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May 6, 2014 @ 1:30 pm

Ep. 183, “US and the Philippines: How Strategic is the Partnership?”

(hosted by Dr. Vivian Dames with production assistance of Marlon Molinos) was recorded 4/28, 4/30/14 and airs 5/2/14.   


President Obama concluded his seven day Asia tour (April 23-29) with a two day visit to the Philippines after brief visits to Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia.  The goals for this tour were ambitious: to reassure allies the United States remains committed to a "pivot to Asia," secure new deals to expand trade, and send a message to China that the United States has its allies' backs in territorial disputes.

However, his visit to the Philippines has galvanized growing opposition to the US-Philippine Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).  Hyped as a major advance in the strategic partnership between the US and the Philippines that was to  highlight the meeting of President Obama and Philippines President Benigno Aquino, this Agreement was instead signed in secrecy by the U.S. Philippines Ambassador and the Philippine Defense Secretary before Obama’s arrival and not released by the Philippine Government until after Obama’s departure.  

The US military bases were dismantled in 1992 after the Philippine Senate passed the 1991 resolution ending leases for the US military bases.  However, since then, the US has maneuvered to circumvent the ban and obtain the US-RP Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in 1998 to cover the annual joint military exercises. The VFA allows the rotational presence of US military forces and their operations anywhere in the Philippines for any length of time to train and inter-operate with the Philippine armed forces. 

EDCA is now widely considered far worse than the VFA as it allows not only unlimited increase in the rotational presence of US military forces but also the building of US military bases and stations in areas of the Philippine armed forces, thus reducing Filipino troops to mere perimeter guards at the Philippines' expense. 

Program guest in the first segment is activist/musician Renato ‘Nato’ Reyes, Jr. ( Secretary-General of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan - New Patriotic Alliance (Bayan) [] Bayan is a multi-sectoral formation struggling for national and social liberation against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism that has its roots in the struggle against the US-Marcos dictatorship. Bayan was also involved in the ouster of the US military bases in the Philippines in 1991 and in the ongoing struggle against the VFA. In solidarity with other Philippine and international organizations, it has issued statements denouncing the EDCA as a violation of Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity and calling for mass protests against Obama and the Aquino regime.  

Nato has been an activist since he was 16 and became a student at the University of the Philippines. He became the national Secretary-General of the League of Filipino Students and founding chair of the nationwide youth group Anakbayan.  He became part of Bayan in 2001and became its Secretary-General by 2004. This interview was conducted via Skype on April 28, a few hours before Obama’s arrival in Manila.  

First music selection is “VFA Blues” [ performed by Nato Reyes (on the guitar) and friends at a benefit gig for political detainee Ericson Acosta (now released). This protest song (in Tagalog/English mix) was written in 1999 by the cultural group Alay Sinig  which Nato helped to co-found. It is a critique of the US-RP VFA and its accompanying injustices. 

In the second segment, my guest is Rey Claro Casambre (, Chairperson, International League of Peoples Struggles Philippine Chapter [] and Executive Director of the Philippine Peace Center.  The ILPS, founded in 2001, is an anti-imperialist and democratic formation. Mr. Casambre has an academic background in physics, over four decades of experience as a peace and justice activist, and is a former political detainee.  This interview was conducted via Skype on April 30, the morning after Obama’s departure from the Philippines.  

This episode concludes with the popular kundiman, or folk song, Bayan Ko (My Country) by Constancio de Guzman, with lyrics penned by National Artist Jose Corazon de Jesus. Written in 1928 as a protest against American occupation, Bayan Ko has been used time and time again whenever the country finds the need to defend herself from oppressors – foreign or otherwise. The song was also used against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, who immediately banned it when he declared martial law in 1972.  One risked incarceration simply by singing it.  It was not widely heard again until after the assassination of the revolutionary Benigno Aquino, Jr. in 1986.  This rendition is by contemporary folksinger Freddie Aguilar.

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