ON the 40th year since the victory of the Vietnamese people against US military aggression, Panalipdan Southern Mindanao calls for the end of US military interventionism in the Philippines as it poses a grave environmental threat to the country.
Four decades since the end of the war, the horrors of it remain clear among the Vietnamese people, especially the damage wreaked by Agent Orange, which today has disfigured over a million Vietnamese, 150,000 of which are children.
More importantly, Agent Orange has been sprayed to over 1.4 million hectares of forest and agricultural area in Vietnam, or roughly 12% of the country’s land area.
This has resulted to the destruction of flora and fauna in the sprayed areas and rendered them incapable of supporting life.
It is estimated that it will take 50 to 200 years before these areas can regenerate, thus depriving the Vietnamese of needed land resources for its people.
Agent Orange was a herbicide manufactured by agrochemical giant Monsanto, also the maker of Roundup glyphosate which is intensively used by many Filipino farmers to clear weeds and is recently declared by World Health Organization researchers as a possibly cancer-causing chemical.
The Vietnam War is a clear manifestation of the US’s desperate attempt to take or retain control of other nations and their resources through military intervention that disregards the rights of the people, particularly to that of a healthy environment.
With China taking similar steps in the Spratly Islands in its construction of artificial islands for military facilities, to ensure their might in asserting claims over the Spratlys, both the US and China are increasing the possibility of an environmental disaster resulting from their militarism.
Military aggression will always lead to environmental destruction, as powerful nations step up their efforts to further strengthen their political and economic hold over their colonies and neocolonies.
In the Philippines, over 5,000 US soldiers participated in the Balikatan exercises this year, despite the long track record of human rights violations and environmental crimes committed by the US military in Philippine territory.
The destruction of the Tubbattaha Reef and the ridiculously meager compensation for it, the dumping of toxic wastes in the waters of Subic Bay, its hand in counterinsurgency programs such as the Mamasapano operation which lead to the bombing of agricultural lands and properties of poor peasants. These are some of the crimes committed by the US military against the Philippine environment.
The intervention of the US in the affairs of the country will never benefit Filipinos, the same way that it has not benefited the Vietnamese people.
More importantly, it is doomed to fail the same way that over 2.6 million US soldiers were soaked wet in Agent Orange in Vietnam, just like the deaths of two Americans who played a role in the Mamasapano Carnage last January 25.
We reiterate our call for the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) as they spell further environmental havoc in the Philippines, especially with the proposal to open up the entire country for the return of US military bases. We will not forget how the US military left behind toxic chemicals in their former Air Base in Pampanga.
The US military can distort its own version of story about Vietnam War, but the Filipino people will always be able to recognize who was the aggressor. The more the imperialist aggression, the more that people see its true nature and their determination against it fueled.
Kim Gargar, Spokesperson, Panalipdan-SMR