Renato M. Reyes, Jr. BAYAN secretary general
Today we received information that the Philippine Senate is poised to rush the ratification of the Philippines-Australia Status of Visiting Forces Agreement that has long been pending with the legislative branch. The treaty has been formally sponsored by Senator Loren Legarda of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The move coincides with the plans of the United States to increase its military forces in the Philippines under a rebalancing scheme.
The SOVFA will enable Australian troops to conduct military exercises and other related activities in the Philippines. The SOVFA, as with the US VFA, sets the guidelines for the treatment of visiting Australian troops.
Australia has long been a junior partner of the US in terms of economic, political and military issues. Australia is also a major military treaty ally of the United Sates in region. Its projection of military power in the Philippines is in support of US hegemonic interests. While the Australia SOVFA has been pending in the Senate since 2007, its sudden revival may be in line with the new US military strategy to rebalance its forces in Asia to further strengthen its dominance in the region and contain the rise of China.
Australia has supported the US in its war on terror, invasion and occupation of Iraq as well as in hosting of US troops transferred from Okinawa.
As with the US VFA, the Australian SOVFA should be scrutinized and exposed for its potential violation of Philippine sovereignty, its violation of Philippine laws on criminal jurisdiction and custody as well as the social costs of having foreign troops conducting prolonged and sustained military operations in our country.
We call on the Senate not to rush the ratification of the SOVFA. We call on them to learn from the bitter lessons of the RP-US VFA and reject this new agreement. We call on patriotic Filipinos to stand up against the US-Australia military partnership in Southeast Asia. We say no to Australian and US troops on Philippine territory. ###