June 14, 2012
The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan is not surprised with recent reports that the US will be “helping” the Philippines establish a maritime surveillance system described as a National Coast Watch Center. “This center will improve the Philippine maritime domain awareness of a breadth of security issues including countering the proliferation of WMD (weapons of mass destruction) to countering illegal smuggling,” according to the US State Department.
Cables leaked by whistleblower site Wikileaks show that this is not the first time the US sought such a monitoring and surveillance system to allow it to have control over vital sea lanes such as the South China Sea.
“With the recent dispute between the Philippines and China, the US has found a very convenient justification to push for the surveillance system. The US is lying when it says it is “still in the planning stages” and that it has “no firm plans” of putting a land-based radar on PH territory. The idea of a maritime surveillance system that includes the Philippines has long been proposed during the time of US ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney and PH president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
“If the plan pushes through, the US would have set up its own spy base on PH territory, disguised as a coast watch center, and in clear violation of PH sovereignty,” Reyes added.
In a cable dated August 27, 2007 by US ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney, the US government was already aiming to establish “a seamless interface among their respective maritime security efforts”.
The US embassy in Manila proposed an elaborate regional surveillance network both land and sea-based to further advance US maritime security efforts. “Our proposal emphasizes the installation of land-based and sea-based maritime radars and other types of surveillance and identification equipment in the tri-border area of Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines and other key points between Sri Lanka and the Philippines to monitor vessels suspected of carrying terrorists, weapons, or drugs, as well as engaging in human trafficking and other illegal activities”, the cable said.
It was clear from the cable that US strategic interests were paramount when it comes to the issue of “regional security”. “Protecting the waters in South and South East Asia and stopping the terrorist groups operating there are vital U.S. interests,” the cable said.
“The justifications stated in the 2007 proposal for the surveillance system is the same as the reasons being offered now, in addition to the issue of China. It shows that the US, even before the PH-China dispute, has already expressed interest in this elaborate regional maritime surveillance system,” Reyes explained.
US think-tank calls for increased surveillance, expanded bases
Meanwhile, a US think-tank has supported the US rebalancing of its forces in Asia, raising the China threat anew.
In a policy paper called Asia in the balance: Transforming US military strength in Asia, issued last June 4, the American Enterprise Institute called for the setting up of a “surveillance, and reconnaissance network in the Western Pacific”, expanding basing access in the Asia-Pacific region through the US military treaty allies which include the Philippines and strengthening undersea warfare.
A specific recommendation of the paper is the refocusing of US nuclear posture towards Asia, specifically against the alleged nuclear threats from China and North Korea. The paper suggests that the US should “force Beijing to invest in expensive defenses” while convincing it that “it cannot win a quick regional war”.
Bayan views the last recommendation as a proposal for US nuclear weapons to be repositioned in Asia as a supposed deterrent. “It would be a throwback to the nuclear arms race during the Cold War,” Reyes said.
“The entire plan to rebalance US troops and warships towards Asia is in furtherance of US imperialist interests. President Aquino is delusional if he thinks that the US is here just out of sheer benevolence and out of a sense of friendship with the Philippines. The US is manipulating us. The PH government is allowing our country to be used as a footstool and outpost for US hegemonic goals in the region,” Reyes said.
Bayan earlier accused the US of using a private defense contractor affiliated with Huntington Ingalls, a builder of nuclear warships for the US Navy, to regain its foothold on a former US base in Subic, Zambales. The private contractor has partnered with a Subic-based firm to service US warships making port calls in the former naval base. ###