Monday, April 28, 2014

Jasper A. Cruz
April 28, 2014                                                                                                            
Reaction Paper # 1
STS – Prof. J. Sonido

Reaction Paper: On People’s Forum on US Militarism and its Impacts on the Philippine Environment

            Are we, Filipinos really free from colonizers? Have we been experiencing genuine freedom already? – These are just some of the most cliché questions that have been very much in the air nowadays. Often times, when there are certain simmering issues about our relationship with other countries or perhaps mounting concerns on treaty and agreement signings, many troubled citizens ponder on these thought-provoking questions.  

And, again, we ask ourselves these questions again, when United States (US) President Barack Obama visited our country on April 28 in line with the signing of a new defense agreement which allows rotations of US troops and ships through our country. Such an act helps rebalance their country’s military power towards our growing continent, Asia. This Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that US President Obama signed will primarily increase the presence of American troops in our country, but, as President Obama’s stressed on his speech, US would not reclaim their old bases and build new ones.

Thus, this issue has been presented piece by piece in the People’s Forum on US Militarism and its Impacts on the Philippine Environment on April 24, 2014 at the Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology.

After hearing the talks by the speakers, particularly that of Mr. Giovanni Tapang Ph.D., one of my realizations is that we were not really freed from colonizers especially from the power of the Americans that is evident in our country in various ways: (1) in the treaties and agreements that we signed, (2) their presence and access to our military bases, and (3) their access to our economy.

One basic truism that Dr. Tapang presented is that all human acts impose danger such as pollution, and the US militarism is not exempted from this basic axiom.

According to Dr. Tapang, the US Military Base is one of the biggest polluters today as it produces a staggering 750, 000 tons of toxic waste in just a single year. Also, it consumes a whopping 75, 000, 000 liters of gasoline daily – this is equal to the consumption of the entire country of Iran.

Though given all these data and figures, the United States cannot take responsibility for their “polluting” actions and this is because of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) which basically exempts the US from environmental accountability, and this essentially leaves the “host country”, so to speak, the responsibility of the environmental damages that they caused and the full costs of cleaning the facilities they have used.

Personally, hearing what the SOFA is about alone made me fundamentally disagree to the approval of the EDCA. Worst things beyond one’s imagination can happen. Going back to a matter over a year ago, a US Navy Ship ran aground Tubbataha Reef, a World Heritage Site in Sulu Sea which damaged around 4 000 square meters of coral reef. The fine was only more than $2 million ($600 per square meter), but the US has not yet given us even a single cent as a mulct.

Though this EDCA has a plus side to it such using the US equipment to faster deploy in the event of natural calamities and other emergencies and to secure its territory, (pertaining to the territorial dispute which our country has been locked to for decades) its negative effects still outweigh the agreement’s recompenses. I will only be for it if and only if there would be a more thorough discussion about the matter and if the US would be open to make compromises especially to the environmental and some economic concerns.

References: BBC News. 28 Apr 2014. Web. 28 Apr 2014

Koo, Jimmy H. “The Uncomfortable SOFA: Anti-American Sentiments In South Korea and The U.S.-South Korea Status of Forces Agreement.” N.p., 2011. Web. 28 Apr 2014 Philippine Star. 31 Mar 2013. Web. 28 Apr 2014 Rappler. 28 Apr 2014. Web. 28 Apr 2014

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