Some Dangers And Prospects of the Regional and International Situations
By Philippine Communist Party (PKP)
Contribution of the Philippine CP-1930 to the Lisbon Meeting of Communist And Workers’ Parties, 10-12 November 2006
The greater recourse to military pressures and to war by imperialism and its main surrogates have led to more acute sufferings in many parts of the world.
Iraq continues to bleed from the sectarian strife stirred up by the US occupation. A study published last month in the British medical journal, the Lancet, showed that the number of Iraqi civilians and military personnel who have died as a result of the 2003 US invasion and the occupation since then is already around 655,000 or around 2.5% of the entire Iraqi population. This study, conducted by Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, shows that around 600,000 of these were due to air strikes, bombings and gunshots, with the US and allied military forces being directly responsible for around 31% of this figure. This alone demonstrates that the US intervention in Iraq has produced a social and humanitarian catastrophe of horrendous dimensions.
Many parts of the Lebanon lie in ruin, in the wake of zionist state terrorism that has gone mad over its impotence to impose its will upon the Lebanese people. Palestine continues to bleed from constant attacks by zionist occupiers who have gone mad over their inability to find quislings to be imposed at the head the Palestinian people. Following the US lead, war crimes and crimes against humanity have also become the norm for zionist actions against its neighbours. And yet, the zionist state of Israel is even plotting attacks against the nuclear development site of Iran, in the same way that it destroyed the Osirak nuclear development site of Iraq three decades ago. Apparently for this purpose, the zionist regime even enlisted the services of a modern-day Hitler, Avigdor Lieberman, as deputy minister for "strategic threats".
On The DPRK’s Nuclear Capability
In East Asia, constant US sabre-rattling against it forced the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to develop its own nuclear weapons and delivery systems. While it is regrettable that one more was now added to the number of countries possessing nuclear weapons, this development however could be understood from the DPRK’s basic need to preserve its existence and to frustrate US invasion plans. Unfortunately, the Arroyo regime in the Philippines is helping to fan US imperialism’s anti-DPRK campaign, making the alarmist claim that DPRK nukes threaten South East Asia which is within "striking distance". Although the Philippines nominally maintains diplomatic relations with the DPRK, with non-resident representatives mutually based in Beijing, the Arroyo regime follows the imperialist line towards the DPRK. It is a throwback to the Korean War period when the puppet troops of the "Philippine Expeditionary Force To Korea" or "PEFTOK" followed the US flag of invasion and intervention.
In the Summit Meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to be held next month in Cebu City (in Central Philippines), the Arroyo regime intends to make the DPRK nuke issue a central one, with a demand for the DPRK’s abandonment of its nuclear weapons development program. Japan and Australia are also pressuring the other ASEAN countries --- Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar --- to take this line. However, we have to put forward more rational demands --- that of the rejecting the US plan to "inspect" DPRK vessels in the Korean Sea (which action could spark a war), and pushing for direct US-DPRK negotiations (even within the context of multilateral talks) on the removal of US forces from South Korea and for the denuclearization of the whole Korean peninsula.
We have to remember that the Korean War was sparked by the US invasion of the DPRK in 1950, which US strategists thought would last only one day. It lasted 3 years and involved Chinese troops when US forces threatened Chinese territory across the Yalu River. The war ended with an armistice (not a peace treaty) signed in 1953 between the DPRK and the USA, which provided for a peace conference to be convened within 3 months to negotiate the terms for the peaceful reunification of Korea. But it was the USA which reneged on its commitments. While Chinese forces have left, US forces stayed on and built a long wall to divide Korea. The key to peace in the Korean peninsula is the removal of US forces and weapons, primarily nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.
On The "War Against Terror"
Another issue being pushed by the Arroyo regime for next month’s ASEAN Summit Meeting is the forging of a regional agreement against "terrorism". This is upon the urging of the US and Australian regimes, despite the fact that Arroyo’s own "anti-terror" bill remains unpassed by the Philippine legislature. There remain some strong opposition to Arroyo’s "anti-terror" bill pending in Congress because its proposals would violate human rights and international law --- the reintroduction of the death penalty for the crime of terrorism ; the excessive periods of detention upon arrest without judicial authorization ; and the bestowing of wide law-enforcement powers to the military establishment such as in arresting, detaining, wiretapping or even in the monitoring of financial transactions.
In general, state forces would be vested with far-reaching powers without any specified limitation in scope, or modality of democratic control. On top of this, the definition of terrorism is so wide as to include industrial strikes and political rallies among the "terrorist" acts. Peaceful street demonstrators therefore could become "legitimate" targets of the special anti-terrorism forces and the extensive surveillance and databasing operations envisioned under the counter-terrorism proposals. Progressive organizations could just be illegalized under any pretext, in the same way that the Young Communist League of the Czech Republic (the KSM) was recently "de-legalized" with grave abuse of administrative discretion.
Despite the urgings and pressures from the USA, Australia and even Japan, there is little prospect of an ASEAN regional "anti-terror" pact being approved at the Summit Meeting next month. Most ASEAN governments are wary of the terrorist directions of Dubya Bush’s "war against terror". Just last October 17, Dubya Bush signed legislation which legalizes torture and kidnapping, and in effect repeals the Bill of Rights and the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the US Constitution. This new "anti-terror" law legalizes the CIA’s abduction and "rendering" of people to secret prisons for torture. It creates "anti-terror" military commissions which are beyond the pale of regular courts, makes admissible evidence gathered from torture, and allows the withholding of evidence from defendants.
Nurturing Terrorists While Waging a "War On Terror"
In our region too, US imperialism’s role in sowing the seeds of terrorism is quite well known. A case in point is the recruitment of local "jihadists" from among Moslem communities for training in Al-Qaeda camps in Pakistan during the CIA’s undeclared war in the 1980s against the national democratic government in Afghanistan. It was from among the returning "jihadists" here that the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group was formed, the same group which kidnapped western tourists in some seaside resorts in the Philippines and Malaysia. Among the CIA operatives who were exposed to be in cahoots with the Abu Sayyaf were Jeffrey Schilling and Michael Terrence Meiring (the latter lost his legs when he mishandled some explosives in his hotel room in Davao City in Mindanao in May 2002, and was whisked back to the USA on a chartered plane by agents of the US National Security Agency).
Earlier on, in the late 1960s, US imperialism also had a role in sowing the seeds of maoist adventurism and terrorism in many countries where they wanted to split the Communist and Workers’ Parties. While many of the maoist movements have been totally discredited and have disappeared in most countries, we still have in the Philippines and in a few other countries maoist insurgencies which have long been disowned by China. The maoist insurgency in the Philippines has long been led and directed from a western country (the Netherlands) which has one of the most pro-imperialist governments in Europe.
It is a terrorist insurgency using murder, intimidation, the destruction of public utilities, and plain banditry to collect "revolutionary taxes" for imaginary "provisional revolutionary governments" in "liberated areas". Under the constant delusion of "surrounding the cities from the countryside", they conjure the mirage of soon attaining "strategic parity" with the forces of the state. Those within their ranks who wake up to reality and reject the dogma of armed struggle or "people’s war" are subjected to bloody purges. The maoists’ constant threats of launching military offensives to overthrow or "dismantle" the puppet Arroyo regime objectively serve the interests of the militarist reactionaries in "justifying" repressive measures not only against these adventurists, but against the entire left.
Significantly, the maoists can also serve as "shock forces" in regime change processes, as in the way they assisted Arroyo and her reactionary military clique in the protest actions which led to the ouster of Arroyo’s predecessor, former President Estrada. The maoists have also played a special role in destroying the economic capacity of those nascent native bourgeoisie who are competing with, and are becoming a threat to, certain foreign interests.
Economic Control: From Multilateralism to Bilateral "Partnership" Agreements
In the economic field, imperialism’s consternation with the slow pace of forging multilateral North-South agreements under the Doha round of meetings of the World Trade Organization have led to the more energetic push for bilateral Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). The European Union is pushing for EPAs with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, and negotiations with countries of the East and Southern African region were opened in Mombasa, Kenya, at the end of last September. The USA is pushing for EPAs with Latin American countries to undermine regional integration processes under the Bolivarian Alternative (ALBA). And Japan is actively pushing for EPAs with East Asian countries, including the Philippines. For Japan, EPAs could mean the peaceful realization of its wartime dream of a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere".
EPAs with imperialist countries are unequal partnerships which will hurt rather than help developing countries. EPAs threaten to expose farmers in developing countries to direct and unfair competition with highly subsidized producers in imperialist countries. EPAs are also used to ram through rules on investment and public procurement which will further open developing countries to imperialist penetration. Opening of markets through "free trade" deals will threaten jobs and government revenues in developing countries, and undermine regional integration processes. The forced liberalization and the flooding of local markets with subsidized or excess products from developed countries will benefit transnational companies which have more productive power than individual countries of the "Third World", therefore jeopardizing their sovereignty and dismantling plans for regional or sub-regional economic cooperation.
A case in point is the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) which was signed last September 9 by Arroyo and then-outgoing Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. JPEPA is a "mega-agreement" combining a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) and a Bilateral Free Trade Agreement (BFTA) which seek to remove barriers to investments and trade of goods and services between the two countries. This is part of the Japan-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Partnership framework which aims to strengthen economic integration between Japan and ASEAN. However, with its patently exploitative provisions, the JPEPA cannot get the ratification of the Philippine Senate which is required before it can come into force.
Aside from allowing the unregulated export of Japanese capital and goods to the Philippines, a particularly obnoxious provision of the JPEPA would allow Japan to dump toxic and other hazardous wastes (including pharmaceutical and clinical wastes, and sewage sludge), which will threaten public health and ecological integrity in the Philippines. This provision alone would violate many constitutional and statutory safeguards, aside from the Basel and other international conventions, on the people’s right to health and a healthy ecology, and to protection from the entry of toxic and other dangerous wastes and substances.
More Acute Social Contrasts
EPAs are reflections of the growing exploitative relations between imperialist countries and their "partners" in the "Global South". Within particular countries, the effects of these exploitative relations find reflection in more acute social contrasts between the masses of the people and the thin layer of local exploiters serving as junior partners of imperialism.
In the Philippines, studies show that some 4.1 million (around 5% of the population) continue to live in extreme poverty. Hunger levels continue to rise, while unemployment and under-employment rates hover at 11% and 21%, respectively. Around 26 million (almost 30% of the population) subsist on a meagre budget of Pesos P36.00 (around USD $0.72) per day, which is spent mostly for food. The UNICEF has expressed alarm over the country’s 30% child malnutrition rate which has persisted for years. And yet, Arroyo can afford to attend every available international event with a full retinue of sycophants, and spend heavily on prestige projects (such as grandiose convention centers) which are non-productive in the long term. Pro-poor spending for basic social services is at an all-time low, while foreign debt service (payment to the World Bank, IMF, Asian Development Bank and the Paris Club) continues to claim the lion’s share in the national budget.
Over 700,000 Filipinos live in slum communities in Metropolitan Manila (the national capital region) alone, and the numbers are growing. Slum areas are sprawling over many other urban areas, even while exclusive and well guarded business zones and retirement enclaves are rising with all the most modern amenities for expatriate businessmen and retirees. Also, the cream of Philippine society can snap up the latest shipments of luxury vehicles, can import the most expensive thoroughbreds for equestrian events, and can jetset regularly just to be seen at the Golden Gate Bridge and other US marathons.
Acute contrasts can also be seen from the closure of many factories (with manufacturing output consistently declining in the past year), while more modern malls are rising in every city centre to provide wholesale outlets for the sale of imported consumer goods. The loss of local jobs have forced 10% of all Filipinos to seek work or even to migrate abroad, with almost 2 million having settled in the USA and Canada. Overseas Filipino workers --- both documented and undocumented --- keep the local economy alive through their income remittances which was some USD $8-Billion in 2004. There is a growing feminization of Philippine labour migration, with women making up around 70% of those taking up work in the Middle East, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong, mainly for domestic work and also for the "entertainment industry".
Unable to find local jobs, skilled Filipino workers risk their lives and limbs by taking jobs in conflict areas (including in Iraq, Lebanon and Israel) and even in some areas with ethnic tensions (such as in some worksites in Kazakhstan). Meanwhile, top Filipino business corporations are buying giant food corporations in Australia and Europe; and are making substantial investments in China, Indochina and some Pacific countries. With "free trade" and import liberalization as major economic policies, there is less attraction for investment in local production, and much wealth is instead diverted to luxurious infrastructure development in exclusive housing and entertainment or recreational estates.
Another glaring social contrast in the Philippines is the growing crisis in the national health system, with the massive foreign-bound exodus of doctors and nurses from government hospitals, even while bank-owned private hospitals are attracting foreign patients through "health-tourism" packages which sometimes even include arrangements for the buying of healthy kidneys from desperate slum dwellers.
The Way Forward
People mired in poverty, primarily the toiling classes, cannot continue to bear the burden which constantly wears down their capability to survive. The toiling classes are seeking a way out of the neo-colonial conditions which shackle our country and people to exploitation and under-development. They are seeking a way forward to national freedom and socio-economic progress. Our Party has the duty of leading the toiling classes and all the exploited masses of our country on this way forward, by offering the vision and hope of national democratic transformations through united actions.
Some may pin their hopes on futile and even terrorist insurgencies, rationalizing that the protracted "people’s war" would last generations. Others, out of desperation over the continued stay in power of the illegitimate Arroyo regime, join circles to support military putsch plots, as happened during the anniversary of the Marcos fall from power last February. However, only the rightist forces can relish a take-over by the basically reactionary military establishment. As was shown by the triumph in Thailand of a military junta which staged the coup d’etat against the corrupt regime of Premier Thaksin Shinawatra last September 19, democratic rights will always be trampled underfoot in any "regime change" that is designed to preserve the foundations of a neo-colonial system.
Starting from the Great October, revolutionary movements have blazed many fine examples of triumph over imperialism and neo-colonialism, and of the construction of national-democratic and socialist systems. These examples cannot be imported off-the-shelf, or copied and applied mechanically, but their underlying principles provide guides to action for Communist and Workers’ Parties. The vibrant examples of socialism in Cuba and elsewhere, the examples of active solidarity under the Bolivarian Alternative, the examples of patient mass work and struggle which led to many electoral victories in Latin America (the latest of which was the victory of Comrade Daniel Ortega and the Frente Sandinista para Liberacion Nacional in the Nicaraguan election last Sunday, November 5), are examples that can always inspire our own national democratic struggle.