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Wimminís movement leader from the Philippines speaks out against the Visiting Forces Agreement

MIM Notes 185, May 1, 1999

On March 16th, Liza Maza, Secretary-General of GAB-RIELA - Philippines, spoke against the proposed Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the u.$. and the puppet Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP). The VFA would give u.$. ships and troops access to 22 ports throughout the Philippines and would give u.$. soldiers protection from prosecution for crimes committed while on duty in the Philippines, among other provisions. The VFA would effectively reverse the victory the Filipino people won in 1991, when the two huge u.$. military bases in the Philippines were shut down because of the Filipino people's broad and persistent protests. The Philippine senate will vote on the VFA in April or May.

GABRIELA - Philippines is a legal wimmin's organization in the Philippines which opposes imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism.

According to Maza, some bourgeois municipal leaders have joined militant workers, peasants, and urban professionals in opposing the VFA - even the Catholic Church of the Philippines has come out against the agreement. But at the time of her talk, only three Philippine senators promised to vote against the VFA.

Pro-VFA forces argue that the agreement will defend the Philippines against foreign aggression. Critics point out that (other than the u.$. itself) the Philippines faces little or no foreign aggression. In fact, u.$. bases in the Philippines during World War II made the islands a target for Japanese invasion, and the u.$. abandoned its bases with little fight.

The VFA will violate provisions in the constitution of the GRP which declare the Philippines to be nuclear free. This is because of the u.$. armed forces' policy to "neither confirm or deny" that they are carrying nuclear weapons. Already pro-VFA forces have suggested that they will try to change the anti-nuke and other provisions in the constitution which get in the way of the VFA.

Reactionaries in the Armed Forces of the Philippines now openly say that VFA will aid their war against the New People's Army, which is fighting a protracted people's war to liberate the Philippines from imperialism and domestic reaction.

The VFA clearly goes against the interests of the Filipino people, and only serves the u.$. imperialists' need to militarily defend their interests in the Philippines and East Asia. But even if the puppet GRP foists the VFA on the Filipino people, Maza declared that "the Filipino people will always find a way to voice its opposition to the VFA."

VFA AND PROSTITUTION

Maza argued that the VFA will also lead to an increase in prostitution in the Philippines, as wimmin and children are drawn into the sex trade that surrounds u.$. military bases. There are already over 500,000 prostitutes in the Philippines. Wimmin turn to prostitution because the crisis-ridden Philippine economy offers them little or no economic alternative. Unemployment for wimmin rose from 12% 1997 to 15% 1998.

Some people argue that u.$. military bases provide income to the hosting communities. In fact, the majority of the income for the cities surrounding the former u.$. bases came from the rest and recreation industry - a euphemism for prostitution. So those GRP and local officials who advocate military bases as a way to kick start the local economy are pimping the wimmin of the Philippines to Amerikan soldiers.

Aside from degradation and exploitation that prostitution entails, it also poses a health risk to the sex workers involved - and eventually all Filipinos. According to Maza, the first AIDS cases in the Philippines were discovered among prostitutes near the old u.$. bases. Now imperialist agencies such as the U$AID and the Ford foundation fund AIDS studies in the Philippines - principally in the area of former u.$. bases. The implication is clear: The imperialists only care about AIDS in the Philippines to the extent that it might affect Amerikan soldiers.

MIM supports the struggles of legal organizations like GABRIELA against Amerikan imperialism and for true self determination. MIM especially supports the efforts of organizations engaged in armed struggle against the reactionary puppet regime, such as the National Democratic Front and the New People's Army, which are led by the Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines. The National Democratic Front is currently building a government which truly serves the people in its liberated areas. Contact MIM for more information about the Filipino peoples' struggle against foreign imperialism and domestic reaction.