By JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
DAVAO CITY – Bishops and other church leaders attending the Church-organized international conference here on alleged US intervention said that US activities in the Philippines have caused “serious harm” to the people and the environment.
“We call the attention of the Philippine Government and representatives of the USA in the Philippines that serious harm is daily being caused to people in the Philippines and to our environment by the activities of the US military and US-linked transnational corporations,” said the group in their conference statement on January 18.
Forty-seven bishops, priests and religious leader from six countries were in the city last week upon invitation of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF),an aggrupation of bishops mainly from the Roman Catholic and member churches of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines. They discussed the alleged United States’ “intervention in the affairs of sovereign nations.”
“Before the conference proper, participants visited areas where there is a presence of transnational corporations of the United States doing large scale mining and also large plantations. We also learned about US movements in General Santos about its military plans,” said EBF Executive Secretary Bishop Elmer Bolocon.
In their statement, the bishops said that they have “recent evidence” which they “have heard through personal testimony” that the US banana and pineapple company in South Cotabato “is exploiting its workers [by] employing most of them on a contractual basis,with low wages and little security.”
“Its agricultural practices are damaging the environment and endangering people and the land by using GMO (genetically modified organisms) technology which has been insufficiently tested on human beings and is strongly questioned by reputable scientists,” the statement said.
They also accuse the US mining firm in Pantukan, Compostela Valley of “causing serious loss of land, work and income to small scale miners in the places where it operates”
“This affects also the Indigenous communities at large, who live on declared ancestral land. It is a situation of conflict and intimidation, and people are experiencing violence, death threats and extrajudicial killings. All these realities show the inadequacy of Philippine Mining Law,” said the statement.
The bishops said that various branches of the US military are active in different parts of the country and that “permitting this presence diminishes Philippines sovereignty.”
“This presence has various impacts on the local population not least by exploiting local women and girls for the “recreation” of US personnel,” said the statement.
“We hope to address the global problem the issue of crises in the world is caused mainly by wars and peace where the US is very much involved as we experience here in the Philippines particularly in Mindanao,” said Bishop Elmer Bolocon, the executive secretary of the EBF.
Meanwhile, the bishops urge the government to “stand firmly on the principle of Philippine sovereignty”and “move strongly towards excluding all US military activity in the land and sea of the Philippines.”
With this, the bishops cite how the “people of Davao City” have “refused to allow US military exercises or drones (pilotless aircraft) in their jurisdiction”.
The bishops likewise ask investors of “transnational” companies in the Philippines, to see “whether they deal justly with their employees and the local people and act ethically towards the environment.”
They also demand that transnational corporations operating in the Philippines “must abide by the principles and legal restrictions that guide their activities in their countries of origin.”
They appeal to those who come to the Philippines to work for the US military or transnational corporations to realise that “each day they are contributing to serious harm which these organizations are doing to their fellow human beings in various parts of the Philippines.”
“We point out the obligation of Governments, local and national, to assist Filipino workers who face moral dilemmas in their employment with US Military and transnational corporations, when they choose to seek other, more ethical employment,” said the statement.
The bishops said they are calling on their “faithful to name these acts by the US military and transnational corporations as a sin against God’s basic command: to love God in our fellow human beings.”
Further, they ask the public to “be in solidarity with and to help the people who suffer from the activities of the US military and the abuse by foreign corporations, so that they may be freed from their real and present sufferings.”
Fr. Peter Murnane, a Dominican friar from Solomon Islands, said he was “very pleased” to be with “fellow priests and bishops who are trying to turn the back the enormous tide of US activity” in the country and around the world.
Murnane is an Australian priest who, while in New Zealand rendering his duties as a priest in 2008, destroyed the dome of a US spy base. Murnane was acquitted by the New Zealand courts.
Bishop Dhiloraj Caragasabay from Sri Lanka said the presence of the US in certain countries “have caused anxiety and fear.”
“The people have begun to experience the consequences of their interventions which has become drastically destructive,” said Caragasabay.
It is not the first time for Bishop Dennis Drainville of Canada to visit the Philippines but this time, he said, he felt “ashamed.”
“I am ashamed of my own government Canada, ashamed of the transnational corporations in Canada that come here and destroy the lives of the people,” said Drainville.
Drainville said that “many”of the “transnationals (corporations) pollute the air, pollute the waterways and have unjust labor practices.”
“The people are losing their land. This is intolerable, and the fact that companies can come from away and do these to people should not be accepted. It should not be accepted by the government of the Philllipines and by the people of the Philippine,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bolocon denounces US authorities for “using the supertyphoon Yolanda as an excuse for them to bring more forces in the Philippines without being criticized.”
“They say they are here in order to help the Typhoon victims bringing with them medicines, surplus and materials, to be used by the victims. But we see this only as a coverup for their true
intention,” said Bolocon.
Bolocon said that even before Typhoon Yolanda, the US “have started their movements of transferring from where they were deployed to the Philippines.”
“The plan happened even before (Typhoon Pablo and Yolanda). They really have a plan to transfer or pivot their forces to the Pacific in order to contain China, and so they have a good excuse in the coming of Yolanda. We don’t believe that their true purpose is to help the victims, on the contrary, it will further victimize the Philippines and the Filipinos,” he said.
For Murnane and Drainville, educating citizen is key to understanding and responding to US “intervention.”
Murnane said the media also plays a role in “running stories accurately and to get the story out.”
“We must be constantly educating our children and our young people in critical analysis so that they can see the things that are done by transnationals are extensions – if you will of the political and economic elite that in a sense have the agenda,” said Drainville.
Bishop Deogracias Yniguez, former chairperson of the Episcopal Commission on Public Affairs of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, and National Cocoordinator of the EBF says he is “happy” that more and more people are being informed.
“We know that either they do not know what is happening or there are given the wrong information so they have the wrong impressions especially on how they should be looking at what the United States is doing,” said Yniguez.
Yniguez believes that President Benigno Simeon Aquino can still “rethink” the relationship the country has with the United States
“As our president, he is supposed to be a public servant and has repeated so many times – kayo ang aking boss (you are my bosses),”said Yniguez.
Though, over the years, Yniguez said the bishops are “starting to question also this sincerity” the people should still “manifest in public” and these “maybe occasions for him to think and perhaps rethink his position to this very, very important relations that the country has with other countries especially the United States.” (John Rizle L. Saligumba/davaotoday.com)drones, haiyan relief, typhoon pablo relief, US intervention, US military bases, us war on terror, yolanda relief us