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Exclusive Interview

Filipino Leader Says 'U.S. Troops Out'

by Fight Back! Editors |
July 17, 2002
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The following is an exclusive interview with the Chief Negotiator for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, Luis Jalandoni. He has represented the NDF in peace negotiations with the government of the Philippines. The NDF is an alliance of revolutionary organizations drawing from different sectors of Filipino society, including trade unions, peasants, women, students, and religious organizations. The NDF includes the insurgent New Peoples Army.

Fight Back!: The Bush Administration says U.S. troops are being sent to the Philippines because of the threat posed by Abu Sayyaf. What is the story on this?

Luis Jalandoni: The Abu Sayyaf is a small bandit group of about 60 to 80 members, which was created by the CIA and its assets in the Philippine military in 1991 in order to undermine the Moro National Liberation Front. The MNLF, led by Nur Misuari, capitulated to the Manila government in 1996.

Now, there are 14 battalions of Philippine troops and some 1000 U.S. troops in Basilan island, which is only 1300 square kilometers, with the most sophisticated military equipment ranged against the 60 to 80 member Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom gang. The Abu Sayyaf is only a lame excuse for re-establishing U.S. military presence in the Philippines - after a broad mass movement and the Philippine Senate kicked out the U.S. troops in 1991.

Since then, the U.S. has sought to reestablish its military presence in the Philippines through the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement and the Status of Forces Agreement. Both met with strong popular opposition and could not be pushed through. In 1999, however, the U.S. got the Estrada regime to approve the Visiting Forces Agreement. Then, it has been pushing for the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement, to legalize support basing facilities for U.S. troops in the Philippines. Bush's so-called global war against terrorism, with the subservient support of the Manila government, gives the latest excuse for U.S. military presence in the Philippines. President Macapagal-Arroyo has just declared that she wants the U.S. presence, through further Balikatan war exercises, to be "more geographically spread" throughout the Philippines, not just limited to Basilan Island.

Fight Back!: Why is the U.S. trying to maintain control of the Philippines?

Luis Jalandoni: The U.S. wants to secure its geopolitical and economic interests throughout the Southeast Asian region and interdict the air and sea lanes traversing Southeast Asia between the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean and between the Far East and the southern hemisphere. It seeks to suppress the national liberation and anti-imperialist revolutionary and progressive forces and movements in Southeast Asia. In the Philippines, its targets are the New People's Army, led by the Communist Party of the Philippines, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and its Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces.

Fight Back!: How do the Filipino people feel about the arrival of U.S. troops? Is there an organized opposition to increased U.S. intervention?

Luis Jalandoni: There have been frequent militant demonstrations in front of the U.S. embassy in Manila and at military camps in Basilan, Zamboanga, Cebu and other cities and provinces in the Philippines. A very broad coalition, "U.S. Troops Out Now," has been formed and is very active. In the U.S., at big demonstrations in Washington D.C., San Francisco and other cities, U.S. military intervention in the Philippines has been condemned. Likewise, militant demonstrations have been held in various cities in Canada, in Hong Kong, and other parts of the world.

Of great significance too is the firm opposition expressed by the revolutionary underground forces. The Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People's Army (that is operating in 128 guerrilla fronts throughout the country), and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines have expressed their determination to resist the escalating U.S. military intervention that carries the danger of becoming a war of aggression against the Filipino people. They have called on the international community, including the American people, to stand up, just as during the U.S. war of aggression against Vietnam, to firmly oppose the aggressive policies of Bush. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has declared its condemnation of, and opposition to, the U.S. military intervention.

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