Environmental activist groups raised the alarm over the announcement that the Philippine government would give the United States increased access to military bases in the country.
“This expansion of access to the Philippines, and the expansion of the US military in general, does not only undermine our national sovereignty, but will only worsen the global climate crisis,” said Jon Bonifacio, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).
The announcement came after a visit by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to the Philippines on February 2.
Coinciding with the visit, an agreement was announced between the US and Philippine governments, increasing the number of access sites, which were initially established under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA, from five to nine military bases.
The EDCA, an executive agreement, was signed in 2014, to boost the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a treaty that implements the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951.
Kalikasan PNE accused the US military of being “one of the world’s worst polluting institutions.”
“Increased presence in the Philippines would only lead to worsening environmental impacts,” said the group.
“We should remember the toxic pollution left behind by the US military at the Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base, as well as the case of the USS Guardian running aground in Tubbataha Reef last 2013,” said Bonifacio, adding that these are already “clear grounds for opposing US military presence in the country.”
Rejecting the argument that increased US military presence would help deter Chinese intrusion in the West Philippine Sea, Kalikasan PNE echoed the sentiment of other organizations that such issues can be addressed peacefully and through diplomatic means.
The group also expressed concern over the claim that the military bases would facilitate “rapid support for… climate-related disasters in the Philippines.”
“We don’t need more US military presence to address climate change,” said Bonifacio. “We need polluters like the US to instead pay up for the damages their emissions have caused.”