July 27, 2017

On ASEAN 2017 and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA)

The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) urges progressive students and organizations/formations across the country to take a staunch position against the further liberalization of Philippine economy through its deepening integration to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the continuing domination of US Imperialism in the country as embodies by military agreements like the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

ASEAN: Intensifying Poverty and Exploitation

The 30th ASEAN Summit—with the participation of its ten (10) member states namely Brunei, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines—is currently being held in Manila, Philippines. Aside from the heavy traffic the event has caused to many commuters, the ASEAN Summit being held today has wider and deeper implications to the economic policies of its member-states in the coming years.

For instance, the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a regional partnership which aims to create one of the world’s largest free-trade zones, will be one of the highlights of the summit. Throughout the years, the ASEAN has been successful in its goal of creating a ‘single market’ which ‘allows goods, services and production factors i.e. capital, investment and labor to flow freely within the region’. For one, it was able to establish the ASEAN Free Trade Area which reduced tariff rates on a large scale of products traded inside the regional border from 0 to 5 percent. Despite the promise of regional economic growth and institutional advancement, however; what was observed are severe production decline with intensified poverty and joblessness in the Philippines and in the whole region.

One of the identifiable reasons is the fact that ASEAN countries are largely dependent on foreign capital. Experience in the past has shown that foreign capital, particularly foreign direct investments (FDI), does not translate to economic progress for the people. According to IBON Foundation, the Philippines FDI inflow grew 15 times bigger from 1986 to 2013 but the said growth has been accompanied by “increasing unemployment, increasing labor export, falling real wages, shrinking domestic manufacturing, and more volatile and exclusionary growth.”

Despite this glaring fact, in the first year of the Duterte administration, it has presented itself to be with the same neoliberal agenda, inclined to serve the profit-driven interests of local and foreign business elites. This has been manifested through the expansion of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) which ultimately burdens the public with exorbitant fees of goods and services, as well as the implementation of reforms on the education system, e.g. K-12 program, General Education (GE) reforms, which serve as responses to the needs of foreign countries.

EDCA: A Historical Legacy of Violence

Coincidentally, on the last day of the ASEAN Summit in Manila, we also commemorate the 3rd year of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). It serves as a stark reminder of the bloody legacy and the continuing American presence in the country today.

On that note, it is also worth mentioning that United States (US) President Donald Trump has recently confirmed his visit to the Philippines in November to attend the US-ASEAN Summit.

We expect nothing from this new administration other than the continuation of Washington’s militaristic and interventionist policies. The history of the US-PH military relations is testament to this. It is filled with deception, exploitation, and betrayal. It was never a strategic military relationship, only a threat to Philippine sovereignty and national interest. No mutual benefit was derived in an arrangement premised on exploitation and neo-colonization.

It is also a known global fact that wherever there is US military installation, there is a host community subjected to abuse and harassment. Furthermore, cases like that of Nicole and Vanessa, both rape victims of American soldiers, along with the murder of Jennifer Laude, are still devoid of justice.

The Filipino people suffer the brunt as the American government corrupts the nation militarily, politically, and economically. With this, the Filipino people intensify their calls to junk EDCA. At the same time, let us condemn Duterte’s subservience as he further opens the Philippines to foreign exploitation.

Continuing the Struggle for True Independence

The neoliberal policies of the ASEAN Integration and the continuing imperialist control over our country’s economic and political life only serve to exploit, not only the youth, but the Filipino people. This is why our war against oppression and imperialism continues.

The people, especially the students and the youth, are urged to stand up and fight back. Let us reject the continuing domination of the US Imperialism and neoliberal dogma that cause only suffering and exploitation.

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