From InterAksyon (Oct 6): VIDEO | Govt spent P500M to build Palawan naval base for US -- leftist fishermen's group
US Marines during the joint Balikatan 2012 exercises in Palawan. FILE PHOTO
The government has spent P500 million of taxpayers’ money to build a naval base in Palawan for the use of visiting United States military forces in the country, the leftist fishermen’s group Pamalakaya said in a statement Sunday.
Vice chairperson Salvador France of the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said the Department of Public Works and Highways has released half a billion pesos to complete some major infrastructure, including a 12-kilometer access road from the Luzon mainland to develop Oyster Bay in Palawan which the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Philippine Navy seek to transform into a naval base capable of hosting large US military warships.
France is reacting to the statements of Commodore Joseph Rostum Peña, commander of Naval Forces West, who said that once completed, the Oyster Bay naval base in Palawan could accommodate “at least four large naval vessels.” The Philippine Navy officer said the development of Oyster Bay is part of the Philippine military’s modernization program, which would include the installation of high-powered radar systems in strategic areas from north to south of Palawan facing the highly disputed West Philippine Sea. The radar systems, he said, would allow the AFP to monitor developments in the contested region.
But the leftist fishermen’s leader said the construction of a “mini-Subic naval base in Oyster Bay violates the sovereign rights of the Filipino people.” He said the plan will make Palawan the launching pad of US pivot and Washington's war of aggression in East Asia and the Pacific.
“The plan would (also) have (a) disastrous impact on the livelihood of Filipino fisherfolk and marine environment,” he said.
“The 500 million pesos of hard-earned taxpayers' money had already been spent for this naval base tp be used by US troops in their unjust wars and terrorist activities,” he added.
Stop construction of naval base
France thus urged the Philippine Navy and the DPWH to stop the construction of mini-naval base, warning Commodore Pena that he could face criminal and other charges for violating the sovereign rights of Filipinos and the 1987 Constitution which prohibit the building of foreign bases inside the Philippine territory.
He also urged the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to stop releasing funds for the construction of the naval base.
Earlier, the group said it will officially ask the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and Senate Committee on National Defense to investigate the plan to transform Oyster Bay in Palawan into a naval base for visiting American forces.
Pamalakaya said the plan to convert Oyster Bay into a mini-Subic Naval Base was revived under the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III in response to Washington's gesture to donate frigates in 2011 and 2012.
"We will contest this grand mockery of Philippine sovereignty in the parliament of the streets, in any appropriate court or forum, and in the court of public opinion. US President Barack Obama and the puppet president in Manila should be held accountable for this grandslam crime against national sovereignty and patrimony," France said.
The group said this construction is grossly unconstitutional and would put extreme danger to the lives and livelihood of the people and their environment.
France said a US military base in Palawan is not only to check China’s aggressive expansion into the West Philippine Sea but also to maintain the military hegemony of Washington in the region.
[Video: Short news report in Tagalog]
More vigilance from the Senate
Pamalakaya called on Philippine senators to be extra vigilant as the plan to build a mini-Subic Naval Base in Oyster Bay is in preparation for the signing of the framework agreement on “increased rotational presence” of American forces in the Philippines which would allow more American access to local military bases and even the construction of new US military facilities.
“The Philippine Senate, the ratifying authority of any military agreement in the country, is completely ignored here,” said Pamalakaya.
The group said the Senate should investigate the Oyster Bay project and summon officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of National Defense (DND), and compel them to report on the current status of the US naval base plan and the outcome of the talks between Malacanang and the US government.
Earlier, Foreign Affairs official Carlos Sorreta said the government sees no problem with the construction of US military facilities as long as it is pre-approved by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and that ownership is turned over to the Philippines after every joint military exercise.
Pamalakaya said this planned relocation of AFP air force and navy camps to the former American Naval Base in Subic, Zambales is also part of the grand design to “justify Washington's unlimited access to Philippine bases.”
This would reverse the decision of the Philippine Senate in September 1991 to kick out the US military bases in the country, Pamalakaya said.
The Philippines plans to grant visiting US forces, ships, and aircraft temporary access to more of its military camps to allow for a larger number of joint military exercises than are currently staged each year.