US accused of using aid to increase military presence in PHL

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

MANILA -- A militant labor group on Sunday accused the United States government of using relief efforts in areas hit by Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) as justification for increasing military presence in the Philippines.

The US has deployed at least six of its biggest warships including its flagship aircraft carrier USS George Washington, cruisers USS Antietam and USS Cowpens, destroyers USS Mustin and USS Lassen, and supply ship USS Charles Drew.

It also promised to give $20-million humanitarian aid.

Instead of warships, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) chairperson Elmer Labog said the US should have sent doctors, emergency response teams, and social workers.

“Their warships are of no use here. Their ships can’t even transport the relief goods accumulating in Matnog port (Sorsogon) to Samar and Leyte. Their planes can’t even transport Yolanda survivors who are fleeing to Cebu or Manila to escape the uninhabitable conditions in Tacloban and other devastated areas,” he added.

The labor group said the US has never really given aid without asking for something in return, citing the 2010 Haiti earthquake where American troops allegedly never left and the financial assistance was listed as the Carribean nation's debt.

Still, a lawmaker believes the Philippines should take humanitarian aid from rich countries like the US while knowing they have other agenda other than to provide assistance.

"Of course, the US is using the crisis to attempt to legitimize its expanding military presence in the Philippines, but that should not be a reason not to accept it. Saving lives and dealing with the disaster situation should be the priority," said Akbayan party-list Representative Walden Bello in a text message.

At least 43 nations and international groups have pledged or sent assistance to the country in various forms such as deployment of search and rescue and medical teams.

Three months before the typhoon's onslaught, the Philippines and the US were negotiating on the increased rotational presence of American troops under the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said this is important to help the country modernize its army, boost maritime security before the purchased ships and aircraft are acquired and ensure timely response to disasters.

The Philippines, which closed US bases in 1991, has an ongoing territorial dispute with China over some islands in the resource-rich West Philippine Sea. (Sunnex)

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