an area of the map for world news.
April 2002 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 49, No. 4)
The Yanks Are Back
World Press Review correspondent
presence of American military bases and troops in the Philippines
has long been the root of the most vociferous debates on nationalism
among Filipinos. In September 1991, acrimonious exchanges took
place when the Philippine Senate decided to end the Philippines
military bases agreement with the United States.
protest the return of U.S. troops to Philippine soil,
March 3, 2002 (Photo: AFP).
But the Americans are back on Philippine soil, under the pretext
of Americas war on terror. More than 650 American troops
have joined 3,800 Philippine troops in military exercises
that will include a joint combat mission against the extremist
Muslim group Abu Sayyaf, which has been linked to the Al-Qaeda
terrorist network of Osama bin Laden.
The Return of the Yankees, as local newspapers have
called it, has rekindled passionate debates. Filipino nationalists
have said that the exercises violate the constitutions
ban on foreign troops and facilities. The administration of
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo pointed to the Visiting Forces Agreement
(VFA) signed between the United States and the Philippines in
1999, and a Supreme Court ruling that the president is the
chief architect of the nations foreign policy.
Amando Doronila, political analyst for the Philippine Daily
Inquirer, noted (Jan. 17) that the exercises are different
from those in the past and their function and scope were not
foreshadowed by the VFA. The VFA contemplated exercises
that never went beyond a few weeks, not the planned six
months to one year, and certainly not in the heart
of a combat zone.
More controversial were the Terms of Reference,
or the ground rules, that would govern such exercises. Their
signing last Feb. 13 has not assuaged fears of excesses by U.S.
troops, who will be allowed to shoot in self-defense.
The past has shown how next to impossible it is for this
country to enforce the most basic terms of its military agreements
with the United States, wrote Philippine Daily Inquirer
columnist Conrado de Quiros (Feb. 6). The bases agreement
expressly state[s] that U.S. personnel would be under Philippine
jurisdiction, but that none of the servicemen who shot scavenging
children to death or who raped Filipino women [would ever appear]
President Arroyo was emboldened in her decision to allow U.S.
troops in Mindanao by a survey that showed that 84 percent of
Filipinos polled supported U.S. assistance against
Abu Sayyaf. But warm welcome has turned to cautious optimism
after U.S. President George W. Bushs infamous either
you are with us or you are with the terrorists remark.
What Bushs remark revealed is that in hounding its
prey, America will not respect the sovereign borders of friends
or foes, wrote Paulynn Sicam, editor in chief of Cyber-Dyaryo
The Americans have been in the Philippines less than a month,
and the debates are not likely to end soon. As Marites Vitug,
editor in chief of Newsbreak, opined (Feb. 13): In
this changed world, what hasnt changed is the weight of