dictator Marcos would be vandalized in the siege of Malacanang and when the huge bust of the dictator would be destroyed in an explosion launched by the New People’s Army.

But those were exceptional situations because most of the time, the word “vandalism” hewed closer to its ruling-class origins, often connoting an act of barbarism. When I was a young boy, vandalism was a school offense, often referring to writing stuff on the CR wall or on your desk.

The media’s use of the term “vandals” in describing activists was derogatory to the point that it attempts to reduce the protest as  a rowdy mob out to sow mayhem in the streets, much like the German Vandals.

The protesters were targeting the US embassy, long a symbol of US neocolonial rule in the Philippines. They were protesting the opening of the Balikatan war games which aim to use the Philippines as a staging ground for US military power projection in the region. They knew full well that the US war machine has been responsible for so many killings and destruction worldwide. The US has gotten away with mass murder and the unprecedented destruction of public and private property in its bid to be the world’s sole superpower.

The students were trying to tell the US government that it should not  for a second think that it is unchallenged here in the Philippines. Protesters wanted to send the clear message that they were ready to dismantle, figuratively and literally, the symbols of US power in the region.

Some may be shocked or turned off by yesterday’s protest action, in the same way they were probably turned off by the heckling of US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. However, the media’s depiction of activists as a bunch of rowdy goons is grossly unfair.

As I wrote before on the heckling of Clinton, protesters sometimes resort to a kind of “asymmetrical warfare” to convey their message and express their outrage. I’ve seen students hurl paint bombs at greedy oil firms’ offices. I’ve seen workers smash windows of workplaces and vehicles during violent suppression of strikes. I’ve seen UP residents topple a guard house to set up a barricade against a demolition team. Protesters defaced or “vandalized” many of Gloria Arroyo’s posters during her reign of terror. Even before that, protesters did the same thing to huge tarpaulins of former president Estrada.

Instead of calling them vandals, media should have asked what it was that caused such outrage on the students that they would get up early from bed and proceed to pick apart, letter by letter, the seal of the mighty U.S. of A.

Yesterday’s action at the US embassy should be taken in its entire political context, and not just viewed based on the specific act of defacing the seal. It was an act of protest– no different from dismantling Napoleon’s Column or blowing up Marcos’ bust– against a neocolonial power that has done the worst acts of barbarism of the past century.   ###