“This is clear treason against the Filipino people. ” – Pamalakaya
By GERRY ALBERT CORPUZ
MANILA, Philippines- The Aquino administration is spending P500 million ($11.12 million) in taxpayers’ money to upgrade a Philippine Naval Base in Ulugan Bay in Palawan Sea, which will serve as one of the US Marine’s command posts to monitor developments in the hotly-contested West Philippine Sea.
On Friday, Navy spokesman Lieutenant Commander Gregory Fabic said the military would build a P500-million ($11.2 million) port at Ulugan Bay, the Philippine military base in Palawan that is nearest to the Spratly Islands. The upgraded naval base would be visited by Aquino on May 20, the 116th anniversary of the Philippine Navy.
The Navy said the mini-naval base in Ulugan Bay would host two refurbished American Coast Guard frigates that regularly patrols the West Philippine Sea. Aside from two Hamilton-Class Cutter BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz, the Philippine government is planning to buy two large frigates as part of the external defense capability upgrade.
In an interview with Bulatlat.com, Salvador France, vice chairperson of the progressive fisherfolk federation Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said it was highly condemnable to hear this “first -rate puppetry” of the Aquino government to Washington DC at the expense of Philippine sovereignty and people’s hard-earned taxes.
“What kind of policy is this? This is clear treason against the Filipino people,” the Pamalakaya leader said.
France rebuked claims of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine Navy that the upgrade was meant to serve the extra ships acquired by the Aquino government to protect the country’s territory from China and other countries.
“That’s the biggest lie of the century. The upgrade of Philippine naval base in Ulugan Bay is meant to host more US war ships. The P500 million upgraded naval base of the Philippine Navy will serve as US Marine’s command post to check Beijing’s aggressive presence in South China Sea and, in the long run, will serve its strategic purpose to become the new US naval base in the Philippines in the tradition of Subic Naval Base,” the Pamalakaya added.
“Adding insult to injury on the country’s national sovereignty is the fact that some P 500 million courtesy of taxpayers money will be spent for US military escapade in Palawan and South China Sea. President Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s puppetry to Washington DC is extremely terrible and revolting. Imagine, Malacanang has P 500 million for US mini-naval base while 80 percent of the 98 million Filipinos are starving to death and hunger,” the group said.
Pamalakaya maintained that the upgrade of the Philippine Naval Base in Ulugan Bay is part of US plan to build at least seven command posts inside Philippine territory, which are very close to the disputed West Philippine Sea sparked outrage and condemnation from groups highly critical of US increasing presence in this Southeast archipelagic nation.
“That is the real score. It is not hearsay. It is confirmed by a senior Philippine Marine officer,” said Pamalakaya.
According to the Philippine Marine official, the plan is to station 50 to 60 US Marines in Palawan as an advance command post in West Philippine Sea. Aside from transforming Oyster Bay into a mini-Subic Naval Base, the US also wants to convert the 246-hectare Philippine Marine Corps reservation in Samariniana town in Brooke’s Point into a a joint marine operational command.
Pamalakaya also learned that aside from Samariniana and Oyster Bay, the US would also develop Ulugan Bay, Macarascas, Puerto Princesa and Tarumpitao Point in Rizal and San Vicente into US command posts.
The group last year called the attention of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to investigate the construction of US military bases in Palawan.
In their letter of appeal to Secretary de Lima, the group said “the national leadership of Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), a national federation representing 43 provincial fisherfolk organizations and regional formations in Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon, Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Panay and Guimaras Islands, Northern Mindanao and Far South Mindanao regions in the Philippines humbly submit this letter of appeal to the Honorable Office of the Secretary of Justice calling for a full-blown investigation on the reported plan of the Philippine government to construct a mini-Subic Naval Base in Oyster Bay and Ulugan Bay, province of Palawan.”
The mini-Subic Naval Base according to Navy officials of the Aquino government will enhance the external defense capability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in lieu of the perpetual tension in the West Philippine Sea between the Government of the Philippines and China and among the current claimants in Spratly Group of Islands.
But Pamalakaya told Secretary de Lima that the Ulugan Bay mini-naval base project is part of the US agenda to increase its military presence in the Philippines on rotational basis.
It argued that it is designed to host military warships of Washington not only to check the disturbing presence of Chinese military in West Philippine Sea but to preserve the military hegemony of the US in East Asia and the Pacific in the name of military program known as US Pivot in the region.
The militant group said the construction of mini-Subic Naval base in Ulugan Bay and the setting up of command posts in different parts of Palawan are in gross violation of the 1987 Philippine Constitution that strictly prohibits foreign military bases in the country.
According to Article XVIII, Section 25 of the 1987 charter – foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.
Pamalakaya noted that although Philippine defense and Navy officials deny that such is being undertaken for the purpose of US military basing and increased access to Philippine military facilities, it clearly is a wholesale violation of the national sovereignty of nearly 100 million Filipinos.