Information Bureau | Communist Party of the Philippines
27 January 2018
Power-hungry Rodrigo Duterte has earned himself an exalted place in Trump’s international war machine. This January, the US’ new mission in the country, dubbed “Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines” was finally made public after months of clandestine operations. The mission “replaces” Operation Enduring Freedom which was supposedly shutdown in 2014 but whose troops left the country only in 2015. Since July last year, US senators have have been capitalizing on Duterte’s anti-Moro war in Marawi to call for the reestablishment of an operating base and justify stockpiling various weapos, including planes and drones, in the country.
Duterte’s martial law against the so-called “ISIS” in Mindanao set a perfect backdrop for the reentry of US troops and their permanent basing in the country without a signed treaty. His termination of the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and subsequent declaration of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as “terrorist organizations” further set the stage. The declaration, which was made specifically in line with the US State Department’s foreign terrorist organizations (FTO) listing, bolstered Duterte access to the US’ budget for overseas contigency operations (OCO), the Pentagon’s bloated “anti-terror” slush fund.
At the start of his term, Duterte portrayed his engagement with the US as “pera-pera lang” (its all about the money). He vowed to give the AFP brand new weapons and went on a begging spree to China and Russia for soft loans supposedly to modernize his army. In “Pacific Eagle-Philippines,” he gets both and more. He gets Trump’s explicit support and funding for his one-man rule.
In 2017, the US OCO started with $42 billion in February but ballooned to $65 billion by the end of the year. For 2018, Trump asked for an initial $64 billion for the program. In November last year, he asked for an additional P7 billion for “missile system and defense enhancements” against North Korea and more funds for its “anti-ISIS” efforts. This is despite the US’ own pronouncement that ISIS forces in the Middle East are losing ground. Qualifying for OCO, or more specifically, its “counter-ISIS train and equip program,” means having forward-deployed US troops “near or in combat forces they support.”
At the same time, Operation Pacific Eagle -Philippines gives the US an advantage over China, which it identified as its “strategic competitor” in its recently published National Security Strategy (NSS). For years now, the US has been attempting to contain China by forward-deploying troops and ships, as well as stockpiling war materiel, in the region. This was the impetus behind the “pivot to Asia” of the then Obama regime.
Under Trump, the US continues to use the so-called threat from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as a pretext to “enhance” the US expansive missile defense system. This includes the positioning of thre e X-band radar systems and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems in the region, as well as the construction of 10 new anti-ballistic missile capable warships. In 2012, US defense officials scouted for a location of the third X-band radar system in Asia, and found one purportedly off the coast of Saranggani. By 2015, a total of 20 off-shore radar systems have already been built in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, with an additional four off the coast of Palawan, near Scarborough Shoal. On the same year, a “national coast watch center” built by US company Raytheon was completed using a $20 million fund from the US.
On a smaller scale, Trump mouths the same anti-terror rhetoric that his predecessors used in the past decade to forward-deploy troops and equipment. In the Philippines, the US maintained 600 special operations forces, said to be the largest anti-terror contingent in the Pacific, for close to 15 years. Operation Enduring Freedom was withdrawn after the botched “anti-terror” raid against Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir (alias Marwan) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. It took another botched “anti-terror” raid, this time against Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, for the US to correct what it later saw as a “mistake” of reducing special operations in the Philippines. Operation Pacific Eagle, the Pentagon promises, will be bigger and more expansive.