by Noel Tarrazona
ZAMBOANGA CITY - While United States troops mounted joint military exercises
with their Filipino counterparts in an annual show of force in the
Philippines held as part of the two sides' Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA),
civil society groups staged the largest anti-American protest here in nearly
Grassroots Filipino suspicions are rising about America's ultimate
intentions for the country, a former US colony and major military outpost,
as Manila and Washington forge closer strategic ties to counterbalance
China's expanding regional influence and growing assertiveness in the South
China Sea. Local groups have accused US troops of abuses against civilians
in pursuit of its global war on terror, while politicians warn the
Philippines risks becoming a proxy theater in the intensifying competition
between the US and China for regional preeminence. . . .
Amirah Lidasan, leader of Patriotiko Mindanao (Patriotic Mindanao), . . .
has argued that the US government's main interest in the ongoing peace talks
between Aquino's government and the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front
(MILF) is to gain access to a huge reservoir of untapped natural gas at
Liguasan Marsh, a 220,000 hectare area in the Mindanao River Basin along the
provinces of North Cotabato and Maguindanao. . . .
Tarrazona, a resident of Canada, is a journalist and humanitarian worker
currently based in Mindanao.
Amir Butler, "An Enduring Freedom for the
Moros," The Wisdom Fund, February 15, 2002
"Philippine Autonomy Deal
Scrapped," BBC News, August 21, 2008
Alex Newman, "Filipinos want US soldiers out,"
thenewamerican.com, September 2, 2009
[The decades-old conflict has claimed more than 120,000 lives and severely
stunted the economic development of the country's second-largest and most
resource-rich island.--Bong S Sarmiento, "Giving
peace another chance in Mindanao," atimes.com, January 28, 2011]
Joe Penney, "The 'War on Terror' rages in the Philippines: In
2002, the US launched Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines; nine years
later, the campaign there continues," aljazeera.net, October 5, 2011
Martin Jacques, "The Beginning of a New World
Order," New Statesman, April 18, 2012
Sergio de la Tura, "Mindanao
examines rebel siege scars," atimes.com, October 2, 2013
"Filipino Muslim rebels hand over assault
weapons to reinforce peace deal," Associated Press, June 16, 2015