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Sat, 14 Nov 1998 23:31:56 -0500

13 November 1998

Contact: Dorotea Mendoza
                Tel. (212) 592-3507
                Fax: (718) 779-5840


New York -- Veterans' Day this year was marked by anxieties over a
militarization in the Philippines. A forum in downtown Manhattan,
sponsored by GABRIELA Network, discussed the new threat to Philippine
national sovereignty and to Filipino women in particular, in the form of

intensified prostitution.

Six years after the closure of the US bases at Subic and Clark, the US
military is making its way back into the Philippines through the
Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), signed by the Philippine and US
Governments in February this year. This agreement would allow US forces

access to ports and facilities throughout the archipelago, violating
basic rights of national sovereignty, including provisions laid out in
the Philippine Constitution.

The forum heard from two 'veteran' political organizers from the
Philippines, Baltazar Pinguel, a peace and justice advocate since the
1960s, and novelist Ninotchka Rosca. Both were political prisoners
under the Marcos dictatorship and both were instrumental in the campaign

against the US bases in the Philippines.

As Baltazar Pinguel pointed out, the Philippines is one of few countries

in the world whose Constitution bans the presence of any nuclear weapons

in its territory. The US Government, however, refuses to deny that its
warships, which would dock in any number of Philippine ports, are laden
with nuclear technology. In addition, the VFA would allow the US to
bring in any military or civilian personnel through any local military
facility at any time without passports or visas. It would grant
Americans 'on official duty' in the Philippines exemption from
Philippine law. It would imply that the Philippines enters into an
agreement which is starkly one-sided.

The VFA will also have dire consequences for women in the Philippines,
as Ninotchka Rosca showed. Almost a million women were press-ganged
into the sex trade developed by the US military for their rest and
recreation programs. When the bases closed, 60,000 Asian-American
children were left in the communities surrounding the bases, their
fathers safely returned to the US. Military activity in the Philippines

is invariably accompanied by intensified prostitution and violence
against women and communities.

For 100 years, the Philippines has been subjected to the military,
economic, political and cultural dominance of the US. For 100 years,
the Filipino people have opposed colonialism and its myriad legacies.
The Visiting Forces Agreement is just the most recent manifestation of
this colonialism.

Veterans' Day 1998 was an especially apt time for this discussion. On
this hundredth year anniversary of the Philippine-American War, during
which the Philippines lost one-eighth of its population, the American
people have the opportunity to correct a historic wrong. GABRIELA
Network's forum ended by encouraging all Americans to demand that the US

Congress immediately terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement, and stop
the re-colonization of the Philippines. # # #

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