The upcoming visit of former United States president Bill Clinton will likely stir memories of the Visiting Forces Agreement and the failed economic policies of “globalization”.
We remember that it was Clinton who was US president when the controversial VFA was signed in 1999. Clinton was also the US president when the Philippines hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in 1996. The APEC summit this year will be held in Yokohama, Japan on November 13.
According to the Facebook page BILL CLINTON AT THE MANILA HOTEL, the former president’s speech will focus on the theme “Embracing our Common Humanity,” which will describe the challenge of globalization, emphasize our growing interdependence, and point the way toward a common future based on shared goals and values.”
Amid the ongoing review of the VFA and amid the worst global economic crisis since The Great Depression, here comes Bill Clinton with a message that seems to echo the existing US foreign policy of neo-liberal globalization and US military hegemony, conveniently couched in such wonderful terms as ‘inter-dependence’, ‘common humanity’, and ‘shared goals and values’ .
Let’s not forget that it was the Clinton administration that pushed for the passage of the VFA in 1999 as a way to maintain US military presence in the region even without having a bases treaty. We have come full circle since then. The VFA is now being reviewed after so many legal and diplomatic controversies during its 11-year implementation. Various sectors including lawmakers and members of the legal community have assailed the one-sidedness of the VFA.
The timing of Clinton’s visit is also interesting. It comes just before the APEC Summit in Japan and brings us memories of when Clinton was a key player in previous APEC meetings. It was in 1996 when Clinton attended the APEC Summit in Subic. That was “memorable” in the sense that so many houses were demolished because they were “eyesores” , even as government built mansions in Subic to host the different heads of state. Bayan mounted a protest caravan then from Quezon City to Subic but were blocked in Dinalupihan, Bataan.
It’s not surprising that the US is making a renewed pitch for globalization amid its own worsening crisis. Despite the tremendous damage wrought by neo-liberal policies worldwide and even in the US economy, here is the former US president who seems to be telling us that globalization still works. It’s the same message as the G20 summit and likely the same message in the APEC Summit. The imperialists want us to believe that we are an inter-dependent world and that any form of ‘protectionism’, even if this means protecting the domestic economy from policies that promote economic inequality and underdevelopment, is just plain bad.
The message this time in Manila is likely the same as when Clinton was here in 1996 at the APEC Summit in Subic. The former president apparently wants us to believe that it is in our best interest as a nation to open up our economy to foreign investors and banks.
We should also remember that a year after the 1996 APEC Summit in Subic, the Philippines was embroiled in the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis which again put to question the neo-liberal economic policies imposed by the US and other imperialist powers.
Tickets for the Clinton Manila Hotel event cost between P2,000 for general admission and P25,000 for VIPs. That’s a pretty steep price to pay to hear a former US president talk about failed economic policies and an unpopular military hegemony. ###